The book: “Straight Talk from the Wild Thing”
The author: Mitch Williams
The vital stats: Triumph Books, 240 pages, $19.95
Find it: On Powells.com (linked here)
The pitch: Sorry — or maybe we’re not — but every time we see Williams on MLB Network, or hear him being interviewed on a radio show, we get this vision of Kenny Powers.
You know, the Danny McBride character in HBO’s “Eastbound and Down” (season two is supposed to start sometime this year, so stay tuned).
Williams, according to our sources, actually believes he was the inspiration for the character. We tend to think it’s more John Rocker meets Rod Beck. But if Williams is trying to advance his own theory on this, a book like this one could have been much more … Powers like.
You know. Cursing. Crazy accuations. Self-indulgence.
Thankfully, it’s not.
Maybe it’s because many believe his nickname is more than just the fact he used to give up more walks than hits during his career.
“My nickname was a barrier everywhere I went,” he admits on page 181. “I’ve had people tell me that organizations thougth I was the type of wild guy who wouldn’t show up on time, not follow the rules. Hey the only thing wild about me was that I had trouble finding the strike zone on occasion.”
Ask Joe Carter.
Williams admits he got the nickname from former Red Sox reliever Calvin Schiraldi, after they went together to see the movie “Major League.”
“Yes, I got my nickname from the pitcher that Charlie Sheen played; he didn’t get the nickname from me,” said Williams.
We got this clip of Williams from a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick radio show, when the host asked him if the Dodgers would be the NL West winner and perhaps go further than the NLCS as they did the last two seasons:
“No, not this year. Their pitching is very suspect. Clayton Kershaw, there’s been a whole lot of hype heaped on this kid. For me, mechanically, I’m not a big fan of his mechanics and the way he throws the ball. I think he doesn’t ever get to his backside well enough to allow himself to add some deception to his delivery. I mean, he’s got great stuff but I just think there’s been so much expected of him that I don’t know he’ll ever live up to what they expect out of him.”
Wait, Kershaw isn’t well mechanically. Someone like Williams, who’d land at the end of his delivery as if he’d been shot by a sniper, would know.
But Williams’ theory on this subject goes further. When talking about how former Cubs manager Dusty Baker was accused of ruining the careers of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, Williams writes:
“Their injuries had nothing to do with too many pitches. They had to do with horrible mechanics. Prior was said to have great mechanics? Wrong. Neither pitcher ever got to their back side.”
Sound familiar? Maybe it will if Kershaw comes up with a sore elbow sometime soon. Remember where you read it.
Williams, born in Santa Ana and a member of the Angels for a time before he was released at midseason in 1995, admits he was much more into wrestling and football than baseball, but had an older brother who attracted the scouts and eventually signed with the Milwaukee organization. Mitch, it seems, was destined to follow — and learn the game well enough to talk about it as he does today.
“Fans know I’m not wild in what I say about the game,” Williams writes.
He’s cocky, even fearless at times with what he says. It comes with the territory. And it translates well enough on these pages.
How it goes down in the scorebook: A major save. Even if his delivery isn’t perfect.
Also: An observation Williams has about former teammate Lenny Dykstra: “Bar-none, the smartest baseball player I ever played with. Baseball smart, that is. He’s the most devoid of common sense of anybody I’ve ever met.”
Another observation Williams mades about Manny Ramirez: “(He) has been the best right-handed hitter alive for a few years because he stays inside the fastball no matter what. You want to get him out, you have to come way in first, then go away. But it’s hard to go that far inside because he’s got unbelieveable hands and he trusts his hands … There is nothing for him to fear because if you pitch inside, the umpire will throw you out of the game. … (And) Watch Ramirez closely when he walks. Sometimes he hesitates before he starts toward first. I’ve heard it’s because when he’s at bat, he doesn’t keep track of the balls, just the strikes. That’s relaxed.”
Anything to the fact that Ramirez and Williams wear No. 99?