Throughout the 2016-17 offseason, Fish Stripes is counting down the top 100 Marlins to ever suit up for the franchise, be it the Florida Marlins or the Miami version. I used the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) value to rank the players. Today’s Marlin, Ivan Rodriguez, earned 4.4 while on the team.
Ivan Rodriguez was a 5’9”, 205 lb. catcher from Manati, Puerto Rico. Born on November 27th, 1971, he eventually played a 21-season Hall of Fame career. It started when he was signed as a free agent by the Texas Rangers, way back in 1988.
Rodriguez played his first 12 seasons in the major leagues with the Rangers, catching 1479 games in total and hitting .305/.342/.489/.831, with 215 home runs, 829 RBI, and 80 stolen bases. During that time, he also made the All Star team 10 times, earned 10 Gold Gloves, and added six Silver Sluggers. Oh, and he won the 1999 AL MVP Award, when he hit .332/.356/.558/.914, with 35 homers, 113 RBI, and 25 stolen bases. Simultaneously, he led the League in baserunners caught trying to steal seven times, including an incredible 60% mark in 2001 and throwing out over half of them overall through the 12 seasons. Granted free agency after the 2002 campaign, the Marlins signed him for one season and $10 million.
Rodriguez just played one season for the Marlins, catching 144 games and hitting .297/.369/.474/.843, with 16 home runs, 85 RBI, and 10 stolen bases (not bad for a 31-year-old catcher). He also earned a few votes in the NL MVP Award race, although he finished a distant 23rd. During his time with the Fish, he earned a .992 fielding percentage and threw out 20-of-60 basestealers.
On April 9th, Rodriguez walked in the first, hit a solo home run in the sixth, drew another walk in the seventh, and smacked a walkoff RBI-single to score Juan Pierre in the ninth inning of a 3-2 win over the New York Mets. On July 1st, he hit three singles and a double, scoring three runs and collecting two RBI in a seven-inning, 20-1 win over the Atlanta Braves. On July 13th, Pudge went four-for-four with three doubles, a walk, and five RBI, scoring three runs in an 11-4 win against the Montreal Expos.
Rodriguez hit .313 through the postseason for the Marlins, with three homers and 17 RBI. In Florida’s seven-game series win over the Chicago Cubs, he earned the Series MVP Award, going nine-for-28 with two homers and 10 batted in.
After his season with the Marlins, Rodriguez went on to play four-and-a-half season with the Detroit Tigers (611 games, .298/.328/.449/.777, 62 home runs, 300 RBI, 30 stolen bases), half of a season with the New York Yankees (33 games, .219/.257/.323/.580, two homers, three RBI, four stolen bases), a season with the Houston Astros (93 games, .251/.280/.382/.662, eight home runs, 34 RBI), another season with the Rangers (28 games, .245/.279/.388/.667, two homers, 13 RBI), and two seasons with the Washington Nationals (155 games, .255/.291/.341/.632, six homers, 68 RBI).
Rodriguez joined the Hall of Fame Class of 2017, in his first year of eligibility, along with Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell. Although he’s probably higher on the Rangers list, he’ll always hold a special piece of Marlins’ history. For my money, he’s one of the three best catchers to play baseball in the last 50 years (with Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk).