The number one Texas Rangers catcher of all-time — Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez
There is no other catcher in team history, and perhaps all of baseball, that played the game like Ivan Rodriguez. He had it all. He had a rocket for an arm, lightning-quick feet and a bat that could beat you in countless ways.
“Pudge,” as fans grew to know and love him as, embodied everything the Rangers fanbase needed at the time. His short but muscular stature and his huge smile won fans over immediately, and he wowed spectators nationally when he rifled a missile to second in his MLB debut to catch Joey Cora by about two feet.
There’s not much Rodriguez couldn’t do. He won ten consecutive Gold Glove Awards as a Ranger, the American League Most Valuable Player in 1999 and won six consecutive Silver Slugger Awards from 1994-99. He was the model of versatility behind the plate.
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In 13 seasons with Texas, he batted .304 with 217 home runs and 842 runs batted in and ranks in the top ten in over a dozen offensive statistics.
He ranks seventh all-time among Rangers in batting average (.304), ninth in slugging percentage (.488), 10th in OPS (.828), fourth in games played (1,507), third in at-bats (5,754), third in plate appearances (6,166), fourth in runs scored (866), second in hits (1,747), fourth in total bases (2,806), third in doubles (352), fifth in triples (28), fourth in home runs (217), fourth in RBI (842), second in singles (1,150), fourth in extra base hits (597), and third in times on base (2,095).
To say he was incredible is quite the understatement. But then, there’s the job he did without a bat in his hands.
Baserunners stood no chance against Pudge. He gunned down more than half of attempted base stealers six times in Texas. With the Rangers, 464 out of 925 baserunners suffered defeat at the well, at the hands of his arms. (Just go with it.) That’s a career caught stealing percentage of 50.2% with the club, which is honestly insane over that many seasons.
Of course, those were just the guys that even got past his arm from first base. He picked 70 players off from the catcher position on snap throws. If someone leaned just a tiny bit too far away from first or third, he sniffed it out quickly and made them pay.
He made playing catcher an art. Pitchers loved working with him and knew that he’d back them up with a caught stealing or a pickoff if they ever found themselves in trouble. Yet somehow, runners still tried to nab bases from him or lean too far away from base. But Rodriguez and the Rangers benefited from it on a regular basis.
On January 18, 2017, Ivan Rodriguez became the first home-grown Rangers player to earn induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He did so on his first ballot. He’s currently a member of the Texas Rangers front office and broadcast team, and is active with several charities, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation.