This year, the Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Ivan Rodriguez, making him the 17th catcher to enter the hall. He’s also arguably the best.
Ivan Rodriguez AKA “Pudge”
Rodriguez spent two decades in Major League Baseball, putting up jaw-dropping numbers in many seasons. Over the course of his career, he caught more games than any catcher in the history of the game.
Most of his career he spent as a Texas Ranger, including his first game in 1991. He stayed with the Rangers through 2002, and had a second stint with the team in 2009. Along the way, the native of Manati, Puerto Rico, set a standard of excellence for catchers that will be difficult to match.
Starting at 19
Ivan Rodriguez started his career as a 19-year-old with the Rangers. He retired 20 years later and went into the Hall of Fame this year as a Ranger. During his career, he had stints with the Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, Florida Marlins and Washington Nationals. Some of his accomplishments include:
- 14 times making the All-Star team
- 13 Gold Gloves as a catcher
- 2,427 games caught, the most of any catcher in the history of the game
- 311 home runs as a catcher, the fifth most of all time
- 35 home runs and 25 steals in 1999, making him the only catcher in history to have a 20 homerun/20 steals season
- 2,844 hits are the most of any catcher in the Hall of Fame
Also, Rodriguez is one of only five players ever to retire with a better than .290 batting average and at least 2,500 hits, 550 doubles, 300 home runs and 1,300 RBIs. The other four are Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, George Brett and Barry Bonds.
Clearly, Rodriguez is arguably the best catcher of all time. But is he the best Ranger?
It’s a topic worthy of discussion among baseball fans – Rangers fans, especially – because of the team’s interesting history. Over the course of its existence since 1961, the team has never won a World Series (that includes the club’s early years as the Washington Senators from 1961 to 1971). Until Rodriguez, they also didn’t really have any “home grown” players who went on to Hall of Fame careers.
Until Rodriguez, perhaps the most famous of the handful of Rangers players in the Hall of Fame is Nolan Ryan. But other teams can also claim Ryan, including the team’s state rivals, the Houston Astros.
For Rangers fans, Rodriguez is different. He was part of the first concerted effort by the Rangers to draft and develop a strong core unit. Rodriguez was part of a group that came up about the same time, including Ruben Sierra and Juan Gonzalez.
That group had great success and propelled the Rangers to competing at the highest levels in the club’s history. They’ve remained contenders in many seasons since then (although not this one).
So, Rodriguez is not just another Rangers Hall of Famer. He represents a change in the club’s approach that has resulted in great success for the team.
In that respect, he’s the greatest Ranger ever.