It wasn’t easy to find a photo of Orioles backup catcher Caleb Joseph at the plate—he’s done precisely nothing of note there. But that futility itself may prove noteworthy. Joseph is so close to finishing the entire season without a single RBI, something that no one else with as many at-bats has done for as long as RBIs have been counted.
BaltimoreBaseball.com’s Dan Connolly drew our attention to this “accomplishment” (they don’t make scare quotes scary enough for this) last week, and it’s still in play. As of today, Sept. 12, Joseph has had 132 plate appearances and 124 official at-bats over 44 games, and zero RBIs. None.
If Joseph goes the rest of the year without driving in a run, he’ll become the first player to have at least 100 at-bats in a big league season without one RBI since the category became official in 1920, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
I particularly love feats of futility like this (my favorite occurrence might be that entire season the Kansas City Chiefs failed to throw a touchdown to a wide receiver) because they require so much to go wrong, the perfect marriage of incapacity and just plain bad luck. Joseph, a fine defensive catcher and well-liked members of the Orioles clubhouse, is hitting .185. That’s not good. But he’s also had at-bats with runners in scoring position 25 times, and he’s only struck out in six of them. For him to put the ball into play 19 times (even singling twice) and not even scratch out a sac fly somewhere is a hell of a fluke.
Joseph normally plays a couple of times a week, but with the Orioles locked in a tight pennant race they may opt to ride Matt Wieters. Joseph’s opportunities to avoid this unwanted record are limited and dwindling.
It has been, across the board, a very bad year for Joseph:
Joseph took a foul ball to the groin on Memorial Day, and hit the DL with what was described only as a “testicular injury.” We would not get all the details of said injury, but would learn that it was to the right ball, and had to undergo emergency surgery to repair the damage. He was out more than a month, and now wears a Kevlar protective cup behind the plate. Every game, every at-bat, RBI or no, is a gift.
We wish Joseph the best in chasing history.