Jason Kendall

Jason Kendall was a really, really good player

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Jason Kendall’s offense turned into a punchline during the second half of his career, when he could occasionally go weeks at a time without collecting out an extra-base hit. Unfortunately, that obscures the fact that he was an excellent player, one of the best in the National League, for a time before a thumb injury sapped his power.

In his first five seasons, Kendall hit .314/.402/.456 with 45 homers, 265 RBI and 93 steals in 2,294 at-bats for the Pirates. That’s good for an .858 OPS, which is third all-time among players to catch at least 500 games in their first five seasons:

.947 – Mike Piazza (1992-96, Los Angeles Dodgers)
.880 – Roy Campanella (1948-52, Brooklyn)
.858 – Jason Kendall (1996-2000, Pittsburgh)
.858 – Mickey Cochrane (1925-29, Philadelphia A’s)
.853 – Brian McCann (2005-09, Atlanta)
.803 – Chief Meyers (1909-13, New York Giants)
.799 – Johnny Bench (1967-71, Cincinnati)
.773 – Rick Farrell (1929-33, St. Louis Browns)
.763 – Thurman Munson (1969-73, New York Yankees)
.761 – Russell Martin (2006-10, Los Angeles Dodgers)

Basically, Kendall was a more durable Joe Mauer initially. Mauer didn’t make the 500-game cutoff above (he would have been fifth if he had), but he basically had the same line as Kendall while playing 100 fewer games:

.314/.403/.456, 45 HR for Kendall
.317/.399/.457, 44 HR for Mauer

Of course, Kendall had just two more good offensive seasons in his career after age 26. He hit .325/.399/.416 and .319/.399/.390 in his last two years with the Pirates in 2003 and ’04. Following his trade to Oakland, he was a liability offensively the rest of his career, hitting .260/.333/.318 with eight homers in 3,021 at-bats.

Still, for as little as Kendall contributed offensively, his teams kept playing him because pitchers enjoyed working with him. There are few players in the game’s history who wanted to win as much as Kendall did. That his best years were largely wasted in Pittsburgh was a shame.

Kendall retired Tuesday fifth in major league history with 2,025 games caught. His overall .288/.366/.378 line is still plenty good for a catcher. Among those who played at least 80 percent of their games at catcher, only Ivan Rodriguez (2,844) and Carlton Fisk (2,356) finished with more hits than Kendall’s 2,195. He tops that list with 189 career steals, and he’s seventh with 1,030 runs scored despite largely playing for poor offenses. His .366 OBP ranks 10th among catchers with at least 3,000 plate appearances, and Kendall had about 1,000 more plate appearances than anyone else in the top 25.

It seems an odd thing to write about a guy who played 15 years, but Kendall had a possible Hall of Fame-career ruined by injuries. For five years, he was on that path, and while he took quite a detour afterwards, he continued to find work for another 10 years. Even now, it’s likely that he’d be some team’s backup catcher if his body was sound. He’d be hitting .240 and rarely getting a ball out of the infield, but some team would want his leadership and trademark competitive streak on the bench.

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - JULY 28:  
 Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim slides past catcher Sandy Leon #3 of the Boston Red Sox to score the tying run in the ninth inning after Leon jumped but couldn't reach the ball on a throwing error at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 28, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  The winning run also scored on the play as the Angels won 2-1.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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Last night Hillary Clinton jabbed at Donald Trump by saying that “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.” This means that no Phillies fan who followed me from 2009-2012 and no Royals fan who has followed me since 2014 can ever be president. Sad seeing y’all disqualify yourselves like that, but that’s just how it goes.

Anyway, here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Rockies 2, Mets 1: Jeurys Familia saved 52 (regular season) games in a row before Wednesday night, now he’s blown two in a row. This one on a day when his manager said he wasn’t going to pitch but used him anyway, but I suppose stuff happens. So do errors by your first baseman and wild pitches in games that, because your offense could do nothing, you had no margin for error. For Colorado, credit Tyler Anderson for allowing only one run in six and four relievers for allowing bupkis to the Mets the rest of the way.

Angels 2, Red Sox 1: Speaking of bad defense from your first baseman, Hanley Ramirez sailed a throw home in the ninth inning which allowed both of the Angels runs to score in walkoff fashion. Assist to Brad Ziegler for loading the bases with one out beforehand, helping squander eight shutout innings from David Price. That’s four straight losses for the Sox. They’re just lucky that the Orioles have lost three in a row themselves.

Brewers 6, Diamondbacks 4: Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy and Jonathan Villar got the day off yesterday but it didn’t matter. The Brewers had Zach Davies going and, despite a first inning stumble, he was solid, allowing two earned runs while pitching into the seventh. For the Dbacks, Robbie Ray struck out 11 dudes in fewer than six innings but he ran out of gas and the pen couldn’t hold the Snakes’ early led. There are rumors that Chip Hale is on thin ice as Arizona’s manager. Games like this can’t help his mood.

Twins 6, Orioles 2: A four-run seventh inning for the Twins broke a 2-2 tie. Max Kepler tied the game at 2 with a homer in the sixth and had two hits and two RBI in all. Eduardo Nunez went 0-for-4 and was traded to San Francisco after the game, which was a makeup from a postponed game from back in May. Life is the illusion of control over one’s plans and circumstances.

Phillies 7, Braves 5: Aaron Altherr went 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBI in his first game back after missing over 100 of ’em with a broken wrist. Maikel Franco and Tommy Jospeh homered too. Matt Wisler of the Braves gave up all three of those bombs because giving up bombs is what Matt Wisler does.

Cardinals 5, Marlins 4: Aledmys Diaz homered, doubled and drove in three. His homer came off of Jose Fernandez, who was his childhood friend in Cuba. With friends like these . . . Fernandez was beat up pretty good — he also allowed a homer to Matt Holliday — and gave up five runs in five innings. Dee Gordon went 0-for-4 in his return from his drug suspension. Ichiro got a hit and is two shy of 3,000. In other news, a bunch of my friends were at this game because the SABR convention is going on down in Miami right now. During the game one of them tweeted that, in their opinion, the silly home run sculpture thing in the outfield at Marlins Park should light up when the visitors hit a homer too. This morning I woke up to a bunch of their tweets from karaoke bars in the middle of the night. One of them was doing “Piano Man.” another was doing “Walking in Memphis.” SABR convention attendees: wrong for baseball, wrong for America. Everyone knows that the best karaoke song is “Laid” by James. And that if you don’t do the high notes on the “. . . think you’re so pretty . . .” lines you shouldn’t even bother.

Rangers 3, Royals 2: Cole Hamels allowed two runs and six hits in eight innings, giving his stumbling club both innings and effectiveness just like an ace does. Lookin’ at you, Pete Mackanin. The Royals have lost seven of ten and sit in fourth place, nine games back in the AL Central.

Cubs 3, White Sox 1: Chris Sale came back and allowed two runs in six innings. This is frustrating in that if he pitched either way, way better or way, way worse, I could’ve shoehorned in a “shredded” descriptor about his performance. As it was, he and the Sox lost because John Lackey and the Cubs bullpen pitched better.

Nationals 4, Giants 2: The Nationals’ bullpen tried its hardest to blow this one, allowing the Giants to rally a bit in the ninth, but it wasn’t a big enough rally. Tanner Roark allowed one run over seven innings, striking out three and [all together now] helping his own cause by singling in a run in the Nats’ three-run second inning. The Nats won their 60th game. The Giants are stuck on 59. The Cubs have 61.

Giants acquire Eduardo Nunez from the Twins

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 07: Eduardo Nunez #9 of the Minnesota Twins throws for an out at first in the fourth inning during a game against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington on July 7, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)
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The Giants have acquired All-Star infielder Eduardo Nunez from the Twins in exchange for minor league pitcher Adalberto Mejia, the club announced on Thursday night.

Nunez, 29, went 0-for-4 in Thursday night’s game against the Orioles. He’s hitting .296/.325/.439 with 12 home runs, 47 RBI, 49 runs scored, and a league-best 26 stolen bases in 391 plate appearances this season. Nunez has played mostly at shortstop this season, but has also logged significant time at third base and a handful of games at second base, so he’ll give the Giants some versatility.

Nunez will likely play a lot of third base for the Giants as Matt Duffy is still sidelined with a strained left Achilles. He’s earning $1.475 million this season and will enter his third and final year of arbitration eligibility heading into 2017.

Mejia, 23, was considered the Giants’ seventh-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He earned a promotion to Triple-A Sacramento last month after posting a 1.94 ERA with Double-A Richmond. In seven starts with Sacramento, he has a 4.20 ERA with a 43/11 K/BB ratio in 40 2/3 innings.

With a roster spot open, the Twins called up infield prospect Jorge Polanco from Triple-A Rochester, per MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger.