Curtis: The softening of sabermetrics’ Sipowicz, Brian Kenny

From Bryan Curtis at The Ringer on July 7, 2016, on SABR member Brian Kenny:

The first thing you should know about MLB Network’s Brian Kenny is that he almost became a cop. Kenny’s dad, Charlie, was a detective in the “Fun City” hellscape of ’60s New York. Back then, the old cops said, you either fought an aggressive perp or you shot him. “I’d shoot the guy,” one of Charlie Kenny’s partners told Brian. “But your father — he wouldn’t take out his gun. He’d fight.” Brian saw his dad come home with wounds on his hands, where a perp had bitten him.

After college, Brian Kenny thought of becoming a gold shield himself. He even took the police exam. But TV beckoned — and the closest he got to the beat was a stint as a store detective at Sears. Yet when you watch Kenny jabbing his finger at Dan Plesac or Harold Reynolds on the MLB Network, dismissing the latest bit of antisabermetric goofiness, it’s not hard to imagine the second Detective Kenny working his own interrogation room. Kenny managed to combine his two destinies. He’s the Andy Sipowicz of sports TV.

This spring, Kenny sat in a booth at a Manhattan steakhouse, talking about his new book, Ahead of the Curve: Inside the Baseball Revolution. Kenny has a severe face topped by a hedgehog haircut — a cop’s haircut. The words poured out of him — on TV, he has to remind himself to slow down so he doesn’t overwhelm the viewer. (“I’m not a relaxed watch,” he said.) Across the booth, I noticed something I’d half-glimpsed on MLB Now. When Kenny is listening to someone talk, his mouth doesn’t assume the studio host’s studiously neutral expression. It almost curls into a frown.

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Originally published: July 7, 2016. Last Updated: July 7, 2016.