Where have you gone baseball? Will passionate fans and baseball aficionados be welcomed back to your manicured ballparks for the truncated 2020 season?
In the last few months there was no baseball, (including every professional sport for that matter) and finally ‘Summer Camp’ has arrived - Spring Training 2.0.
Yet, I've seen countless posts on social media platforms write about their "all-time" lineups for their respective teams. Personally, as a rabid fan of America’s Pastime, the only franchise that matters is the “Black & Gold” - the Pittsburgh Pirates - affectionately known as the “Buccos.”
As I scroll past the no-brainers like Roberto Clemente, (1955-1972), Willie Stargell, (1962-1982) and even Barry Bonds, (1986-1992), one important position that stuck out made me dive into the research books.
Numerous articles I've perused place three-time All-Star Jason Kendall (1996-2004) as their all-time backstop with a slight edge over three-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion Manny Sanguillén (1967, 1969-1976, 1978-1980) but for me, I would love to debate and delve deeper into this particular discussion.
Although the biggest discrepancy is Kendall’s .306 batting average as a Pirate versus Sanguillén’s offensive numbers in Pittsburgh. But, the misconception about this misleading stat is Kendall was a .288 career hitter while Sanguillén’s .296 lifetime was phenomenal for a catcher of that generation. In retrospect with their respective numbers with the Pirates, Sanguillén batted .299 to Kendall's .306 closing the difference within a .007 gap.
Affectionately called “Sangy,” throughout his illustrious career, this Panamanian played a total of 12 years with the Pirates compared to Kendall's nine seasons. Another point of contention are the first nine years of their careers.
Kendall batted .306 while “Sangy” inched towards a batting average of .300 closing the gap even more to .006.
There will always be the discussion Sanguillén played on a better team with an immensely, talented group and slotted within an entire roster that included three future Baseball Hall of Famers. I can certainly agree with that premise but let's not dismiss Sanguillén who in 1971 posted a W.A.R. of 5.0 which was the third highest on that team only behind Roberto Clemente (7.3) and Willie Stargell (7.9).
In 1971, Sanguillén had the second highest batting average (.319) during that championship season. Not to mention “Sangy” also rarely struck out (32 times) and had the third highest RBI total (81) in the starting lineup for the 1971 Pirates. In the 1971 NLCS, Sanguillén batted .267 along with a .379 average in the 1971 Fall Classic which was only second to the inevitable World Series MVP Roberto Clemente.
Throughout Sanguillén's career with the Pittsburgh Pirates he played an important part of six divisional titles, two World Series championships and finished 13th in MVP votes for the 1971 season.
Finally, I think another stat, or should I say fact we don't necessarily pay close attention to are the extraordinary pitchers they caught and the eras they played in during their careers. But I will save that for the next Pirates segment for fans who wish to continue penciling in who was the best catcher in Pirates history.
But personally, I will salute the True Pirate of Pittsburgh…Mr. Manny Sanguillén.
A very big Thank You is due to my good friend Danny Torres (@Dannyt21) for not only revising, editing, counseling and helping with this and other stories I've worked on but for being an all around great person, friend and brother!