Saturday, March 15, 2014

Jim Kaat (#445)

Jim Kaat pitched for 25 seasons (1959-83), as a starting pitcher through the 1978 season, before converting to a reliever. His first 15 seasons were with the Minnesota Twins and their predecessor, the original Washington Senators. He was the last active player from the “old” Senators.

Kaat was signed by the Washington Senators in 1957, and pitched in the minors for the next 4 seasons. Jim also played for the Senators in 1959 (3 games) and 1960 (13 games).

When the team moved to Minnesota in 1961, Kaat became a full-time major-leaguer. He struggled at first, leading the AL in hit batters and wild pitches in his first 2 seasons.

Kaat hit his stride in 1962, winning in double figures for the next 15 seasons. He was also a great-fielding pitcher, winning 16 consecutive Gold Glove awards (1962-77).

In the early-to-mid 1960s, Kaat was part of a formidable starting rotation that included Camilo Pascual, Jim Perry, and Jim Grant. By 1967, Pascual was out, replaced by Dean Chance.

The Twins were competive every season from 1962-67 (except for a slump in 1964). They won the AL Pennant in 1965, with Kaat tallying 18 wins (along with Grant’s 21). In 1966 Kaat led the AL with 25 wins (his only 20-win season with the Twins).

In August 1973, Kaat was claimed off waivers by the White Sox. He won 21 and 20 games in his 2 full seasons with Chicago. Surprisingly, after winning 20 games in 1975, he was traded to the Phillies for so-so pitcher Dick Ruthven (coming off a 2-2 season) and SS/OF prospect Alan Bannister. [One of you White Sox fans need to investigate how the Sox allowed this trade to happen!]

As a Phillies fan, I thought this trade was great. From 1972 to 1976, the Phillies methodically replaced “pitchers” Billy Champion, Lowell Palmer, Barry Lersch, Billy Wilson, and Ken Reynolds with Steve Carlton (’72), Jim Lonborg (’73), Ken Brett (’73), Tug McGraw (’75), Jim Kaat (’76), and Ron Reed (’76)!

Kaat was a starter for the Philles from 1976-78. In 1979 he was replaced by ex-Met Nino Espinosa, and was sold to the Yankees in May. From mid-May 1979 to late-April 1980, Jim appeared in 44 games (1 start) for the Yankees.

Kaat was purchased by the Cardinals on April 30, 1980, and played with St. Louis until getting his release in July 1983. He was a starter and reliever in ’80, but pitched mostly out of the ‘pen in his last 3 seasons.

Kaat LEGITIMATELY played in 4 decades, unlike those gimmicky frauds Tim McCarver and Minnie Minoso.

After retirement, Kaat was the Reds’ pitching coach from 1984-85, then broadcast Yankees and Twins games for 22 seasons. Since 2009, he has broadcast games for the MLB Network.

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