On January 22, 2003, it was announced that free agent catcher, Ivan Rodriguez, and the Marlins came to a one-year agreement, pending a physical. The contract would pay Rodriguez $10 million. The payments were deferred over a few years. The deal was finalized on January 28, 2003.
For Rodriguez, he was getting a chance to play in Miami where he resides. It also gave him a chance to prove that he was healthy and worth a long term investment by any MLB team looking to add a player of his caliber, but were concerned about his health issues. It was basically a one-year audition.
For the Marlins, they were getting a 10-time Gold Glove catcher to replace Charles Johnson, the Marlins previous Gold Glove catcher, who was traded earlier in the offseason. The Marlins were also getting a leader to guide their young pitching staff as well as a catcher who, when healthy, was established as one of the best in the game and in MLB history.
While Rodriguez only stayed with the Marlins for the one season, it was a season to be remembered for him and the Marlins.
Rodriguez started making his mark early as he homered in his first game with the Marlins. He also set many of the team's single-season records for a catcher, such as batting average at .297 and RBI with 85. He also had a streak of driving in a run in eight consecutive games from June 24 to July 1. He also had a very productive night on April 8 as he drew five walks. However, these were not the only marks that Rodriguez left.
Rodriguez led the young pitching staff and the team to the playoffs. This was despite the team being expected to flounder all season long and the team actually getting off to a rough start at 19-29. Rodriguez was the leader that ignited them to a 72-42 record from that point forward.
Once in the playoffs, his leadership and production continued as his team flourished in its efforts to "shock the world". Rodriguez's work with the pitching staff was easily noticed as the pitching staff shut down opponents, especially in key games. Rodriguez's production also led to him winning the NLCS MVP Award. For good measure, Rodriguez will also be always remembered for blocking the plate and applying the tag on JT Snow to end the NL Division Series. That play is listed amongst the greatest postseason plays in MLB history - among the top ten postseason plays at the plate (MLB Network). His contributions were finalized that season when he worked with Josh Beckett to completely shut down the mighty Yankees to clinch the championship in Game 6 of the 2003 World Series.
Once the season was done, Rodriguez left the Marlins after he gained the contract that he sought when he signed a four-year deal with the Detroit Tigers.
While Ivan Rodriguez's time with the Marlins was short, his contributions cannot be forgotten and may live forever in Marlins lore. His time with the Marlins can be remembered during this time, eleven years after he agreed to join the Marlins.