Friday, April 20, 2012

Pudge Rodriguez Retires

Longtime catcher Ivan(Pudge) Rodriguez will announce his retirement this coming Monday. He has played 21 seasons in the big leagues with the Rangers, Marlins, Tigers, Yankees, Astros, and Nationals. Rodriguez won 13 Gold Gloves and made 14 All Star teams during his career. Pudge also had a cannon for a arm and was and threw out 46 % of runners trying to steal out for his career. Rodriguez also won the American League MVP in 1999.

Pudge made his debut with the Texas Rangers in 1991 at the age of 19. By 1992 he was already an All Star and gained a reputation for a guy not to run on. His offense started to improve and by 1995 he was a .300 hitter. The Rangers won their first division title in 1996, and followed up by winning the division again in 1998 and 1999. 1999 was also Rodriguez best season. He batted .332 with 35 home runs, 113 RBIs, 25 steals, and had a 55% caught stealing pct.

Pudge was off to an even better start in 2000, but his season ended soon after the All Star break due to injuries. After the 2000 season, the Rangers signed free agent Alex Rodriguez to a massive ten year contract. Pudge wasn't as durable the last couple of seasons with Texas, although he still put up big numbers. Pudge was also elgilble for free agency after 2002, but the Rangers couldn't afford to keep him since they had so much money tied up in A-Rod.

Rodriguez couldn't find a long term contract offer to his liking, so Scott Boras got him a one year deal with the Florida Marlins so he could retest the market the next winter. Expectactions were low for the Marlins, and they were almost contracted a couple of seasons earlier. The Marlins even fired their manager Jeff Torborg midseason and replaced him with a over 70 years old Jack McKeon. However, the Marlins caught fire after that and won the wild card. They beat the Giants in the first round with Pudge tagging out JT Snow in a dramatic win. They also beat the Cubs in an exciting 7 game series in which the Cubs choked away a 3-1 series lead. In the World Series, the Marlins upset the favored Yankees in 6 games to win the championship.

2003 rebuilt Pudge's reputation and the Tigers gave him the long term deal he was looking for. Pudge nearly won the batting title in 2004, but cooled off in the second half. They were coming off an miserable 119 loss season in 2004. Things didn't get better overnight, but with some talented youngsters coming up and a few free agent signings the Tigers improved dramatically in 2006. Pudge played in his second World Series, but they lost to the Cardinals. Rodriguez made his final All Star team in 2007, but at age 35 he was clearly in decline. The Tigers traded him in midseason 2008 to the Yankees.

Only being a Yankee due to Jorge Posada being injured, Pudge signed with the Astros for the 2009 season. In August, the Astros traded Pudge to his original team the Rangers. He finished out 2009 with Texas, but they declined to keep him for 2010. The Nationals gave him a two year deal, and he finished his career their. The Royals offered him an invitation to spring training this year, but he declined it. Monday, Pudge will sign a one day contract with the Texas Rangers to retire a Ranger.

There should be no doubt that Pudge is a Hall of Famer in five years. He came close to 3000 hits, falling 156 short. He was a force both on offense and defense. The only catcher during his prime that rivaled him was Mike Piazza, and he wasn't the force on defense that Pudge was. Pudge ranks with the best catchers of alltime, with Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk, and Yogi Berra. However, there is steroid whispers about Rodriguez. Jose Canseco said he introduced Pudge, Rafeal Palmeiro, and Juan Gonzalez to steroids while playing for Texas. While being a rat, Canseco has been right about alot of these guys. When asked about being on the 2003 list of failed tests, Pudge replied, "only God knows". But it has never been confirmed he failed a test, and did not fail any tests since then. I wouldn't be surprised if Pudge did use at some point in time during his career, but he was one of the best catchers baseball has ever seen regardless. Before long there will be a juicer in the Hall if there isn't one in already.

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