Detroit Tigers: 5 best moves in Dave Dombrowski era
Aug 14, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers former catcher Ivan Rodriguez watches the game in the third inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
#2: Signing Pudge
The only free agent signing on this list, Ivan Pudge Rodriguez may not have had as big of an influence on the field as many Detroit Tigers’ fans seem to remember, and he was only really here a short time, but his decision to join the Tigers before the 2004 season signaled a huge culture change with this club.
Truth be told, Pudge didn’t want to come here, but he was out of good options. To sign in Detroit would be moving from the penthouse to the outhouse as just a few months prior he was winning his first (and only) World Series championship with the Florida Marlins. Now he was faced with the prospect of joining the worst team in baseball, coming off a 119-loss season.
There was a clause in his contract that precluded the Marlins from re-signing him until May so Rodriguez hit the open market and found little suitors because of the demands of his agent Scott Boras.
The Tigers, desperate to make a splash and in need of a catching upgrade over incumbent Brandon Inge, moved forward in hot pursuit of Rodriguez, one of the best defensive catchers in the last 20 years of baseball. He and/or Boras seemed to be using the Tigers as leverage for other teams, but no one could (or wanted to) beat Detroit’s 4-year, $40-million deal.
Once here, Pudge accepted the situation and became a great teammate, seeing that the franchise had something special in the making. He was the perfect catcher to mold the young pitchers on the Tigers’ staff such as Jeremy Bonderman, Mike Maroth and, most notably Justin Verlander. He also contributed at the plate, hitting in the high .300’s for most of the first half of 2004.
Rodriguez was an All-Star in each of his four full seasons in Detroit. His leadership and experience from three years prior helped the young Tigers blow past the Yankees and Oakland Athletics in the AL playoffs despite not hitting himself.
After heavy expectations in 2008, the Tigers fell to last place and shipped Rodriguez to the Yankees in August of that year. Despite never playing a role in any of the recent Detroit playoff teams, it’s hard to argue that if Pudge didn’t take the bait, Magglio Ordonez may not have done the same one year later, and who knows if 2006 would have even happened.
Next: C'mon, what else is gonna be #1?