Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why Pudge won't budge

Ivan Rodriguez is clearly in the nomad stage of his career. He was traded in midseason last year (Detroit to Yankees), after which he went deep into spring training before finding a team to sign with (Houston). And he was traded again this week, this time to his original team, the Texas Rangers.

If you take Pudge's career at face value, he has a real strong case for the title of greatest catcher ever. A lifetime .300 hitter with more than 300 home runs; 13 Gold Gloves; an MVP Award (1999); 14 All-Star teams ...

But this isn't so much about where he ranks among the all time greats, but about what he is now — which is a backup.

Consider this paragraph from the Fort Worth paper's game story from Wednesday's game with the Twins:

Despite (Rodriguez's) exploits Wednesday, Taylor Teagarden is still the No. 1 catcher. Rodriguez will be back on the bench for today’s series finale. (Manager Ron) Washington started him with Kevin Millwood because Millwood calls his own pitches and is a veteran.

What an indictment. Pudge has caught more than 2,200 major league games — more than anybody in history. Teagarden is a rookie with 51 games caught. But the Rangers trust Teagarden's calls more.

Rodriguez is not the first great catcher to decide it's worth it to hang on as a No. 2. Gary Carter stuck around for four years as a reserve, Ted Simmons for three years. I suspect the writers held their hang-around years against them when the Hall of Fame balloting rolled around for each (Carter eventually got in, Simmons not).

I wonder if Rodriguez has his eye on what would be a unique accomplishment: 3,000 hits. Nobody who spent the bulk of his career as a catcher ever reached that milestone. (Craig Biggio was a catcher for four seasons at the start of his career, 428 games total.) Pudge needs 310 hits to get there. It won't be easy, but he's "only" 37.

A hard-used 37.

1 comment:

  1. Pudge is no dummy.

    There comes a time in the life of everyone who does a physical job when he realizes he can't perform quite like he used to. You can quit, or you can hang on for a while. Pudge has reason to hang on.