One of the baseball's seasoned backstops went down today for what could be the last time with another tear of his rotator cuff that Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost says will keep him out for not only the rest of the 2011 season but through 2012 as well. By the time the 2013 season rolls around, he'll be nearing 39 years of age by Opening Day and coming off major rest and rehab -- a situation that makes it likely for Kendall to think about life after a long playing career.
While no one will mistake Kendall for Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza or Ivan Rodriguez, it's also easy to place Kendall in a long list of Dayton Moore's major league level personnel moves -- those of the unfortunate kind. Yet to consider his recent two-year contract extension given to Kendall after the 2010 season as a move akin to trading for Mike Jacobs is to soil the solid career of a storied veteran like Kendall -- one who spent 15 years at the major league level. It's a decent legacy that should not be overlooked.
While Kendall's place in Kansas City lore might not become anything historic in the slightest, the reality is that Kendall had a fine major league career -- one most players would love to enjoy. He played in 2,085 games in his career, mostly for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and had 2,195 hits in that span -- good for a .288 career BA. He finished with 75 homers, 744 RBI and even 189 stolen bases, an anecdote quickly forgotten that Kendall was once a major threat on the basepaths. He even had 12 in his final season in 2010 with the Royals.
Historically, Kendall finds himself in very unique company. Kendall ranks second in total steals by a catcher in Major League history -- only Roger Bresnahan has more (212) and he played from 1901-15. Only 10 catchers have ever stolen more than 100 bases, a list that includes names like Carlton Fisk, Ivan Rodriguez, John Wathan and Brad Ausmus. Yet among those, only Fisk and Rodriguez boast greater totals in career RBI, runs scored and extra-base hits.
The reality is that there's never been a catcher like Jason Kendall -- with his blend of speed, his longevity behind the plate, his ability to hit. He might not have been a sexy signing for Dayton Moore this last off-season, but letting that place a shadow over Kendall's legacy is missing the point. Kendall might not be a future Hall of Famer, but he was definitely among the top catchers of his time.