WASHINGTON — Howie Kendrick is a veteran in every sense of the word: in the field, where he can play multiple positions; at the plate where he can still swing for occasional power; and behind the microphone, where he can still woo the new fans.
“It’s really cool to come here. It’s probably one of my favorite cities in the United States,” Kendrick told the media about his deadline trade from Philly to Washington, D.C. “I love history and I love the history that D.C. has. And to be able to come here and play for this team — it’s a dream come true.”
Kendrick, 34 and in the downslide of his career, likely dreams of a World Series ring. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in the same season that they won the World Series. Since then, he has gotten a sniff at the playoffs but never made it to the big dance.
The Nationals are in a fittingly similar position: competitive for a long period of time, but lacking the pieces necessary to make it all the way. Kendrick plays a small, but important part of that equation.
Kendrick has a reputation for being a good clubhouse guy, and a mentor to younger players. While he won’t be playing a Crash Davis role with any Nats youngsters, who could be the type of calming influence needed when things get jittery down the stretch of a long season.
“I always said he was a good fit for us,” general manager Mike Rizzo told the media. “He strengthens our bench, strengthens our presence specifically against left-handed pitching. He’s got a good split against righties and lefties, and he’s always been a consummate professional defender and offensive player.”
It doesn’t hurt that Kendrick has long admired Dusty Baker and the Nationals way of doing business.
“I’ve been a fan of Dusty’s for a long time,” he said. “I’ve always admired from afar of the way he manages and just been a fan of the Nationals too.”
As with most player acquisitions, it’s all love in the beginning, before eventually devolving into X’s and O’s. Kendrick will continue to love the Nats if he gets playing time and/or they consistently win. The Nats will continue to love Kendrick as long as he does his job when called upon.
For now, he showed up a day earlier than expected, was available even while nursing a bruised wrist, got a hit with a run scored in his first at-bat with the Nationals. That’s a pretty stellar first impression.