SAN DIEGO — "When Kevin Brown turned his back to you," Merv Rettenmund was saying this week, "you were in trouble."
Brown has come to mind lately, in the wake of October baseball grabbing San Diego to a degree it hadn't since the pitcher left the Padres almost 22 years ago.
When Brown began his delivery, he turned away from the hitter, revealing the 27 on the back of his jersey.
The spin called to mind former Red Sox ace Luis Tiant.
Only Brown brought a lot more heat than El Tiante.
It's only a guess, but Brown, if transported from 1998 to today, would've pitched deep into this year's World Series games against either the Dodgers or Rays.
That's a strong statement. Hitting lineups today have much more power than in any other era. Pitch velocity is up. The balls are juiced. Bats are harder, not bearing the seam prints that they did in 1998. Bullpens are deeper, allowing managers to lift the starter sooner and create favorable matchups across longer stretches. So in comparison, Brown's pitches would've been less dazzling than today.
Yet Brown flung any of four pitches opponents described as "nasty" or words that can't be printed here.
Scouts awarded high grades to all four: A "turbo" sinker Tony Gwynn called impossible to handle; a four-seam fastball Brown used to overwhelm Astros hitters opposite Hall of Fame lefty Randy Johnson in the playoffs; a wipeout slider hitters said resembled both fastballs; and a splitter that served as a change-up.
Brown had more "pitch stuff" than any Padres pitcher, ever.