Pudge Hired by Rangers
Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez has been hired by the Texas Rangers as special assistant to the general manager. The future Hall-of-Famer spent 13 years catching in Texas, and played the last two seasons of his career in a Nats uniform (although he signed a “retirement contract” with Texas last year so he could end his career as a Ranger). He was a 14-time All Star, 13-time Gold Glover, 7-time Silver Slugger winner, and won the AL MVP award in 1999—a season in which he hit .332 with 35 home runs and 199 hits in 144 games.
Still an above-average defender in 2011, his last season, Pudge was unfortunately forced into retirement in 2012 in the midst of his pursuit of 3,000 hits (he finished his career with 2,844). The Nationals no longer needed a starting catcher, and few teams were looking for a starter that would get enough plate appearances to rack up close to that number of hits. He also had an injury shortened 2011, when he played just 44 games.
Pudge was a huge fan favorite when he was in DC, and really anywhere. My personal favorite memory of Rodriguez is from 2003, the season he played for the Marlins (the year they won the World Series). In a playoff game against the Cubs, during the same NLCS as the infamous Steve Bartman game, Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa hit the deck to avoid getting beaned by a Josh Beckett pitch. As was Slammin’ Sammy’s tendency, he began a menacing, stare-down walk to the mound, intent on continuing the fight he felt Beckett had started with the pitch—an approach that could reduce many to a sobbing, shaking blob on the ground praying for mercy. With just a few words, Pudge was able to calm Sosa down, and explain to him that Beckett would be an idiot to want to give up a free base in such a high-stakes game.
That story, in my opinion, shows Pudge for what he was throughout his career: a cool-headed, calm, stable leader of not just his team, but everyone in the stadium—players, coaches, fans, even umpires. He rarely lost his cool, and in his brief stint with the Nationals, served as unofficial captain for a young team, and certainly helped to mentor and mold Wilson Ramos from a highly-touted prospect into a legitimate starter.
While Pudge’s two years with the Nats were far from his best offensively (.255 batting average, 6 home runs in 155 games) he served as a fan favorite and a coach for the entire Nationals family. Best of luck back in Texas, Pudge.