Kendrick, 37, in his Instagram post announcing his retirement, wrote, “To the LA Angels, thank you for taking a chance on me in 2002 and helping me blossom into the consistent player I became.”
The Angels drafted Kendrick in the 10th round in 2002, and hit at every stop of the farm, to the tune of a .358 batting average in 408 minor league games. Baseball America ranked Kendrick the 12th-best prospect in baseball before the 2006 season, saying he “may be the best pure hitter in the minors.”
Kendrick made his major league debut in 2006 and quickly became a fixture in the Angels infield. He started eight straight years (2007-14) at second base on Opening Day, tying Bobby Grich for the most Opening Day starts at the position in franchise history.
The Angels record book is peppered with Kendrick, who ranks in the top 10 in several categories, including bWAR (28.5), batting average (.292), total bases (1,747), doubles (249), and triples (30). Kendrick’s 967 games at second base are the third-most in Angels history, behind only Grich (1,099 games) and Adam Kennedy (969).
Traded before the 2015 season for Andrew Heaney, who started Opening Day for the Angels this year, Kendrick spent the last six years of his career with the Dodgers, Phillies, and Nationals. Though he spent the vast majority of his time at second base with the Angels, beginning in 2016 he became more of a utility man, starting games in left field, at first base, third base, and even right field in addition to second base.
The Angels made the playoffs four times with Kendrick, though he struggled in October, hitting .186/.197/.288 (11 for 59) with them. But he is the current answer to a trivia question. Kendrick doubled in the eighth inning of Game 3 of the 2014 NLDS against the Royals, and scored on a ground ball. To date, that’s the last run scored by the Angels in the postseason.
Kendrick came alive in the postseason during the Nationals’ run to a championship in 2019. He hit a game-winning grand slam in the 10th inning of Game 5 of the 2019 NLDS to eliminate the Dodgers, then won NLCS MVP in a sweep of the Cardinals. But he saved his best for last.
In Game 7 of the World Series against the Astros, trailing 2-1, Kendrick hit a two-run home run off the right field foul pole in the seventh inning, spurring the Nationals to a championship-winning 6-2 victory. Kendrick’s bat from his NLDS grand slam and the ball he hit for the World Series home run are now in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Congratulations to Howie Kendrick on retiring after 15 seasons in the majors! These artifacts, generously donated by Kendrick, are preserved in our collection and help tell the story of his incredible @Nationals Postseason. He will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2026. pic.twitter.com/AmLVk5axYc— National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum ⚾ (@baseballhall) December 22, 2020
- More on Kendrick’s retirement from Mike DiGiovanna at the Los Angeles Times, who covered him for years.
- Kendrick’s retirement, from Jeff Fletcher at the Orange County Register.
- Brendan Gawlowski at FanGraphs wrote of Kendrick, “He retires with a ring, 30 WAR, and a starting spot on the ‘what do you mean that guy only played in one All-Star Game?’ team.”
- The Angels tweeted out a congratulations to Kendrick on Monday: