ST. PETERSBURG - MAY 02: Catcher Jason Kendall #18 of the Kansas City Royals gets a hit against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on May 2, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
Last week, Jason Kendall -- who hadn't played baseball since 2010, because of a serious shoulder injury -- launched a comeback attempt, with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, the Royals' double-A farm club.
Kendall debuted Friday, and went 1 for 2. He started again on Sunday, made an out in the second inning, made a throwing error in the third inning, and came out of the game in the fourth inning. Apparently that was enough:
Jason Kendall just announced his retirement to the media at Arvest Ballpark.— NW Arkansas Naturals (@NW_Ark_Naturals) July 24, 2012
It's not clear why Kendall was signed in the first place. He's 38, and the Royals have a perfectly fine catcher in the majors right now. It's hard to avoid making a comparison to Crash Davis. But if Kendall was brought aboard to shake up the Naturals' clubhouse, it hasn't worked and he's not had enough time to do anything anyway. But the club hasn't won a game since Kendall joined up, and the Naturals have now lost 19 of their last 21.
Assuming there won't be another comeback, this is the time to remember that Kendall was once of baseball's premier catchers. He skipped Class AAA, and was an All-Star as a 22-year-old rookie. Even after a catastrophic ankle injury that cost him much of his power, Kendall was still on a Hall of Fame path through his 20s, or nearly so. But after turning 30, Kendall's hitting stats declined badly, and a couple of years later he stopped hitting altogether.
Still, a catcher with nearly 2,200 hits and roughly 40 Wins Above Replacement ... it was an awfully impressive career. Almost makes you wish we could have seen him, just once more, wearing a Royals uniform.