Monday, December 31, 2012

#274 Terry Kennedy - San Diego Padres

Terry Kennedy seems to be looking right at the camera as he follows through on his 5th Topps card.  It's tough to tell who is waiting on deck, but I'll try to narrow it down.  It seems obvious that the batter is left handed and the Padres appear to be playing a day game at Shea Stadium.  San Diego visited New York twice in 1982. Kennedy played two of three games in a May series with righty Luis Salazar penciled in behind him so that rules out Salazar.  Kennedy and the Padres returned to Shea in July for a four game set.  Kennedy started three of the four games and pinch hit in a night game.  Ruling out the night game, left handed Broderick Perkins batted behind Kennedy in the three other games solving this short mystery.  Of course that only works if this is indeed Shea Stadium.
Player: Terry Kennedy was a first round pick of the Cardinals out of Florida State University in 1977 and tore up minor league pitching topping .300 and hitting with power across four levels of play in his first two years as a pro.  He went 5 for 29 in a September '78 call up and started the '79 season back at AAA.  Kennedy was then summoned to the big leagues when Ted Simmons missed a month with an injury.  The big left handed swinging Kennedy hit .284/.319/.404 in 116 plate appearances.  
Kennedy earned a spot on the 1980 opening day roster and made 38 starts behind the plate and 26 starts in left field as the Cards tried to get his bat in the lineup.  Although he showed adequate range and made no errors Kennedy would never play outfield again in his career.  He batted .254 and the power he displayed in the minors had yet to show up as he hit just four dingers in 248 at bats. 
In an 11 player deal that involved star veterans Rollie Fingers and Gene Tenace, Kennedy landed in San Diego and became their everyday catcher for the next six seasons.  He batted .301 in '81 and although he had gap power (24 doubles good for 6th in the strike shortened schedule) he wasn't pulling the ball much and hit just two homers.  His season earned him the first of four All-Star berths.  Although he came through at the plate his biggest weakness was throwing as he committed 20 errors in just 100 games behind the dish.   
The 1982 season would be a breakout year for Kennedy.  He batted .295/.328/.486 and he began to pull the ball with authority.  He launched a career best 21 home runs, hit 42 doubles, and drove in 97 runs.  He had a similar year in '83 batting .284 with 17 HR and 98 RBI and won a Silver Slugger award.  Defensively, no one confused him for Johnny Bench but he cut his errors down to 7 and 12 in '82 and '83. 

Just as Kennedy was getting recognized as a top catcher in the Senior Circuit, mentioned with the likes of Gary Carter and Tony Pena, his offense took a big drop. He hit just .240 with only 31 extra base hits in '84 but the Padres still won the NL Pennant. Kennedy hit .222 in the NLCS and .211 with a homer and double in the World Series loss to the Tigers. Kennedy was a durable receiver, rarely taking a day off averaging 146 games as a Padre. It's a good bet the heavy workload was taking a toll on the backstop. The next two year's Kennedy hit in the .260s with 10 and 12 homers but never quite regained the level he established in the '82/'83 seasons.
After the '86 season the Padres traded Kennedy and Mark Williamson to the Orioles for Storm Davis. Kennedy was able to knock 18 balls over the fence for the O's but his gap power was non-existent as he hit just 13 doubles. As the '88 season unfolded the veteran lost playing time to Mickey Tettleton and was reduced to a platoon role. He batted just .226 with three taters in 285 plate appearances. Kennedy was dealt to the Giants before the '89 season for Bob Melvin.
Kennedy shared time behind the plate with Kirt Manwaring in '89 but was the main receiver when the playoffs rolled around. Kennedy who hit .239 with 5 HR in the regular season didn't do much in the playoffs with just 5 hits in 28 at bats as the Giants eventually lost to the A's in the World Series. Kennedy again split catching duties, this time sharing starts with fellow veteran Gary Carter. Kennedy hit .277 with 22 doubles in 303 at bats and posted an OPS+ of 100 for the first time since leaving San Diego. By 1991 the Giants gave more playing time to youngsters Manwaring and uber-prospect Steve Decker. Kennedy last season resulted a .238/.283/.339 line in 184 trips to the plate. 

Flipside: Kennedy was the 6th overall pick in the '77 draft, not bad for a guy who didn't get drafted out of high school. According to this interview, he grew seven inches between his junior and senior year and didn't play very well and drew no attention from the scouts.

Oddball: Terry's dad Bob put together a 16 year career despite an 80 OPS+ and -4.4 WAR.

History: Kennedy had back to back 4+ WAR seasons with the Padres but was probably overworked which hastened his decline. He finished his career with a .264/.314/.386 line with 113 HR in 14 seasons. He played on two pennant winners and was a four time All Star.
Kennedy has been a coach and manager in the minors since ending his playing days.  He was dismissed as the Tucson Padres manager in September.

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