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Neyer comments on three former Athletics

Matt Keough (who I guess is actually a current Athletic), Billy Martin, and Koch.  This is for you Neyer fans.

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"No, it's not funny that Matt Keough slammed his gas-guzzler into another gas-guzzler, which slammed into an innocent air-guzzler. The headline was funny, though: "Former All-Star pitcher arrested in Orange County." If it were my headline to write, I'd have come up with something like: "Former 58-84 pitcher busted for acting like a crazy person."

But that's just me. Keough really was an All-Star. What's really odd is that he finished his All-Star season (1978) with only eight wins and 15 losses. At the break, Keough's record was just 6-4, but his A's were awful - they'd eventually lose 93 games that season - and somebody had to represent the franchise in San Diego. So Keough, with a 2.16 ERA that might have been the league's best (I don't have any way to check) got the nod, and deservedly so.

A couple of other notes about that All-Star Game, and American League manager Billy Martin: Earlier in the season, when somebody asked Martin if he'd consider selecting Nolan Ryan - who'd turned down an invitation in 1977 - for the squad, Martin said Ryan "won't be on my team if he's 40 and oh." Martin wasn't put to the test; at the break, Ryan was 3-8 with a 4.72 ERA. Also, you know how every national broadcast has become infected by those annoying in-game interviews with managers, batboys, and everybody in between? When MLB asked Martin to wear a microphone for the benefit of the TV audience, he replied, "I'll do it for $20,000 and then donate the money to a fund for indigent minor leaguers." For you youngsters in the audience, $20,000 was actually a lot of money in 1977, so Martin's comments during the game went unrecorded.

Speaking of headlines, did you see the headline on the Blue Jays-Devil Rays gamer (game story)?

      Blue Jays overcome Koch, beat Devil Rays again

When I saw that, I assumed Tampa Bay had recently signed Billy Koch, and I just missed it. But no, it's weirder than that. Koch was in the stands, he and his four-year-old daughter both bedecked with various Devil Rays gear (including, we can only hope, this lovely item). And according to the story, Koch (and presumably his daughter) spent the game "heckling his former teammates."

I'm guessing Koch was just having some fun, and really doesn't hold his release against his former teammates. (Actually, none of the Blue Jays on the field last night were Blue Jays in 2001, which was the last time Koch actually pitched in the regular season for the franchise.)

As you might remember, we last saw Koch pitching in a meaningful game in 2002. That season he saved 44 games and won 11 more for the Athletics, but in the last A's game, he was terrible. In Game 5 of the Division Series against the Twins, Koch entered a 2-1 game in the ninth inning, and just a few minutes later, it was a 5-1 game, thanks mostly to A.J. Pierzynski's two-run home run. The A's scored thrice in the bottom of the inning but fell a run short. Koch was devastated, to the point that somebody, who seemed to know what he was talking about, e-mailed me to suggest that Koch might have suffered some real emotional damage and merited close monitoring. I passed this along to A's management and was assured that Koch seemed to be handling things well enough.

Maybe. But at the conclusion of the 2002 season, Koch's career ERA in 305 major league innings was 3.48. He was, at the time, only 28.

And since then? Over the last two seasons, Koch pitched 102 innings and racked up a 5.12 ERA, and now he's sitting in the stands and yelling at the guys who are still getting paid to play ball.

Does that mean anything? Probably not. But when Mitch Williams gave up that home run to Joe Carter, he was 28 years old and his career ERA was 3.39. After Williams gave up that home run, he pitched only 37 more innings in the majors and got hammered in most of them.

More? Donnie Moore pitched only 60 innings after the 1986 playoffs (and three years later he was dead). When Ralph Branca lost his battle with Bobby Thomson, he was only 25 years old and his career ERA was 3.65. Afterward, he pitched in only four more seasons, with a 4.54 ERA.

This item started as a source of amusement, but I'm afraid it's become something else. None of these guys were the same after giving up world-famous home runs, and if I were an industrious psychologist I might try to figure out if there's a connection. Because maybe there really is something different about the ninth inning. "

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