“No question, pitchers who have cheated have really gotten a pass,” said Jim Kaat, one of the game’s most productive left-handed pitchers.
Kaat who finished his career with a 3.45 earned run average, played in two World Series and won 16 Gold Gloves. His career record was 283-237, yet he has yet to be voted to the Hall of Fame.
“I never had to turn the ball down. I never can remember having to tell a manager, ‘I can’t go today because I am hurt.’ or whatever,” said Kaat. “I took pride in saying, ‘I want to take my turn in the rotation.’ Or if I was in the bullpen and they asked if I needed the day off. I said, ‘No.’ That’s because my theory was that I signed up to play ball. There are a limited number of years that you can play. I wanted to maximize everything that I could. I am most proud of that.”
Kaat marveled at the recent perfect game thrown by Chicago White Sox lefthander Mark Buehrle against Tampa Bay.
“He’s a guy who doesn’t have over-powering stuff, yet he has two no-hitters,” said Kaat, who played for six teams, including the White Sox (1973-75).
“I coached Tom Browning in
Cincinnati and Tommy had a perfect game. Browning and Buehrle are a good example of guys who work fast, throw strikes, don’t take a lot of time between pitches and try to keep the hitters on the defense. It pays off and you would think that more pitchers would look at that and say, ‘Maybe I ought to do that, too.’”
Buehrle was a 38th round selection in the 1998 amateur draft.
“I think that every scout, both with pitchers and position players, is looking for athletes,” said Kaat. “They’re looking for power, guys who can throw hard and guys who can hit it a long way. A lot of great first basemen were not high draft picks: Don Mattingly, Kent Hrbek, Keith Hernandez... because they weren’t all that athletic. But they were great baseball players. The same thing with pitchers. (The scouts) look too much for power and they don’t look for the knack for getting hitters out, which is what Buehrle has.”
Kaat, a three-time All-Star and 1966 American League Sporting News Pitcher of the Year, said he admired the way Buehrle dispatched 27 hitters in a row and benefited from the sensational catch by Dewayne Wise in the ninth inning.
“I think that every pitcher who pitches a no-hitter or perfect game will say there is a little luck involved,, maybe a great play or two,” said Kaat, who also broadcast games for MSG and the YES network. “I called Doc Gooden’s no-hitter back in ’96 where Gerald Williams made a great catch (as the Yankees beat
Seattle 2-0). I did David Wells’ (perfect) game where you get behind in the count 3-0 and maybe you get the benefit of a close call. Things like that really have to happen.”