As a rookie fighting to make an impression in 2006, 22-year-old Howie Kendrick chased a foul ball straight into some movie stars.
In this moment, Kendrick, according to internet scholars, successfully "owned" Ben Affleck.
By doing so, he simultaneously owned Boston, the Red Sox, Jonathan Papelbon, the Patriots, Tom Brady, Bill Belichik, Fenway Park, Casey Affleck, Jennifer Garner, pronouncing words like half the letters aren’t in the alphabet, and sensitive tough guys just looking to make something of their lives against the grim backdrop of blue collar Beantown.
Welcome to Philadaelphia, Howie Kendrick. Your tally of owns rightfully makes you our new god. I hope you like deeply out of tune chanting.
In the years that followed the Affleck play, Kendrick never left Los Angeles, though he did have to take the freeway to Chavez Ravine instead of Anaheim after 2015. His rookie year at 22, he hit .285 in 72 games; as a ten-season veteran in 2015 he hit .295 in 117 games. In between, he missed stretches or two due to injury, but is often commended for his stability and health.
Here’s something weird: Kendrick plays all of the infield positions except shortstop and all of the outfield positions except right field and center field. It gives him a useful skill set, just not the sort you see typically around the league. It’s fine. It’s actually kind of amazing. Kendrick made 14 starts at third in 2016 after not having played the position in ten years.
But, he is flawed. The fact that he went on Access Hollywood after robbing Ben Affleck of that baseball to apologize and give him a signed replacement ball nullifies nearly all of his previously tallied owns. On top of that, he got hurt twice in spring training last year (a calf and a groin), didn’t start playing until May, needed time to get in a groove, and then wriggled right back out of it at the start of September.
Of course, Kendrick hadn’t really expected to be there. He and his agent declined the Dodgers’ qualifying offer in the offseason, meaning that any team looking to bring him on board would be vaporizing a draft pick. No one budged. So Kendrick re-upped with L.A., accepting a two-year $10 million deal, part of which the Phillies are paying him now. So, what are they getting?
Kendrick has a reputation as a consistent, outgoing player. Unlike Andres Blanco, last year’s veteran presence MVP who said he had never had an experienced player set an example for him, Kendrick gladly steps into the mentor role with guys like Maikel Franco because of the strong influences he had as a rookie. Vladimir Guerrero and Tim Salmon were his role models, and now he gets to turn all of the Phillies into younger versions of Vladimir Guerrero and Tim Salmon, if the cycle continues per my calculations. Hooray!
But the 33-year-old is capable of filling any role, and has done so more voluntarily and pleasantly than possibly anyone, ever (Let’s all ignore the little Chase Utley-Corey Seager best friendship blossoming in L.A., we all know Chase has simply been a wreck since leaving here).
Check out as he practices yelling down the basement steps at younger players who are up all night giggling:
Sometimes Kendrick will offer advice. Sometimes he'll answer questions. Sometimes he'll just provide an example of how to prepare. And sometimes he may have to play the role of the strict uncle.
"I was fortunate enough to play with some guys who played the right way," Kendrick said. "If you weren't hustling and doing the right things, they would come up and let you know. I feel like if guys aren't playing the game the right way, I want to be the person to step up and say, 'Hey, man, we can better. You can do better.'
Good, maybe we won’t have a bunch pop-up joggers among this generation of stars, and our children can finally go to sleep uncorrupted.
There’s a lot to be done for the eventual Phillies resurgence. While assets are being accrued and developed, some of the established pieces need to stay sharp. A veteran presence as willful as Kendrick aids with that process, and Kendrick, as well as outfielder Michael Saunders, are exactly who Pete Mackanin could have expected to have in his lineup this season after requesting more hitting experience for his offense. Part of the appeal of Kendrick’s acquisition was in seeing the manager and the front office work in tandem without having to wonder what in the hell was going on. On top of that, Kendrick is who the Phillies received in exchange for trading Darin Ruf. Where will his value end?
As far as Kendrick’s own contributions, well; multiple pre-season wear-and-tear injuries are a sign of an aging body being exposed to the trauma of professional sports for over a decade. He has only missed three prolonged chunks of time since 2009 (Hyperextending a knee in 2013, straining a hamstring in 2015, and being optioned after festering in a slump in 2009), and in the five seasons in which he’s played in at least 140 games, he has accumulated 15.7 WAR, or 3.1 per season.
Despite having a more productive player at his primary position last season (Utley), the Dodgers still found a way to slip Kendrick into 146 games. He did drop his BA to its lowest point ever, .255, and his OPS was below .700 for the first time in his career. But at 33, it’s still not out of the question to ask for a bounce back this season, somewhere in the range of a .330 OBP and .400 SLG (Though Fangraphs has him at .324/.377).It's March, so we're not dwelling on Kendrick's every action being for 'trade value,' but that concept exists, too; should the right fit come along, he could be a deadline deal that nets the Phillies even more young players. In the meantime, a steady output and a guiding presence is essentially what you acquire a guy like Kendrick for, especially if he can play multiple positions.
Kendrick has the chance to be an important part of not just 2017, but of Phillies history, as he could be a name mentioned as Maikel Franco thanks people in his Wall of Fame induction ceremony. And just think of all of the movie stars he'll run into in Philadelphia, a city with a vibrant film industry!