Kaat was a remarkably consistent performer for the Minnesota Twins for a 12-year span, a teammate of Blyleven's for the better part of four seasons (their 1970 division-winning rotation also included Jim Perry and Luis Tiant--a foursome with at least 215 career wins apiece). Had the Cy Young Award been given in both leagues instead of just one overall, he likely would have won in 1966, when he went 25-13, 2.75 ERA, and he would have been in the mix in '65, with an 18-11, 2.83 for a pennant-winner. Until David Cone won 20 games in 1998, Kaat held the record for the longest drought between 20-win seasons (eight years). He won in double digits 15 times (he lost in double-digits 16 times), won 17+ games six times, but had a 115 ERA+ or better only six times. A lefty, he tacked on a successful second career as a middle reliever, which enabled him to set a record for the longest gap between World Series appearances (1965-1982). Oh, and he also won 16 straight Gold Gloves, though a look at his raw fielding stats suggests several somebodys weren't paying attention--five times in that span his Fielding Percentage was below .930, though his range factors were always 50-100 percent higher than the league average at the position. If I had to pick one of the three [Tommy John and Bert Blyleven being the others] to leave off, it would be Kaat, but I still think he should be in.The development of the JAWS system ultimately led me to conclude Kaat wasn't quite worthy of induction, but his work with the Yanks has more than earned my respect and even gratitude -- no way in hell could I tolerate 100+ Yankee games a year with Tim McCarver in the booth. A Ford C. Frick Award admitting him to the broadcaster's wing of Cooperstown would get no argument from me.
As a player, Kaat was a good interview. He left an impression. The late Don Carney, who directed Yankee telecasts on WPIX-TV, was so impressed with Kaat after a rain-delay interview (remember those?) he reached out and hired him to work with Bill White and Phil Rizzuto in 1986. Carney did this knowing Kaat was not on the best of terms with George Steinbrenner.Richard Sandomir's New York Times article elaborates on Kaat's 13-year history as a Yankee broadcaster:
After Sports Illustrated put The Boss on its cover posing as Napoleon, Kaat wrote a scathing letter to SI accusing the magazine of poor taste. With so many great players in the game, Kaat wondered why SI would choose Steinbrenner. SI printed Kaat's letter. When Kaat pitched for the Bombers (1979-80) he also got into a contract dispute with Steinbrenner.
Kaat first called Yankees games in 1986 for Channel 11, but he was bumped after a season for Billy Martin. Kaat thus had another reason to dislike George Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ principal owner, with whom he got into an unhappy contract dispute as a player a few years earlier. But on Dec. 25, 1994, he received a call at home from Steinbrenner.Amen to that. We'll miss you, Kitty. Thanks for making summer evenings so much fun.
“I was heading out to hit golf balls, and Mary Ann said, ‘It’s George Steinbrenner,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, right,’ ” Kaat said. Steinbrerner called to say he had approved Kaat as the MSG Network’s replacement for Kubek.
“He said, ‘I want everything to be good between us,’ ” Kaat said.
Kaat picked an exquisite time to join the Yankees at the start of their playoff and World Series run. From MSG to YES, he has been a low-key star, never boisterous, never loud, but always with strong views, and that made him the equal of the more nationally known McCarver and Joe Morgan.
“He knows the game so well and gets to the essence of a play so quickly,” said John Filippelli, YES’s president of production. When he was at Fox Sports, he added: “The one mistake we made was that we should have hired Kitty. I think you rate him the equal of any analyst you’ve ever heard.”
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