Pittsburgh Pirates: Jason Kendall’s Best Three Years

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

At the beginning of Pittsburgh Pirates two-decade-long losing streak, the team obviously lacked quality players.  However, they did have a catcher who became the face of their franchise.

One name that came up this past offseason in regards to the Pittsburgh Pirates was Jason Kendall.  The former Bucco catcher was viewed as a potential managerial/coaching staff candidate and publicly acknowledged that he would welcome the opportunity.  Obviously, the Pittsburgh Pirates went in a different direction hiring Derek Shelton.

Still, Kendall said he would always be open to potentially be joining the Pittsburgh Pirates organization down the road if an opportunity ever presented itself.  Jason Kendall was a big part of the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise and was a rare bright spot during a two-decade-long losing streak.

In particular, Jason Kendall performed to a high level three straight years.  From 1998-2000, Kendall established himself as one of the better catchers in baseball.  In 1998 he hit an outstanding .327 batting average and an OPS of .887.  What was even more impressive was the fact that Kendall got on base at a .414 clip.  He was elected to the second all-star game of his career in 1998 and posted a 5.8 WAR, which was the highest mark of career.

The 1999 season was another career year for Kendall.  He once again hit a lot, batting a career-high .332.  On top of that, he posted the highest OPS of his career at .939.  Despite Kendall’s fabulous season at the plate, he did not get elected to the All-Star game and only produced 3.9 WAR (still solid).  This was because he only played in 78 games due to a dislocated ankle.  If not for that, Kendall could have put together far and away his best career year.

Kendall came back ready to go for the 2000 season and would be rewarded for doing so.  The Pirates backstop proved to be healthy playing in 152 games, batting .320 with another incredible on-base percentage of .412 and OPS of .882.  Kendall was once again proving to be the catalyst for the team’s offense.  Kendall was elected to his third All-Star game.

Jason Kendall ended up signing a six year $64 million contract extensions with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the biggest the team has ever given out.  He played in Pittsburgh for four more seasons before being traded to the Oakland Athletics before the 2005 season.

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Still, Kendall actually had three really good seasons during that dark stretch of the franchise.  Kendall was one of the best catchers in baseball from 1998-2000.  He quickly became the face of the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise.  He was a good player, but Pittsburgh Pirates fans also loved the toughness and effort that Kendall brought to the game.  All this led to him getting the richest contract in franchise history.