Rangers catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez should be a first ballot hall of famer

Former Texas Rangers catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez is undoubtedly deserves the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Former Texas Rangers catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez is undoubtedly deserves the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

Former Texas Rangers catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez is on the 2017 Hall of Fame ballot, and his induction should be a no-brainer.

The Texas Rangers just completed their 45th MLB season in Arlington and never have they seen a player like Ivan Rodriguez. “Pudge,” as he became known to the Rangers faithful, became a fan favorite instantly. He amassed a body of work in 21 seasons that undeniably makes him a first-ballot choice for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The hitting

Catchers are not generally valued for their ability to hit. Creating outs and saving runs usually run paramount for catcher. So when a backstop comes along that actually has some offensive game, it’s a commodity. Pudge was one of those guys.

He was consistent at the plate. He rarely walked, but he also wasn’t a very high strikeout hitter. He put the ball in play a lot. While this led to quite a few double play balls, it also led to a really consistent batting average throughout his career and a lot of hits. His 2,844 lifetime hits bests all catchers by over 400.

Rodriguez retired with a lifetime batting average of .296 while playing more games than any other player in MLB history at catcher with 2,427. He batted at least .300 ten times in his career and his .332 average in 1999 was a major reason he won the American League Most Valuable Player that year.

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The power

Pudge was never the biggest home run threat in the lineup during his career. He didn’t have to be. In fact, most great power hitters were feared for their ability to hit for doubles as often as home runs. Rodriguez often made great contact, which resulted in a fair amount of line drives to the gap.

Make no mistake though, he did hit a heavy amount of home runs. His 311 career homers ranks him seventh among catchers, but again that wasn’t his strength as a hitter.

He roped many doubles, 572 to be exact. That ranks him first among catchers and second place isn’t even close with 483. It looks like it would take a while for anyone to catch him, too (pun not intended). The closest active player is A.J. Pierzynski and he has 407 in 19 seasons. Yadier Molina is next way back at 308.

The arm

You can’t discuss Ivan Rodriguez without eventually talking about his rocket of an arm. The most iconic images of Pudge are of him jumping from his crouch and looking not to second, but to first.

It was always a delightful sight to behold when he would dart his head toward the first baseman. He knew. You knew. The first baseman knew. The baserunner knew . . . that he’d made a major mistake and ventured into shark-infested waters. In the blink of an eye, that baserunner would dive back toward first, only to see a gloved ball between him and the safety of the base. All the while, the umpire would have one fist in the air and a finger pointed at him.

Then, if a baserunner dared to try and swipe second against Rodriguez, it usually didn’t end well. Ten times during his career, he would throw out 50% or more of attempted thieves for the season. In all, only 54% of all baserunners successfully stole bases on him. With an estimated throwing velocity in the mid-to-high 90s, it’s no wonder.

The awards

Pudge ended his playing days with an American League MVP (1999), 14 All-Star selections, 13 Gold Glove Awards and seven Silver Slugger Awards. The recognition and adoration from his peers serves as a reflection of the respect he earned as a player.

He was a leader on the field and is a world-class person off of it. Through the years, he’s contributed to numerous charities, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Baseball needs more guys like Pudge.

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His name belongs on the list with other greats like Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, and Carlton Fisk. When you look at the entire body of work, it leaves very little doubt. Ivan Rodriguez should be enshrined this summer into the Baseball Hall of Fame. If he isn’t, it would be a travesty.