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Thursday, April 04, 2013

Jeff Pearlman: Q&A: Kevin Mench

Mench Forever After.

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Kevin. So there’s this old journalistic trick, where you butter a subject up with a bunch of softball questions, then save your hard one for last. However, you’re a fellow Blue Hen, which means you have honor, pride and honesty (Admittedly, I just made that code up right now. But it sounds about right). Hence, I’m gonna lead off with the toughie. You were a muscular power hitter during the 2000s. Your best years came with the Texas Rangers. In 2006 you hit homers in six straight games, and you once hit three home runs in a single game. Kevin, did you use PED during your career? If so, how and why? If not, why—when so many others did—didn’t you? And do you think it’s wrong for someone to ask such a question?

KEVIN MENCH: No, I was never. I’ve always heard the rumors. But if you look at the numbers, look at the amount of plate appearances I had, and then the production numbers. As opposed to when the numbers diminished and then my production. I was the guy who needed to play every day. Some guys are made, like a Lenny Harris, the best pinch hitter ever. That was just a mentality guys had, and I couldn’t do that. I needed some at-bats to get going and to get into the flow of thing. I remember my girlfriend in college, they told he I was on steroids in college. I haven’t. I’ve been the same size—always. I’ve had guys ask me about it, but nobody has ever approached me to do it.

J.P.: Why wouldn’t you? You obviously knew the benefits, and you knew guys were using. So why not?

K.M.: You look at the effects. You look at what it does to people. You see the guys who have the good years—a guy will be throwing low-to-mid 80s, and all of a sudden he’s throwing over 100 mph. And then he falls apart. Or the guys who have good years and then you never see them again. They fall apart. They physically fall apart. I enjoy my life too much. It’s one of those things—like, ‘This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?” It’s one of those things you get scared off of. I mean, I heard the things; that I was using. But growing up the way I grew up—it takes a lot more to scare me off than that. Look at the numbers. If I had 500 at-bats, I could hit 25 home runs.

JP: You sound like a guy who feels as if, were he given more of a chance to play regularly, you would have had a better career …

K.M.: It’s true. it all started when I got traded. It’s hard to get traded. You get into a groove and you’re accustomed to everything and people … teammates. And all of a sudden it’s, ‘Hey, pack your #### and leave. Right now.’ And all of a sudden it finally sets in and you go, ‘Holy ####, what just happen.’ It doesn’t hit you right away. That was the hardest thing. Got traded, go over there [to Milwaukee] and I’m a platoon player in Milwaukee. The next year I came back and I told them, ‘I still feel I can play every day.’ Nobody gave me an opportunity. That’s how it is. They go younger and cheaper, and   you’d have guys—you knew the guys who were taking stuff … they’d have one good year, they get paid and all of a sudden they just fall off. it’s unfortunate, but you know what, I don’t need money that bad.

Repoz Posted: April 04, 2013 at 07:01 AM | 28 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Drexl Spivey Posted: April 04, 2013 at 08:58 AM (#4403995)
I realize that this will just devolve into another "bash Pearlman" thread.

But this quote from Mench threw me for a loop:

That was the hardest thing. Got traded, go over there [to Milwaukee] and I’m a platoon player in Milwaukee. The next year I came back and I told them, ‘I still feel I can play every day.’ Nobody gave me an opportunity.


I've always had the "just do your job" type of mindset. I always get angry when some big-headed guy (in this case that also applies in the literal sense - the guy wore a size eight hat) overly values his his own abilities.
   2. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: April 04, 2013 at 09:02 AM (#4403997)
I don't mind someone wanting to play everyday. There's a right way and a wrong way to do it though. If Mench kept working hard, was ready to play when he got in there and didn't cause problems in the clubhouse then that's fine. If he sulked, stopped working hard and made everyone around him miserable...no.

Coming off the bench is a definite skill. There is a reason some guys don't DH well. My gut feeling has always been that singles hitters are better suited to come off the bench because sluggers seem to get out of their swing mechanics easier but I've never seen any study one way or the other.

   3. Drexl Spivey Posted: April 04, 2013 at 09:29 AM (#4404024)
There is a reason some guys don't DH well. My gut feeling has always been that singles hitters are better suited to come off the bench because sluggers seem to get out of their swing mechanics easier but I've never seen any study one way or the other


That's an outstanding point. I've always thought that potential pinch hitters should be able to swing in a batting cage before their ABs.

If relief pitchers are allowed to warm up, then why not also have a space for pinch hitters? (I know the obvious answer is a lack of space. But just design the place to fit in a batting cage under the bleachers).
   4. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: April 04, 2013 at 09:37 AM (#4404037)
I'm sure (virtually) every major league park has places for guys to hit while the game is going on - heck, I've been in the one for my local minor league team.

Kevin Mench was a monster his last year in college.
   5. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: April 04, 2013 at 09:45 AM (#4404042)
He is from my hometown, and exactly my age. I was not good enough to play Little League against him.

EDIT: Read TFA. A little weird to see the Delaware love. There's nothing wrong with being proud of where you're from but I have no emotional attachment to Delaware.
   6. John M. Perkins Posted: April 04, 2013 at 10:07 AM (#4404067)
I'm sure (virtually) every major league park has places for guys to hit while the game is going on - heck, I've been in the one for my local minor league team.


One of the reasons Macon lost the Braves to Rome was that Macon didn't have an indoor batting cage. That's in Low-A.

That said, you saw our old-time stadium Luther Williams Field in "The Trouble with the Curve," now see Luther Williams Field in "42."
   7. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: April 04, 2013 at 10:12 AM (#4404072)
I think a pitcher warming up is a different animal than a hitter seeing live pitching. Again, no evidence for this, just a gut sense of what I've seen over the years.
   8. BDC Posted: April 04, 2013 at 10:16 AM (#4404080)
Coming off the bench is a definite skill

And in a case like Mench's, if he truly was better suited to regular play, it could make all the difference. His OPS+ in his last three years with Texas, as a semi-regular, was 102; in his first full year with Milwaukee, in more of a platoon role, it was 90. That might well define the make-or-break point for staying in the league, for a just-adequate-defensively corner outfielder. The problem is that if you're at 102 and showing no great upside, there are tons of guys ready to take your place, and if you're at 90 as a fourth outfielder, there are even more guys available. By descending to your theoretical level of backup play, you're accelerating that descent by taking on a role that doesn't suit you.
   9. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 04, 2013 at 10:23 AM (#4404088)
Kevin Mench had a career .517 OPS as a pinch hitter, so yea, he definitely sucked coming off the bench.
   10. Depressoteric Posted: April 04, 2013 at 10:27 AM (#4404091)
I really don't remember why I'm supposed to hate Pearlman...I'm sure someobdy can remind me.

What I do know is that these Q&As; he does are frequently excellent. I really enjoyed his one with Tom Verducci from awhile back as well.
   11. McCoy Posted: April 04, 2013 at 10:31 AM (#4404095)
My only recollection of Kevin Mench was that he was a beast in my computer baseball game. I can't remember if it was High Heat Baseball or what but it was the 2002 or 2003 version of the game.
   12. Nasty Nate Posted: April 04, 2013 at 10:32 AM (#4404097)
Mench becoming a backup generally meant that he just got fewer starts, not that he was primarily used as a pinch-hitter.
   13. djordan Posted: April 04, 2013 at 10:46 AM (#4404119)
Yeah, the Verducci Q&A should be read by every aspiring reporter.
   14. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: April 04, 2013 at 10:46 AM (#4404120)
I like his Q&As;, not much else.
   15. Drexl Spivey Posted: April 04, 2013 at 10:49 AM (#4404125)
My only recollection of Kevin Mench was that he was a beast in my computer baseball game. I can't remember if it was High Heat Baseball or what but it was the 2002 or 2003 version of the game.


It was High Heat 02. Mench and Ruben Sierra were the inexplicable studs in that game.

Mench becoming a backup generally meant that he just got fewer starts, not that he was primarily used as a pinch-hitter.


He came off the bench a lot. And the guy could work on his craft between games. His problem wasn't getting exposure to big-league level pitching.
   16. SG Posted: April 04, 2013 at 11:07 AM (#4404141)
I'm sure (virtually) every major league park has places for guys to hit while the game is going on - heck, I've been in the one for my local minor league team.


Yeah, I remember reading Peter Gammons's article about Kirk Gibson taking cuts in a batting cage while he prepared to pinch-hit against Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the '88 World Series.

At one end of the Los Angeles Dodger dugout on Saturday night, the players could hear Kirk Gibson. He was at work up the runway, in the batting cage. Crack...clank. Crack...clank. Mitch Poole, the Dodger batboy, would put a baseball on the batting tee, and Gibson would send it clanking off the metal frame of the cage. Out on the field the Dodgers were down to their final three outs in Game 1 of the World Series. The Oakland Athletics held a 4-3 lead, and baseball's best reliever, Dennis Eckersley, was on the mound. Crack...clank. Crack...clank. Gibson paused, took a deep breath, looked up at Poole and said, "This could be our script." Gibson didn't elaborate. He put his head down and resumed swinging. Crack...clank.

When, with two outs, Eckersley went to 3 and 1 on pinch hitter Mike Davis, Dodger Tracy Woodson turned to teammate Mickey Hatcher and said, "If Davis gets on, wait till you see the crowd reaction." A puzzled Hatcher glanced out at the on-deck circle, where Dave Anderson, an unprepossessing utility in-fielder, was getting ready to bat for pitcher Alejandro Pena if Davis managed to keep the inning alive. Like the 55,983 fans in Dodger Stadium, Hatcher hadn't heard the sounds from the batting cage and hadn't noticed that by the time Davis went to bat, Gibson had appeared in a corner of the dugout, bat in hand.

When ball 4 sent Davis to first, Anderson turned back to the dugout, and the crowd erupted with the realization that this was one of those Hollywood moments: Gibson, half-man, half-beast, whose arrival as a free agent in February had so dramatically transformed the Dodgers, now limped toward the plate to face Eckersley.


Here's the article.
   17. KT's Pot Arb Posted: April 04, 2013 at 01:40 PM (#4404317)
I don't like Pearlman's smug, sneaky way of outing gay professional athletes like what he did to Kevin here.


my girlfriend in college, they told he I was on steroids in college.
   18. Greg K Posted: April 04, 2013 at 01:50 PM (#4404330)
I mostly remember Kevin Mench for breaking Roy Halladay's leg. But he seems like a good guy, so I don't hold it against him.
   19. Rants Mulliniks Posted: April 04, 2013 at 03:00 PM (#4404411)
Kevin Mench had the largest hat size in major league history, as far as I know.

Coke to Spivey, I need to read more carefully.

   20. Rants Mulliniks Posted: April 04, 2013 at 03:04 PM (#4404414)
a guy will be throwing low-to-mid 80s, and all of a sudden he’s throwing over 100 mph.


I know, I hate it when this happens. Like those scrappy middle infielders who can't hit a ball 300' with the wind blowing out, who then take steroids and lead the league in homers.
   21. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: April 04, 2013 at 03:14 PM (#4404442)
Is Pearlman the guy we hate because he despises baseball? Or is that someone else?
   22. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: April 04, 2013 at 03:36 PM (#4404499)
he's one of them.
   23. cmd600 Posted: April 04, 2013 at 03:41 PM (#4404512)
20 - I think that actually is a big part of the problem, players are kind of making things up when it comes to steroids. Guys add 10 mph to their fastball or 30 HR in an offseason. And then they tell those things to writers like Pearlman and Verducci (a big proponent of the 'steroids make you a superhuman ballplayer overnight' theory). Former players are notorious for their inability to actually analyze the game well, and yet we still way overvalue their analytical opinions.
   24. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: April 04, 2013 at 03:49 PM (#4404538)
Kevin Mench had the largest hat size in major league history, as far as I know.


I think Tom "Buffalo Head" Niedenfuer and Dave "Head" Hollins are also in the conversation.
   25. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: April 04, 2013 at 04:52 PM (#4404643)
No love for Bochy?
   26. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: April 04, 2013 at 04:55 PM (#4404650)
mench and bochy are the two i think of, esp. mench.
   27. CFBF Is A Golden Spider Duck Posted: April 04, 2013 at 04:59 PM (#4404663)
For a few years there I used to say "If [highly unlikely thing] happens, I'll eat Kevin Mench's hat."

So thanks for that, Kevin.
   28. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: April 04, 2013 at 05:16 PM (#4404689)
I watched a lot of Rangers baseball when Mench was here, so I can feel pretty confident about saying Worst. Outfielder. Ever. Bear in mind, he played Pete Incaviglia's position, so Rangers fans have been conditioned to expect pretty brutal LF play.

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