The Hall of Fame Case: Jason Kendall
The likes of Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell shouldn't have too much trouble racking up National Baseball Hall of Fame votes, but there are plenty of other players on the 2016 ballot who require a little more voter-cajoling. Players that may not have the on-field resume, but deserve an impassioned Hall of Fame case nonetheless. Players like …
Jason Daniel Kendall was selected by Pirates in the first round of the 1992 MLB Draft and made his big league debut four years later as the starting backstop for the Buccos to start the '96 season. Over the next 15 seasons, Kendall accumulated 2,195 hits while maintaining a .288 career average.
Though he might not meet the statistical Hall of Fame standards of many of the BBWAA voters, we've done the research and we're convinced that Kendall's tangential contributions to the game at least warrant a second look from those empowered to make such a decision.
If the stats aren't there, maybe Kendall's a worthy Hall of Fame candidate because ...
He's actually a ninja
How else would you explain this nimble move Kendall employed to score a run back in 1998?
He could not be struck out
In his 15 years of MLB service, Kendall had two seasons with 30 or fewer strikeouts, five with 40 or fewer and only one with more than 60. He led MLB in at-bats per strikeout in two seasons (2002 and 2005) and, in 2002, appeared in 145 games and struck out multiple times in just one of those contests. In 2,085 career games, Kendall had only 72 multi-strikeout performances. He only struck out three times in a game four times and never wore the golden sombrero.
He helped mentor a major piece of the World Series champion Royals
Kendall spent the last season of his MLB career catching 118 games for the 2010 Royals. That Spring Training -- and in subsequent Spring Trainings -- Kendall helped worked with absolute workhorse, All-Star catcher and World Series champion Salvador Perez.
Back in 2012 -- when Perez had just 39 MLB games under his belt -- Kendall predicted that Perez had the makings of someone who "could be an All-Star for a long time."
Three straight All-Star appearances, three straight Gold Glove Awards and that 2015 World Series championship serve as proof that Kendall knew what the heck he was talking about.
He had Olympic aspirations
Bo might know baseball and football (and basketball and track), but there was a brief period toward the end of his career when Kendall wanted to know baseball and ... bobsledding? Either he saw "Cool Runnings" one too many times or just got, like, really into the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver because he and Willie Bloomquist inquired about their chances of trying out for the U.S. National bobsled team.
He battled back to form after a terrifying injury
Kendall was having a career season in 1999. Through 78 games, he'd maintained a .332 average and belted eight home runs. But in a July 4 game against the Brewers, Kendall's season came to an abrupt halt when he injured his ankle trying to leg out a bunt.
He rolled his foot on the foul side of the first-base bag, tearing the ligaments in his ankle and breaking it so badly that his teammates could see the bone sticking out of his sock.
Kendall was ready for Spring Training the next season and bounced back by hitting .320 and a career-high 14 home runs in 2000.