Carew played 1,184 games at first base and 1,130 at second base, so it takes some deliberation before ranking him among the greats at any one position. Carew was never a very good defender at second: his range was not that great for a fast runner; he had a weak throwing arm; and he was not comfortable turning the double play. Carew was one of those athletes – we’ve all known them growing up in our neighborhoods – who was naturally talented at scoring. If it was baseball he was a great hitter, if it was soccer, he was the goal scorer, if it was basketball he was the star point guard. But sometimes that guy didn’t take care of business as well on the defensive side of the ball. That was Carew.
A few points on Carew that are worth noting:
- He was easily the best bunter of his generation. No one in the late 1960s and 1970s was really even close. An observer once said of Carew’s bunting skills that he “seems to catch the ball with his bat and place it on the infield grass where he wants to”.
- He was born in the Panama Canal zone while his mother was traveling on a train. He got his name from the physician on the train who delivered him: Dr. Rodney Cline.
- He stole home plate 17 times in his career, like his bunting, something else that few players of his generation were good at. It still ranks in the top 20 all-time in baseball history.
- Carew and Ty Cobb are the only players to lead the entire major leagues in batting for at least three consecutive seasons. Carew did it from 1973-1975.
- In 1983, Carew started the season as hot as just about anyone ever has. He hit safely in all but two games in April. In may he had eight games of three or more hits. On the morning of June 1, he was batting an incredible .443 for the season. He started a 13-game hitting streak that day and his batting average went down. He was hitting .402 at the All-Star break after batting .449 in April and .438 in May. He slumped in July and September and finished at .339, well behind Wade Boggs, who won his first batting title with a .361 mark.
- Before he was dealt to the California Angels in 1979, Carew was nearly traded to the New York Yankees in exchange for Chris Chambliss, Juan Beniquez, Dámaso García, and Dave Righetti.
- In 1982, when Rod Carew had the longest hitting streak of his career (25 games), he was stopped with an 0-for-4 by left-hander Rick Honeycutt.