By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer
Since becoming a baseball fan, I’ve always loved following the Minor Leagues. It’s just one more dimension to the game that adds hope for the future. There’s always that guy down on the farm, who maybe, just maybe, can be the one to put our team over the top.
In 2005, I went out to see the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, the Angels Single-A affiliate at the time. There was some talent on that team, and I wanted to see if they were really that good. This was before I started writing for AngelsWin.com, so I went out with some friends to see those players in person.
One of the guys I really wanted to see was Howie Kendrick. Since being drafted, Kendrick had torn the cover off of baseballs. So, in 2005, I wanted to see for myself just how good he was.
He was that good.
After seeing him play, I knew he would be a good player for the Angels. There’s just something about a player, especially in the Minor Leagues, that makes him standout amongst his peers. Kendrick stood out.
The first time I met Howie was sometime in 2007. The Angels were in town, it was early in the season. My wife had sent me to the store to get some items for the home. And, to make the trip more fun, I took my infant son with me. He was dressed in his Angels uniform outfit and we were having a good time together.
While I was standing by some milk, I heard a man say “Nice outfit,” as he pointed to my son.
I turned to see who it was, and it was Howie Kendrick. I said “Good game last night.”
He said “Thanks!” We shook hands and parted ways.
This was still before I started writing for AngelsWin.com. He was just a player talking with a fan.
When I finally made it into the clubhouse, one of the first people I talked with was Howie Kendrick. He was polite and friendly, even though he was very busy at the time.
With AngelsWin.com, Howie has always been a class act. It’s not easy dealing with the media on a daily basis and answering every reporter’s questions. I can only imagine the grind of dealing like that on a daily basis.
However, every time I’ve been on the field or in the clubhouse, he’s always said “hello”. I’ve seen him signing plenty of items for fans. I’ve seen him participating in several charity events, including Eddie Guardado’s Stars & Strikes that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for children with autism.
He’s a class act.
One of the things about Howie is just how steady he has been manning second base for the Angels. Year in and year out, he’s doing his job. According to Baseball Reference, he’s generated 27.6 WAR in his 9 years as an Angel. That’s an average over 3 per year. Steady, solid production.
Howie’s done that, all while batting in many places in the lineup. Last year, when Hamilton wasn’t producing, he became our cleanup hitter. In previous years, when the top of the lineup needed help, Howie batted second. He never complained, never whined to the media. He just went out there and gave us 100%, and put up solid, steady production.
Even when he was traded, he took to time to thank us, the fans, for the time he spent with the Angels.
A class act.
Sometimes I think Howie suffered from the unrealistic projections made by others about him. Sure, he showed strong potential, and was hyped—maybe even overhyped—and some fans have criticized him for not living up to that hype. But, when we look at his numbers, and the way he went about his game, he had a very good career with the Angels.
It’s often easiest to overlook the quiet production of a player like Howie. Until viewed in totality, it’s easy to forget just how much he contributed. As an Angel, Howie ranks 5th overall in doubles. He ranks 6th all-time in Hits and ABs. In fact, he ranks in the Top-10 for several offensive categories. And that’s for all-time Angels. Every team could use a player like Howie—which is why he ultimately got traded.
As an Angels fan, I really like the trade that we made to get Andrew Heaney. In the long run, this is a good move for our team. The Angels get younger, and many more years of a top starter in exchange for Howie’s last year on his contract. You have to give talent to get talent, and Howie is definitely a talent. My friend Randy, a Pirates fan, has always wanted us to trade Howie to his team, but never was willing to see his team pay the price it would take to get him. It’s easy to see how valuable Howie was to the Angels by seeing what the Dodgers were willing to give up to get just 1 year of his services.
The Angels have the depth to fill his position internally. I like Grant Green, and would like to see what he can do with the opportunity. He has a capable bat, and for the first time in a while can focus on just one position defensively. I think he will do well. But, I’m willing to bet that there will be times when we all will be missing the steady presence that Howie provided in the position.
Like all Angels fans, it’s in my blood to dislike the Dodgers. Baseball needs heroes and villains, and, when the Dodgers come to our stadium, they wear the black hats. You always “boo” the guys in the black hats.
But, there’s one player on their team I will never boo—that’s Howie Kendrick. He's a class act.