How far out of favor has Kenshin Kawakami fallen in Atlanta? Well, yesterday the Braves demoted him to Double-A, where he’ll earn $6.7 million while pitching against hitters a dozen years his junior.
David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution writes that they sent Kawakami all the way down to Double-A because “they want to keep the Triple-A rotation open to pitchers who could have an impact in Atlanta this season.”
I understand souring on a player and Kawakami certainly hasn’t been very impressive since coming over from Japan, but the lengths the Braves are going to banish a pitcher with a 4.32 career ERA seems odd. They dumped him from the rotation in the middle of last season and have spent the past six months unsuccessfully trying to unload his contract, but that doesn’t make Kawakami a useless player.
He’d be a perfectly decent fourth or fifth starter on any number of teams and could come in handy for the Braves at some point this season if they weren’t so hellbent on completely erasing him from their plans. His win-loss record is ugly, but Kawakami’s secondary numbers and 4.32 ERA show a pitcher good enough to contribute to a big-league staff. And now he’s a 35-year-old riding buses in Double-A.
Back during the 2015 playoffs the sorts of New York media types who love to find reasons to criticize players for petty reasons decided to criticize Yoenis Cespedes for playing golf the day of a playoff game. The Mets won the series with the Cubs during which the controversy, such as it was, occurred and it was soon dropped.
It was picked back up again in 2016 when Cespedes, while on the disabled list with a strained quad, was seen playing golf. Despite the fact that everyone involved said that golf did not contribute to his injury and that golf would have no impact on his injured quad, it was deemed “a bad look” by a columnist looking to get some mileage out of bashing Cespedes for having a hobby that probably half of all ballplayers share. They did it when he showed off his fancy cars too, by the way, even though just about every ballplayer has a fancy car or three. When you’re a superstar in New York — especially when you’re one with whom the media is not particularly close for various reasons — you’re going to catch hell for seemingly nothing.
Now there’s a new twist to the Cespedes golf saga. Yoenis himself says that his poor start — he’s hitting .195/.258/.354 and leads the league in strikeouts — is due to . . . not enough golf! From the New York Times:
He gave a possible reason for the poor start this weekend: not playing enough golf, a hobby beloved by many baseball players. And, yes, he is serious.
“In previous seasons, one of the things I did when I wasn’t going well was to play golf,” he said after a game on Friday in which he struck out four times but still drove in the go-ahead run in the 12th inning. “This year, I’m not playing golf.”
The story says Cespedes quit golf last summer because he worried that it was contributing to hamstring problems. He’s thinking about going back to it soon, as he thinks it’ll help his swing. Given that he’ll catch hell either way, he may as well do what he wants.