Friday, June 19, 2009

And Now You Know!: Pudge

This week I witnessed first hand a record that may never be broken again. Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez is now the All-Time leader in game caught and he did it in front of the fans that have supported him the most in Texas, the Rangers fans. 2227 is a Number that will stick with me just because I was there for the game and the celebration of sorts when he set the record. Many people might brush this aside but in today's game where catchers play for a few years and then switch positions or don't play for 20 years it is quite an impressive stat.

A humble person for 10+ years in Texas and a journey man for the next few years, Pudge was back in Arlington where it all began. He surpassed Carlton Fisk's record of 2226 games caught and might have a few years left to add to his record. Pudge, at the beginning of the year made a name for himself in the World Baseball Classic, and has become a middle of the road catcher in the Fantasy Leagues this year with hard work and dedication. When others wrote him off he continued to work hard to prove he still had what it took to be an everyday catcher.

A quick look at Rodriguez's career will show you a man with 13 gold gloves, 14 all-star appearances, and a career +.300 hitter with 301 HR and an MVP in 1999. He alone has recorded near 14000 putouts with a fielding percentage of over .991 in his career. Sometimes we have to look past the offensive numbers to find a players worth to the game. Pudge has certainly gone above all of that.

In 1994 when he broke into the league he came in 4th in the Rookie of the Year voting, behind Chuck Knoblauch, Juan Guzman, and Milt Cuyler, all guys who will never see the Hall of Fame. In 1999 he surpased Pedro Martinez in winning the MVP, a year in which Pedro pitched the best season any pitcher has ever thrown relative to the league.

Aside from catcher and a handful of games at DH, Pudge has played a total of eight games between first and second in his career. Some claim that he is athletic enough to play every position on the field and has an arm strong enough to pitch. He is a stand up guy on and off the field with fans and charities. His accomplishments have slid under the radar in the mainstream of sports today but should not be brushed aside.

I usually have some interesting story or astonishing facts to throw out about players or trends in history but Pudge doesn't need any glaring numbers to explain what type of player he is. Fans of my generation will remember him as a great player and a staple of the past two decades of what baseball is all about. I would rank him in the top 3 all time catchers and easily in the top 100 baseball players. A lot is left to statistics but when you meet a player and see that they don't let money or fame change who they are, there is something to be said about what the game of baseball is all about.

2227, a unique number that will stand out to me as much as 755 or 2131. Here's to Pudge Rodriguez and what he has meant to the game of baseball. Hopefully when all is said and done others will reflect upon the impact he has left on MLB.

And Now You Know! (And Knowing is Half the Battle)

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