Friday, December 11, 2009

Is Jason Kendall The King of Catchers?

Jason Kendall has signed a two-year contract with the Kansas City Royals.

When discussing the best catchers in the game past and present, Kendall's name seldom comes into the discussion.

But Kendall has played in the majors for 14 seasons and enters 2010 with over 2,000 hits.

I did not realize Kendall had that many hits. He is one of eight backstops with 2,000 plus hits. That list includes Ivan Rodriguez, Ted Simmons, Carlton Fisk, Yogi Berra, Mike Piazza, Gary Carter and Johnny Bench. Pretty good company. Fisk, Bench, Yogi and Carter are in the Hall. Piazza and I-Rod will be and Simmons should be.

Kendall is 35. If he plays another five years he could be the all-time hits leader amongst catchers.

There are a couple of reasons Kendall generally isn't included in this discussion.

First, Kendall has played under the radar. He played the bulk of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates which (I can't emphasize enough) is the Siberia of MLB. Kendall has also played with the Oakland Athletics, Chicago Cubs and for the past two seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers. The only major market team he's played for is the Cubs and he was only there for the second half of the 2007 season.

Second, Kendall is not a big run producer. He's hit only 75 career home runs. The most he hit in any one season is 14 back in 2000. He's also only had one season where he had more than 60 RBI. In 1998, Kendall drove in 75 runs. So in that regard he's no Bench or Piazza.

But he does have 177 career stolen bases. That ties him with Ray Schalk in second place on the all time list. Only Roger Bresnahan has more with 212. Both of them are in Cooperstown too.

So if Kendall isn't the king of catchers he certainly should have a seat at the round table.

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