Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, whose 21-year major league career included a record 13 Gold Gloves at catcher, will reportedly announce his retirement on Monday.
The 40-year-old Rodriguez played his final two seasons for the Washington Nationals (from 2010-11) and is currently a free agent. He is a 14-time All-Star and at the time of his retirement he had the best career caught stealing percentage of any active catcher, at a ridiculous 45.68 percent.
Rodriguez spent his first 12 major league seasons with the Texas Rangers and won the 1999 American League MVP with the team when he hit .332, with 35 home runs and 113 RBI.
For his career, Pudge had a .296 batting average, 2,884 hits, 311 home runs and 1,332 RBI. He hit better than .300 10 times and won a World Series with the Florida Marlins in 2003.
The Kansas City Royals offered Rodriguez a contract earlier this year but he decided not to accept. It might have been the right call. In 2011 he hit just .218 with two home runs and 19 RBI in 124 at-bats.
In the minds of many, Rodriguez is one of the best catchers in baseball history and a slam dunk to be elected to the Hall of Fame. To others his candidacy is tainted by allegations that he used steroids. In fact, when asked about whether or not he took performance-enhancing drugs, Rodriguez said, “Only God knows.” That’s not exactly a denial.
Still, there is no denying Pudge’s talent and he was one of baseball’s best players – tainted or not – for nearly 15 years.
On a personal note, I once interviewed Rodriguez years ago and he couldn’t have been nicer. I didn’t understand half of what he said through a heavy accent, but he was gracious enough to grant me (a 19-year-old kid at the time) a lengthy interview about what he was most looking forward to at the upcoming All-Star Game. That was in 1999, the year he won the AL MVP.
He certainly didn’t need to talk to me, much less grant me a full interview, especially since I was asking him in the road locker room after an Interleague loss to the San Diego Padres that wrapped up the first half of the season. But he did, and smiled the entire time.