Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Nice Knowin' Ya, Pudge

I just had one of the crummiest conversations I've had to have in awhile. I had to inform my 8-year-old son, Brennan, that his favorite baseball player, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, had been traded from the Detroit Tigers to the dreaded New York Yankees for Kyle Farnsworth. Not only is Pudge Brennan's favorite Tiger, but he was mine as well. At least Brennan could have a bit of a sense of humor about it. He had just gotten a new Tigers bracelet yesterday with Pudge's name and number on it. After I told him the news tonight and he let it sink in for a second, he said, "I knew I should have gotten a Granderson bracelet!"

I understand the business side of baseball in that Pudge's best years are behind him and being rid of his contract will save the Tigers a lot of money, but it's still sad to see him go. Prior to his arrival in Detroit in 2004, the Tigers were the laughingstock of baseball and I point to his signing as the turning part for the Tigers recent resurgence. Having already won a world championship with the Florida Marlins, not to mention his numerous All-Star starts, Silver Slugger Awards, Gold Gloves and MVP in '99, Pudge was a proven leader upon his debut in Motown. After he brought some respectibility back to the Tigers, other proven veterans began signing with the team (namely Magglio Ordonez, Kenny Rogers and Gary Sheffield) and the combination of these guys, along with a great crop of young players from the farm system, lifted the Tigers back to being one of the top teams in baseball the past few years.

So even though he's not quite the player he once was, the Tigers are losing a great leader and someone that is still an above average hitter at the plate and one of the best defensive catchers in the game. He'll be a surefire first ballot Hall of Famer and is arguably the greatest catcher ever, although Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench might have something to say about that. We'll miss you, Pudge. Thanks for the memories!

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