Catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez retires
On Monday, Ivan Rodriguez, also known as “Pudge,” has decided to hang the tools of ignorance after playing 21 seasons in Major League Baseball. Throughout his career Ivan impacted the way the catcher’s position was played. A man who gave it everything he had to perform at a high level in one of baseball’s most important positions. There had been some speculation of him using performance enhancing drugs, but other than that his name has never been published in any negative manner. Pudge is the greatest catcher to play the game.
In July of 1988 Tom Grieve, former General Manager of the Texas Rangers took a chance and signed a 16 year old boy from Puerto Rico after a tryout. Little did they know that this kid would grow and be shaped into the most dominant player in his position.
About three years after being signed, Rodriguez quickly became one of the team’s top prospects and been called up to the show. Reports started coming up that he was ready for the big leagues.
”We decided to see for ourselves,” Tom Grieve said. ”After five or six games, it became obvious to us that, if anything, the scouting report under-estimated how good he really was.”
The camp put a radar gun on the short, stocky catcher that clocked his throw from home plate to second base at about 93 miles per hour. He would also decimate opposing pitchers with his offensive abilities. Once he was brought up he stayed and became a mainstay behind the plate and fan favorite.
Rodriguez helped the Rangers win the AL West in 1996, 1998 and 1999. After he left Texas he continued his Hall of Fame career with the Florida Marlins where he won the 2003 World Series, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals where he finished.
“He was the best I’ve ever seen,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said last week. “He had the quickest release and accuracy I’ve even seen. He was the scariest guy to have back there when you were at first base. He could beat up with the bat big-time. He was a special catcher.”
In his career, Pudge caught a Major League record 2,427 games behind the plate. On his way to that amazing number he won 13 Gold Gloves which is the most for a catcher, made 14 All-Star appearances, and won 7 Silver Slugger Awards. He is a World Champion and was the NLCS MVP for the Marlins. To add to his wall of fame, he received the highest achievement in baseball earning the AL MVP award in 1999 with the Rangers. In that season he hit .332 with 35 home runs and 113 RBI’s to go a long with 25 stolen bases.
“I’m really proud to say I enjoyed being a teammate of his,” Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan said. “I never anticipated or expected him to have the career he had or the impact he had. It was exciting and fun to watch. He was one of the most popular players we ever had.”
Ivan Rodriguez finished his career with a .296 batting average, 2,844 hits, 1,332 RBI’s, and 311 home runs. He will be eligible for induction in the Hall of Fame in 2017 where he could join Nolan Ryan as the second player to be inducted into Cooperstown as a Ranger.