Beloved former Detroit Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez has been honored as a nominee for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Unfortunately for the former Detroit Tigers catcher, his potential spot in the Hall of Fame has become controversial.
The controversy is being discussed on USA Today as part of their series on the current ballot for 2017 Hall of Fame.
According to an article by USA Today from December 26, 2017, it should actually be easy for Pudge Rodriguez to be voted into the Hall. But, there is one little thing standing in his way: a book written by his former teammate Jose Canseco. In Juiced, Canseco accused Rodriguez of using steroids.
No Signs of Guilt
Canseco and Rodriguez were teammates on the Texas Rangers. During 2004 and ’05, Pudge lost some weight which many deduced was proof of PED use. However, there is no actual proof to the speculation that Pudge ever used PEDs; he has never failed a drug test.
Keep in mind that the baseball player in question has been called “Pudge” since his playing days as a child. This is not a name usually given to the skinniest guy on the team. According to an article by Jay Jaffe from Sports Illustrated, Pudge earned his name because it described the way he looked – short and chubby. So, seeing a thin Pudge could create suspicions.
But, Rodriguez was never named in the Mitchell Report.
There are names on the ballot that did show up on the Mitchell Report: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Gary Sheffield. And, in 2016, Mike Piazza, who has repeated said he did use PEDs, was elected to the Hall of Fame.
This is the controversy: did Pudge use PEDs or not?
The only person who knows the answer to the question is Pudge.
Worthy of The Hall
Should be put in the Hall of Fame? Definitely.
When it comes to sheer performance, Pudge deserves a spot in the Hall. And, he should get in on his first ballot. Pudge played for 21 years, most of them with the Rangers. In his 11 seasons, he went to the All-Star Game 10 times, won Gold Glove awards 10 times, and won Silver Slugger awards 6 times. He won the AL MVP in 1999.
In 2003, he played on the Florida Marlins team that won the World Series (where he played with rookie Miguel Cabrera).
He played with the Tigers for four full seasons and he earned All-Star berths during all of them. Pudge also won three Gold Glove awards and one Silver Slugger with the Tigers. He then was a leader on the 2006 Tigers team that went to the World Series.
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Rodriguez’s numbers are comparable to several other catchers who are already in the HOF. He ranks third in JAWS numbers behind Johnny Bench and Gary Carter. The top five is rounded out by Carlton Fisk and Mike Piazza. Yogi Berra sits in the sixth spot. This ranking is based on career WAR and Pudge’s WAR is 68.4. For comparison fun, Miguel Cabrera currently ranks 11th when compared to other first basemen with a WAR of 69.6. Ian Kinsler‘s WAR of 52.9 ranks 18th against second basemen.
What is so amazing about Rodriguez is the sheer number of games he played as a catcher: 2427. In several seasons, he squatted behind the plate in more than 130 games. In three seasons, he caught in over 140 games. This is practically unheard of today. While doing all of that catching, he managed a career slash of .296/.334/.464 with an OPS of .798. He hit 311 home runs and knocked in 1332 RBIs. Impressive.
Since he was never found guilty of using PEDs and since his numbers as a catcher are some of the best in the history of the MLB, Pudge Rodriguez has earned his spot in the Hall of Fame. He should be voted in in 2017.