Following in the footsteps of Jorge Posada and Jason Varitek, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez closed the door on his illustrious 21-year career with the Rangers, Nationals, Yankees, Tigers, Astros and Marlins. He made it official with an announcement on Monday.
Despite his 2,844 hits, 14 All-Star appearances and 13 Gold Gloves, there's one number that embodies his career — 2,427. That figure represents the total of games that Rodriguez patrolled behind the plate, which is an MLB record.
Whether as a 19-year-old rookie in Texas or a 39-year-old veteran in Washington, Rodriguez was the model of durability in a position that takes an excruciating toll on a player's body.
From Victor Martinez to Joe Mauer, there’s been a subtle trend of catchers dabbling at first base to alleviate the pressure. Not Rodriguez. In 21 seasons, he only played first base on eight occasions, seven of those in 2006 with the Tigers.
Even so, he still became one of the best all-around catchers in history. After hitting 35 homers, 113 RBIs and owning a .332 batting average in 1999, Rodriguez was recognized for his offensive prowess by winning the AL MVP award.
He was just as dangerous, defensively, with a cannon of an arm. Behind the plate, he threw out 41.7 percent of base stealers, another record. His overall efforts propelled the Marlins to the 2003 World Series title.
Despite changing uniforms multiple times during the downside of his career, Rodriguez was always a winner.
With Juan Gonzalez in Texas, he engineered one of the most potent offenses at that time. As a member of the Marlins, he tutored a young pitching staff — featuring a 23-year-old Josh Beckett and a 21-year-old Dontrelle Willis – and helped them along on the way to the '03 title.
In Detroit, he played an integral role in turning the fortunes of the team around and contributed to the club's march to the World Series in 2006. Even with the Nationals, he helped establish a foundation to help the team change its culture.
Considering the prevalence of two-catcher systems –– and the idea of sliding backstops to first base for breathers –– Rodriguez has a historic career that likely won't be witnessed again.
To put it in perspective, Rodriguez caught Nolan Ryan –– born in 1947 –– and Stephen Strasburg –– born in 1988. He was the symbol of longevity and overcame the odds in arguably the toughest position in baseball.
For that, his career merits enshrinement to the Hall of Fame.