Jason Kendall is out for the next eight-to-ten months as he’ll require shoulder surgery. Not just a snarky Royals fan’s latest joke, but a reality.
Playing Kendall virtually every day likely did not help his body. Catchers do not age well, and asking a 36-year-old to catch nearly 90% of the innings played is a bit much. But you know what? Kendall caught 91% two seasons ago, and was over 80% last season too. The high percentage of games caught by Kendall is not a defense of using him that much, not at all. My issue is the original contract itself calling for two years. I won’t rehash that argument either.
Instead, I’d like to pay tribute to Kendall’s career if this winds up being the last time we see him in the majors. For a string of years Kendall was one of the best hitting catchers around. Here are his run values (park-adjusted too) from 1997 through 2000:
From there, things go downhill a bit, although he managed a string of decent seasons with the Pirates and Athletics that lasted until the mid-2000s and included two near-five win seasons. Between that 97-00 period, Kendall was amongst baseball’s more underrated players, such is the price one has to pay when playing for a perennial cellar dweller.
Only recently (well, 2007) did Kendall become a bit of a laughing stock offensively. He has posted four of his five worst offensive seasons the last four years, which is not a sweet or charming end to a career, and neither is the injury route. It’s a shame that his career might end like this, but he’s had a long and ultimately fan-fulfilling career.