So Long, Pudge Rodriguez

Categories: Sports

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While the Mavs stare bleakly into James Harden's beard and the Cowboys kick tires ahead of Thursday's draft, the local sports world takes a minute to look longingly in reverse today, over the long, remarkable career of Pudge Rodriguez, arguably the best catcher of all time. (And what is baseball good for if not of-all-time arguability?)

Should be a nice day all around, with a lot of caught-stealings and a little bWAR and maybe the occasional "S" word. Here's the schedule of events the Rangers sent over yesterday, the key parts I'm sure you'll be able to catch at your favorite sports-radio hang:

1:00 p.m.--Texas Rangers First Base Media Gate opens

2:00 p.m.--Ivan Rodriguez Press Conference to announce his retirement as an active major league player

--The press conference will take place in the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame. Please enter through the First Base Media Gate and go right towards centerfield. The Hall of Fame entrance is located in the back of the Lower Home Run Porch.

--Participants in the press conference will include Ivan Rodriguez, Nolan Ryan, and Tom Grieve. Several former Rangers teammates of Rodriguez and members of the Rodriguez family will also be in attendance.

5:35 p.m.--On-field ceremony to honor Ivan Rodriguez

5:55 p.m.--Ivan Rodriguez ceremonial first pitch

6:08 p.m.--First pitch, Yankees vs. Rangers.

It's that 2 p.m. press conference where things could get interesting. Does someone ask Rodriguez about his alleged steroid use -- alleged, of course, by hammerhead-turned-sage-turned-hammerhead Jose Canseco, who wrote in his book, Juiced, that he personally injected Rodriguez?

Should someone ask about it?

On the one hand, Pudge's answer, or his non-answer, could help determine his physical place in history, if not his actual one. So far, when asked whether his name is on The List, Rordriguez has said, "Only God knows." But God doesn't have a vote, so the writers may want more, especially depending on how the upcoming Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens ballots turn out.

On the other hand: Ugh. Steroids. Ugh.

It's days like today when you wonder: What if Rodriguez could just talk openly about That Era, about how the league had been so thoroughly corrupted, how there was no other way? What if the league stood behind him, sharing the blame? What if the media all shrugged and said, Yeah, those were some weird days, where are the hot dogs?, and made Rodriguez what he deserves to be: a first-ballot, no-brainer, start-carving-the-bust-today Hall of Famer.

Pipe dreams, obviously. But worth dreaming, especially on Pudge Day.

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31 comments
Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

One other quick note about Pudge: I’ve heard a lot of folks tout his 1999 MVP award, but as much as I love the guy, he didn’t deserve it.

Pedro Martinez (23-4 record, 2.07 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 313 K) did. And if not him, how about Manny Ramirez (.333 BA, 44 HR, 165 RBI, 1.105 OPS)?

Heck, I’m not even sure Pudge was the best player on his own team that year. Raffy hit .324 with 47 bombs and 148 RBI, and Juando hit .326 with 39 homers and 128 RBI.

Even Omar Vizquel posted a better WAR (6.6) than Pudge (6.0).

Just how deep was the list of candidates? A-Rod finished 15th in the voting with a .285 BA, 42 HR, 111 RBI and 21 SB.

So, yes, while Pudge is technically an MVP award winner, let’s tap the breaks when using it to explain his greatness.

just sayin'
just sayin'

Rodriguez was the juicer that bothered me the most. Sure, Bonds, Mcgwire, and Sosa were the true poster boys but we all kinda knew at the time and just turned a blind eye to it. Plus they werent on a team that we watched 162 times per year. I remember watching Ranger games JUST to watch Ivan. It was worth sitting through 9 innings of a shit team if he would just make one or two of his trademarked snap throws to first base. That arm was a laser like I had never seen. I for some reason never suspected roids with that guy. But his "Only God knows" non-denial and his 30 pound off season weight loss after testing kicked in is pretty damning proof. Without the juice, his arm isnt a freakish rifle and his bat isnt as lethal. At the time I thought I was watching a Texas fucking Ranger develop into the best of all time at his position. Looking back, he was just a damn cheater. That bums me out. I was a huge fan.

The funny thing about Rangers fans is that for the next 3 nights, Arod is going to get steroid chants every time he steps into the box. Never mind the fact that he was a Ranger when he did it. Nevermind Juan Gone and Raffy. Fuck it, lets give Ivan Rodriguez a statue.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Although hard evidence is unlikely to surface, it seems likely that Pudge did at least some juicing in his days, much like many other players were doing in the Steroid Era. But asking about it at today's presser isn't the right time to get him on the record about it.

With that said, he's the second-best backstop of all time, just behind Johnny Bench. And while the Hall of Fame voters have been hesitant to elect known users like Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro and suspected ones like Jeff Bagwell, at some point they will have to start putting some of these guys in. Sure, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez cheated, but they are still among the best players ever to step on a field. Pudge is as well, which is why he belongs in Cooperstown, no matter what his answer is to whether or not he used PEDs.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

I honestly don't know how he's escaped the critical eye when it comes to steroids, but as a either naive or uncaring youth I idolized him more than Juando, Julio Franco (whose batting stance every north Texas kid at least attempted to emulate once), or Raffy. Only Nolan was thought of more highly in my baseball world.

Dude got married at home plate the first day he was called up. How freaking cool (and odd) is that?

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

I was at your first start Pudge, sad to say I won't be there tonight in person.. but me and the family will be tuned in.  Stay hard Pudge!

Tone, why don't you worry about talking steroids with your former right fielder and let us Texans worry about which set of kid gloves we'll choose to wear tonight while dealing with #7. 

Don Abbott
Don Abbott

For a franchise that was the big league equivalent of Don Knotts, Rodriguez was the first true superstar.  I know Nolan is in that category, but Pudge played every day.  It's strange in a way, to look back on his career now that everything in Arlington is different.  The Rangers are now a SWAT team, not a small town nervous deputy.

CrackerDaddy
CrackerDaddy

Pudge and Johnny Bench -- best guys ever to play catcher in the bigs.

Bill Lumbergh
Bill Lumbergh

Forget first pitch. Put him behind the plate and let him gun one to second like the good ol' days.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

Fortunate to have had tickets to this game long before we knew it was going totturn into Pudge night.  Im very excited to see this, as the Rangers always do very good ceremonies.  As for Pudge the player, I moved here about the time he started and I have nothing but fond memories of him. He was a badass, he played the position better than anybody of his time.  Maybe sometime down the road someone should ask him, but not today.  Lets let today be a celebration of one of the most loved athletes of all time in DFW. The fans and him deserve at least that.

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

It doesn't bother me that he got it. Just like I get irritated when people rag on Steve Nash for winning 2 Mvp's. What do you want him to do, give the trophy to someone else? The MVP is voted on by the baseball writers, who knows why the voted him MVP that year? They wanted to buck the trend? They felt it was his time? Instead of looking at just numbers, I cheated and copied his wikipedia entry:--In 1999, Rodríguez was selected as the American League MVP. He set a new American League record for home runs in a single season among catchers with 35. Rodríguez was also the first catcher to have more than 30 home runs, 100 runs batted in, and 100 runs scored in the history of Major League Baseball. In addition, he holds the distinction of being the first catcher in the history of the league to amass more than 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. From May 8, 1999 to June 1, 1999, Rodríguez had a career high 20 game hitting streak. He had 25 stolen bases, which was fifth most among catchers in the history of the league. He led the league in times grounded into a double play, with 31. Rodríguez was only the ninth catcher in the history of Major League Baseball to win the Most Valuable Player award, and he was the first to win it since Thurman Munson in 1976.

just sayin'
just sayin'

I hate the fucking Red Sox but I gotta agree with San on this one. Pedro got hosed. But not as bad as he did in 2000 when he was even more dominant and lost out the MVP to Jason Giambi. Pedro was fucking small for the power pitcher. Looking back, that dude deserves even more credit considering he was doing all that in the streroid era.

1310ticketkess
1310ticketkess

I am usually a fan of your commentary Sam but you killing off Pudge's 99 MVP is shallow.  Stop looking up absolutes on baseball-reference.com to prove a point (cherry-picking the stats).   Examine the entire body of work for that season... 

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

It just sucks that all of those guys would have made the HOF without 'roids. That's just the way steroids go.

G_David
G_David

What an incredibly pointless rant that was.  And if you think A-Rod didn't do steroids before and after his stint here, I'm guessing you still put your teeth under your pillow when they fall out.

Dollar Dog
Dollar Dog

Home start? or at the very new Comisky? Quite a team Pudge broke in with. Palmeiro, Franco, Sierra, Gonzalez, Buechele, Pettis, Downing.

Stanley was catching at the time with (17% CS for 1991). They called up the teenage Pudge for defense after only 50 games in AA. The Rangers figured he couldn't hit MLB pitching and they would send him back down to develop but he wound up hitting .365 in his first 14 games, and the rest is history.

Joe Tone
Joe Tone

My former right fielder? Are you suggesting that Candy Maldonado was juiced?

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

"Instead of looking at just numbers..."

Um, the entire section you cited from Wikipedia is based on ... wait for it ... numbers!

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

I agree about the 2000 award and how Martinez doesn't get enough kudos for his dominance. Giambi's season wasn't much different than Frank Thomas', ARod's or Carlos Delgado's. Much like '99, Martinez had a historical season and was clearly the most valuable player not just in the AL, but all of baseball.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

I could pen 2,000 words on why Pudge shouldn't have been the MVP in 1999, especially since I watched nearly every Rangers game that year and was at the ballpark at least 40 times, but I really don't have the time to do so in the comments of this item.

Pudge is a Hall-of-Famer and the best Rangers player of all time, but he wasn't the best player in the American League in 1999 any more than Raffy should have won a Gold Glove that same year while playing just 28 games in the field.

just sayin'
just sayin'

Bonds would have. I dont know about Mcgwire and Sosa. Take away all the juiced up homers and they werent sure fire HOFers. I hate that Raffy will never make it. I always liked his game and always rooted for him to outperform Will Clark. Dude was one of only four guys in the history of the game to get 500 homers and 3000 hits. He deserves to be there. I wonder if he was secretly chiseled underneath that baggy uniform? All the other juicers were all cut up and looked like fucking body builders or fullbacks. Raffy just looked like a throwback player.

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

Home game, if me remembers correctly I think he may of got married the night before in the minors...

Used to love Downing!

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

I actually like the separate league MVPs and think the NBA, NFL and NHL should do the same thing.

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

Saving Private Ryan>>>>>>Shakespeare in Love. It's hard to give the award to a pitcher, they play every 5th day. But, on that day, they control the game against the opponent, so if a guy wins the MVP like Verlander did, he's truly dominant. It would be even a greater argument for Pedro with the numbers he put up in '99 against hitters that were juicing and the numbers that were produced.Is it kind of wheels off that you get an AL Mvp and an NL Mvp and not just an MLB MVP?

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Ramirez was with Cleveland at the time, so it wasn't a matter of Martinez and him splitting votes. You could say Ramirez and Robbie Alomar split some votes, though, along with Martinez and Nomar Garciaparra. (Both Alomar and Garciaparra had amazing years as well, not to mention Derek Jeter had arguably his best season in 1999.)

Martinez was hurt badly by a belief at the time (and, despite Verlander's recent win, one that some writers still hold) that pitchers shouldn't win MVPs, and I'm sure Ramirez's crappy attitude held him back some.

My guess as to why the voters chose Pudge? Probably because, as you mentioned, he had one of the best seasons by a catcher in history. But that's not enough to earn an MVP. If it was, Mike Piazza would have won a few, yet he didn't win one in his entire career.

Look, I'm not asking Pudge to return the award. For me, it's like the movie Shakespeare in Love. If someone wants to say, "Oh, you must see Shakespeare in Love; it's a terrific film," I'm cool with that. But for those who say, "Oh, you must see Shakespeare in Love; it won Best Picture in 1999 for crying out loud," that's where I have a problem.

Just because Saving Private Ryan didn't win Best Picture doesn't mean it wasn't the best film of 1999. And just because Pedro Martinez didn't win AL MVP in 1999 doesn't mean he wasn't the best player that year.

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

What I mean is instead of just going to baseball reference or espn and looking at their stats, I like to have a better explanation than just "Pedro Martinez (23-4 record, 2.07 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 313 K) did. And if not him, how about Manny Ramirez (.333 BA, 44 HR, 165 RBI, 1.105 OPS)?"

Give me reasons why one person was picked over the other, as I'm sure that's what the voting went by. He had one of the best seasons by a catcher ever(Joe Mauer blew Pudge's stats out of the water in 2009), so I don't have a problem with it. If the baseball blowhards gave the MVP to a guy on a team that hadn't sniffed a World Series until a couple of years ago, there was a pretty good reason why. Playing in Boston automatically gives your more cred than playing in Arlington in '99. Did they not win because they split too many votes?

Joe Tone
Joe Tone

All good, brother. Any mistake that opens the door to a Candy Maldonado reference is fine by me.

And Bonds should go first-ballot, too, although that dude was a colossal a-hole.

Bill Lumbergh
Bill Lumbergh

Missed hearing that but Jub Jub's a wise man who I would gladly defer to.

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