If Kevin Kiermaier wished to upstage his teammates going into the ALDS, he hit the jackpot. But as we’ll see, he ain’t no Reggie Jackson.
Kevin Kiermaier has succeeded in building a reputation in major league baseball as a braggart loud-mouth.
We can imagine Kiermaier sitting alone in his hotel room in San Diego, awaiting the start of the ALDS with piles of newspapers and his T.V. picture-in-picture tuned to MLB-TV and ESPN.
He’s not studying video of Gerrit Cole or Masahiro Tanaka, two pitchers he’ll be facing when the Yankees-Rays series kicks off tonight. No, Kevin Kiermaier is too busy counting the numbers of times he reads or hears his name.
It’s a lot because he says a lot, and we’ll get to that in a minute.
Kevin Kiermaier: Your Classic Underachiever
But first, let’s talk about Kevin Kiermaier, the ballplayer, the same guy who carries a postseason .138 batting average with a lone home run and three R.B.I. in nine games over his inconspicuous career.
Then, just for kicks, let’s remind Kevin about the .248 B.A., .314 OBP, and .414 slugging percentage, all sub-par numbers, he’s accumulated over his eight years in the big leagues.
Trash talking in sports is more commonly associated with players in the N.F.L. and N.B.A. It’s never been a good fit in baseball.
This is why not a single member of the Tampa Bay Rays has stepped in to support Kevin Kiermaier as he taunts the Yankees:
Trying to up the ante on Friday on his one-person rivalry, Kiermaier said: “I’ve said it many times. They don’t like us, and we don’t like them.”
It all stems back, of course, to one heated moment in September when Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman threw one high and hard at a Rays batter.
Tempers flared, Chapman, Ray’s manager Kevin Cash, and Aaron Boone all received suspensions from the league, and both teams went on to conduct the business of getting into the playoffs.
Typically, the Yankees refrain from this sort of thing, and the only quote the media could coax from them came from Brett Gardner, who offered a ho-hum “I think the feeling is probably mutual.”
Gardner speaketh the truth, and for that matter, so does Kiermaier. The difference is Kiermaier just won’t shut up.
Kevin Kiermaier: Take A Lesson From A Real Trash Talker
There’s an even more significant difference with Kevin Kiermaier, and that’s a comparison with an even more obnoxious braggart who happens to be one of the Yankees own – Reggie Jackson.
The self-proclaimed “Straw that stirs the drink” during the late 1970s rose to the forefront when George Steinbrenner bought him to revitalize the Yankees who, at the time, were in a World Title drought similar to the one they have going now.
A.K.A. “Mr. October” delivered. On October 18, 1977, in the sixth game of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees outfielder Reggie Jackson hit three home runs in a row off of three consecutive pitches from three different pitchers.
Kevin Kiermaier will be pitched to just like any other batter in the Rays lineup. His strengths and weaknesses have been identified by Yankees pitching coach Mike Blake, and if a high and tight fastball is called for to get him out, that what he’ll get.
The fun part will be seeing whether or not he can adjust, so the sweet spot on his bat finds the ball – a la Mr. Jackson.
Given Kevin Kiermaier’s track record, especially in the postseason, it’s safe to say he has his work cut out for himself – at best.
It’s Game On Now, Kevin
Am I egging him on, and maybe I should just shut up too?
But maybe what’s needed is to make a slight amendment to Brett Gardner’s statement, changing it from, “I think the feeling is probably mutual” to “I think the feeling towards Kevin Kiermaier (alone) is definitely mutual”.