Really? Lets bypass the fact that someone remembered Pena had 14 broken bat base hits during a road trip in 1985 (two years before this card was printed) and instead focus on the poor schmuk who had to calculate the amount of hits Pirate players got while also breaking a bat.
I know it became en vogue to have basketball managers tracking every little “hustle” play in a game, but why oh why was it ever important to track “hustle-like” plays in baseball. Certainly there was something more important than broken bat base hits. May I submit: broken bat homeruns? Or broken bat bunts? Or perhaps the number of times a player grounded into a double play (Pena did ground into the 35th most double plays (234) in MLB history — one behind George Brett and five more than let’s play two Ernie Banks).
One thing can be certain, 1986 would be the last year that the Pirates would tabulate the amount of broken bat hits Tony Pena would have on a road trip. From 1980-1986, Pena appeared in 801 games for the Pirates, he also hit 63 HRs, and posted a pretty good slash line for a catcher (.286/.327/.411). He accumulated 19.3 WAR in Pittsburgh. He’d actually be worth -0.6 WAR for the other 12 seasons in his career.
While the Pirates may have futilely tracked broken bat base hits, they smartly moved Pena to the St. Louis Cardinals at the high point of his value for Mike LaValliere, Andy Van Slyke and Mike Dunne. Pena would play three seasons in St. Louis and earn 1.4 WAR. LaValliere (making his second flip side appearance), was worth 10 WAR over seven seasons in Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Van Slyke earned 31 WAR in eight seasons for the Pirates (never mind that they signed him instead of Bonds and missed out on all that PED WAR).
While the trade was real bad for the Cardinals, it in no way diminishes Pena’s career accomplishments. He caught the fourth most games (1950) by a catcher — behind Gary Carter, Bob Boone (FLIP SIDE HERE) and Carlton Fisk. He also posted the 10th best fielding percentage by a catcher in a season (.9973) in 1989. That year he recorded only two errors tied for third fewest in a season by a MLB catcher. Somewhat surprisingly, just three years earlier he recorded 18 errors, which is tied for 11th most in a season by a catcher. If that doesn’t shed light on what “errors” mean, I don’t know what does.
In all, Pena put together a career that stands up against Boone, Brad Asmus and Jim Sundberg – not bad company. Oh, and he earned upwards of $17 million. If he could have collected a few more broken bat base hits, he might have been a hall of famer…