Sundberg was probably the top defensive catcher in baseball during the late ’70s. He won six Gold Gloves and made the All-Star team a few times. The only other catcher of the era I can think came close to him throwing out runners was Johnny Bench.
What’s interesting is how many seasons he barely managed to hit .200 while doing so. In his second season in the majors as full-time catcher for the Rangers, he finished the season batting .199!
Normally you’d send a guy down to the minors for hitting that poor, but not Sundberg. He was just too damn good in the field and at managing the pitching staff. In the pre-sabremetric days, I’m sure they figured the amount of runs he prevented defensively made up for the weak bat, and with the DH a relatively new addition to the league, they figured the trade-off was worth it.
He managed a few seasons with a respectable average, hitting over .250, into the .270s, but never over the magic .300. And his glove never failed him.
He spent most of his career with the Rangers, but got dealt to Milwaukee for one season, and then to the Royals, where he earned his World Series ring in 1985. After a brief stint with the Cubs, he finished his career back where he started in Texas.
Now? He’s a Vice President with the Rangers, working alongside Nolan Ryan. And he’s a motivational speaker. I’m sure going out there every day with that piss-poor batting average while still managing to be an all star is frequent among his topics.
I doubt with today’s stats-heavy number crunching and super-hot-take sports media that anyone similar would be given a chance out there. We shall not see his like again.
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