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Tuesday, April 13, 2010
A (small) crime in San Francisco

Monday night in the bottom of the eighth inning, Bengie Molina hit a two-run homer, giving him four RBI in the game. In the top of the ninth, we heard (and saw) this on TV ...

Mike Krukow: "Well, it happened tonight. We showed you early on, he was a couple runs behind Bob Brenly and he has caught him. Most RBIs by a San Francisco Giant catcher, in their career. And that's impressive, considering the guys who have worn the gear."

While Krukow was saying this, we saw this graphic:

Bob Brenly -- 263
Bengie Molina -- 263
Kirt Manwaring -- 205
Benito Santiago -- 171
Marc Hill -- 130

A heading described the list as Krukow did: Most RBI as Catcher -- San Francisco Era.

Looking at that list, I wondered how impressive Molina's feat really was, considering that nobody'd been able to top 263 RBI since 1958. I did trust the list, though, and -- because lately I don't keep any baseball thoughts to myself -- zipped off this tweet:

Fortunately, some of you weren't so trusting and actually questioned that list. Which led me to check. And boy, oh boy ...

Yes, there are different ways of looking at this question. Do you count every RBI that Molina's gotten while a Giant? Or do you count only those RBI he's gotten while actually catching? That's a matter of taste, really. But whichever way you do it, that list we've seen on TV is just flat-out wrong.

No more suspense. Here's the list of catchers, but including RBI tallied while playing other positions:

Bob Brenly -- 327
Tom Haller -- 320
Dick Dietz -- 271
Bengie Molina -- 263
Kirt Manwaring -- 207

And here's the list (which I prefer) including only RBI while catcher of record:

Tom Haller -- 312
Bob Brenly -- 263
Dick Dietz -- 257
Bengie Molina -- 250
Kirt Manwaring -- 205

You see what I mean about the first list being so wildly off? Haller and Dietz were ignored completely, and the rules were different for Brenly and Molina; Brenly's non-catcher RBI weren't counted while Molina's were. Frankly, this smacks of an over-eager PR guy looking to get something on TV. But it's a funny thing these days ... we can check. (Trust me, I've been nailed dozens of times over the years. Hundreds, maybe.)

Does any of this matter? No, not really. Not unless you spend some portion of every day obsessing over such trivialities (no need to raise your hand; I'll happily take your sins upon myself). Or unless you were a fan or a relative of Tom Haller, who died six years ago so isn't around to defend himself.

To me, the record is Haller's. Molina has averaged 85 RBI per season over the past three seasons, and so he might actually take that spot sometime this summer. Or he might not, since there's a kid in Fresno with his own claim on Haller's legacy.

Records are (as they say) made to be broken. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though. And when someone actually does break this record, whether it's Bengie or Buster or some kid playing t-ball this spring, let's raise a glass to the memory of Thomas Frank Haller, who helped the San Francisco Giants win so many games back when Willie Mays was patrolling center field. Ancient history? Not to me.

A small crime was committed in San Francisco last night.

Someone needs to make this right.