7 Myths About Pudge Rodriguez Dispelled

Every excuse in the book is being thrown around as to why the Mets simply cannot sign Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. The Hall of Fame-caliber catcher’s recent performance in the WBC has the natives restless, creating so much noise that Mets’ Assistant GM Tony Bernazard (The Office reference — “no Tony, assistant TO the GM!”) felt the need to respond through Puerto Rico newspaper El Nuevo Dia. (Google translation here.)

Let’s go through some of the myths that are keeping Pudge out of Flushing.

1. He doesn’t fit in the Mets’ payroll — not with two catchers already under contract.

Really? Even after the Mets saved themselves about $1.6M by cutting Duaner Sanchez? From all public reports, Ivan Rodriguez is dying to play for the Mets, and likely would take much less than $1M. In fact, he might just take $500K for the opportunity to play for a pennant chaser in New York. Last year, manager Jerry Manuel liked the idea of having three catchers, and chances are good that both Robinson Cancel and Rene Rivera will spend time on the 25-man roster in ’09. Would you rather pay around $400-750K for a combination of Rivera and Cancel or about the same amount for Rodriguez?

2. Ivan Rodriguez hinders the development of young pitchers / doesn’t work well with them.

This is one of the most illogical knocks against him, but don’t take it from me — look at past history. For example, look at the two teams that Pudge LED into the World Series — the 2006 Tigers and the 2003 Marlins. The Tigers rode the arms of 23-year-old stallions Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander; 24-year-old Zach Miner; and 21-year-old Joel Zumaya, among others. In fact, of the 19 hurlers who threw a pitch for the Tigers in ’06, only 3 were over the age of 29.

Compare that to the 2003 Marlins, whose aces that year were 21-year-old Dontrelle Willis and 23-year-old Josh Beckett, who led a rotation that also featured 25-year-old Brad Penny and 27-year-old Carl Pavano. Of the 22 pitchers from that squad, only four were over the age of 29.

Again, both the Tigers and the Marlins went to the World Series, with Ivan Rodriguez catching their young phenoms. I’m not sure where this myth emanated from, but it has no legs.

3. Ivan Rodriguez calls too many fastballs … and can’t call a game in general.

This one really gets my blood boiling, since I’ve been a catcher myself for the past 30 years. Let me just say this: it’s next to impossible to catch every day in MLB for nearly 20 years and be “bad” at calling a game. Even if you’re as dumb as a stump, after all that experience you have to pick up SOMETHING.

As far as the “too many fastballs” BS, I want to know exactly what pitchers expressed that complaint. In my experience of catching several hundred pitchers, there have been quite a few who “fell in love” with their breaking balls, to the point where they’d throw them on 3-1 counts despite it not being their best pitch. Anyone who complains about throwing “too many” fastballs probably needs to work on his command, and probably likes to mess around too much with trying to fool hitters instead of doing his job of throwing strikes to specific spots.

4. Ivan Rodriguez can’t hit any more.

This is a favorite of Yankees fans, who base their opinion on his 96 at-bats in pinstripes last year. In the first 82 games of 2008, in a Tigers uniform, Pudge hit .295 with a .338 OBP and .417 SLG. Those aren’t anywhere near the numbers he put up in his younger days, but no one is expecting him to return to MVP status — all the Mets need is someone to platoon with Brian Schneider. Those offensive numbers will be fine in the #7 or #8 spot in the order.

5. Ivan Rodriguez may hit for average, but so what? His OBP stinks.

Hmm …. the sabermetricians have me there, don’t they? Well it’s true that Pudge’s combined OBP last year wasn’t too hot — only .319. But his career OBP is .340, which isn’t too shabby. And his OBP as a Tiger in 2008 was, as previously mentioned, .338 — which by the way is one point less than Brian Schneider’s .339.

Again, we’re talking about a seventh or eighth-place hitter on a National League team, who will be making less than a million dollars — does he need to be an on-base machine? Oh, and as long as we’re so enthralled with OBP, Robinson Cancel’s was .288 last year, and Ramon Castro’s was .312.

6. He’s not the same player since he stopped taking PEDs.

Got me again. But then, neither is Paul LoDuca, Guillermo Mota, Ron Villone, Mike Piazza, Lino Urdaneta, Matt Franco, Todd Pratt, Todd Hundley, Lenny Dykstra, Mark Carreon, Mo Vaughn, Scott Schoeneweis, Mike Stanton, Matt Lawton, Yusaku Iriki, or Felix Heredia. But he’s still a fairly productive and durable player off “the juice”.

7. Bringing in Pudge might upset Brian Schneider, Ramon Castro, and/or disrupt the chemistry of the clubhouse.

So what? Last I checked, that “chemistry” was in serious doubt, and leaderless. The rumblings we keep hearing is that the Mets’ clubhouse is comprised of segmented factions and clicks, with language as a dividing line. And why wouldn’t you want to disrupt a team that blew September leads and wilted under pressure two years in a row? Maybe Pudge can be a go-to guy for the media — a role that is sorely lacking in that clubhouse.

As for Schneider and Castro, neither of them have proven to me that they deserve to be comfortable. I see no World Series rings nor MVP trophies from either that suggest they’ve earned the right not to compete for their jobs. And Castro’s joking manner and “ability to keep the team loose” may be just the thing Jeff Wilpon was talking about when he mentioned “addition by subtraction” last fall. Until the Mets laugh their way into the playoffs, I’m not buying into Castro’s personality being a positive factor … though, in his defense, it’s easier to be funny when you win.

Bottom Line

Pudge Rodriguez wants to come to New York, and NOT for the money … how often do you find that combination in a player? Heck, I guarantee there are at least 3-4 current Mets who would gladly play in Kansas City, or a similarly small media market, if they could take their hefty salary with them. Further, no one is suggesting that Pudge would be the Mets’ everyday catcher. Rather, he’d be an ideal platoon partner with Brian Schneider, and/or a third catcher and RH bat to have on the bench. And he’ll probably come at a price less than what the Mets are paying Cory Sullivan. Isn’t it worth giving someone with his resume and postseason experience a shot — particularly when your team can use a durable, righthanded hitting catcher?

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Micalpalyn March 11, 2009 at 9:47 pm
    Being as he might stay healthy, that in itself is a money maker. I think also we must look at the money again. Omar has balked at cutting players with notable salaries before and penny pinched rather than spending (specifically at the deadline). The BIG thing for me is that (as far as I know) pitchers like to throw to him.
  2. isuzudude March 12, 2009 at 8:34 am
    If Pudge wants to play for the Mets, and if the Mets are able to trade Ramon Castro, then there certainly is no reason why Pudge should not play for the Mets this season. I am as equally entrenched against point #1 as you are, Joe. Hey, if we believe the Mets had the finances to bring in Manny, then surely they have the dough to pony up to Pudge, even if he’s asking for more than $1 million. And all of the “rumors” about Pudge’s talents being diminished and his personality not being in cohesion with current team unity are completely bunk. All you have to do is compare Pudge head to head with Castro and see the two are extremely similar, except one can be described as an oft-injured class clown, while the other is a battle-tested team leader. Yeah, that’s a tough choice.

    However, your story includes 2 inconsistencies:
    1. If the Mets are unable to trade Castro before bringing Pudge aboard, who is dropped to keep a 3rd backstop on the roster? What with Maine and whoever winds up the 5th starter unlikely to make it past the 5th inning with regularity, and Ollie pulling his Dr Jeckyl routine every so often, there is no way this team can survive with a shortened bullpen, even with the additions of Putz and Krod. So forget about carrying only 11 pitchers. That would mean someone out of the Tatis/Cora/Anderson/Reed crowd has got to go. It won’t be Tatis because of his role in LF, it won’t be Cora because of his contract (and association with TB), and I’m pretty sure it won’t be Reed, who will be needed (a la Endy Chavez) to relieve the LF in close and late games. That leaves Marlon, who is arguably having one of the most impressive STs this year. True, his role can be absorbed by the other bench players on the roster, and he’s coming off a horrible 2008 campaign. But he’s on the hook for $1.15 million this year, which by current Mets standards is no small price to pay to send somebody on unconditional release waivers. In addition, that would mean that by adding Pudge, even if he only cost the Mets $500k, the release of Anderson would compound Pudge’s real cost to be closer to $1.55 million, and that’s including the absolute lowest-ball figures for Pudge’s potential contract. In these penny-pinching days, I don’t foresee the Mets front office going for this. The only way they will deem a Pudge acquisition possible and necessary is if Castro is dealt. Perhaps if another team suffers an injury to their own catching corps they will come knocking on Omar’s door, but right now it doesn’t appear like anyone wants to pay $2.5 million (Castro’s contract) for an injury prone, overweight backup. A potential solution to this problem would be signing Pudge to a minor league contract, but I’m sure, Joe, you don’t think Pudge is that desperate to be a Met.

    2. And keeping on that point, I’m really not so sure Pudge IS that desperate to be a Met. I know anything he writes should be taken with a grain of salt, but Ken Rosenthal wrote an article earlier this month detailing how Pudge wants to be playing for a team that will give him 5 starts per week. Can the Mets fulfill his request, or can they talk him down from this demand? Probably yes on both accounts, but at what cost? Let’s remember that Pudge has been a starter his entire career, so who knows how he’ll psychologically handle or produce on the field with a smaller workload. In other words, let’s not jump to conclusions that Pudge will automatically hit .290 with good power and stellar defense, despite what he might be doing in the WBC. At 37, anything’s possible. Also, I know you are privvy to your inside sources, Joe, but I can’t find a quote anywhere revealing that Pudge “wants to play in New York” or would accept less money to play here. Speculation earlier this week on mlb.com put Pudge’s pricetag at $2 million guarenteed, which was proven credible when Pudge rejected a Marlins’ offer of just under $1 million with incentive clauses.

    Things just aren’t adding up here that make a Pudge signing likely. I won’t argue whether his addition would be beneficial to the Mets, because I believe it would. I just don’t think the Mets can or want to go through the scenario of what needs to be done to bring Pudge on board. That’s just how I see it.

  3. joe March 12, 2009 at 8:58 am
    ‘dude, all you have to do is google “ivan rodriguez mets” to find plenty of quotes from Pudge expressing interest and desire to play for the Mets. Here’s one from the past two weeks:

    I wouldn’t worry about making room on the roster. If by some stroke of miraculous luck Ramon Castro is not disabled by April, there’s a decent chance someone else will be. Not saying that to jinx anyone, just that it seems like every spring, someone tweaks a hammy or something and teams are overly cautious about bringing slightly injured players North due to the cold, etc.

    Further, how about carrying 12 pitchers instead of 13? Looking at the schedule, it doesn’t look like a fifth starter will be needed until late April, which means that you can either keep the #5 in PSL another few weeks or carry one less reliever, keeping the #5 in the bullpen.

    Would you trade Castro and eat part of his salary, IF you got a decent minor leaguer in return? (The Mets wouldn’t, but asking if you would).

  4. isuzudude March 12, 2009 at 9:59 am
    Though I don’t doubt Pudge is open to playing for the Mets, I don’t buy into the idea that Pudge would be willing to bend over backwards to become a Met. I don’t give much thought to the link you provided that lends support to your theory because he was asked flat out if he would like to sign with the Mets. Do you think he would say no? Right now he’s looking for a job, so of course he will say yes. But I’m willing to venture a guess that if you ask Pudge if he would like to be a part of any team with half a shot at making the playoffs and could use some addition ammo behind the plate he’d say he’d be interested in playing for them too. In other words, it’s not as though Pudge is going out of his way to campaign for being a Met, it’s just that the Mets seem to be the team he keeps getting asked about, thus the notion that Pudge wants to be a Met.

    True, someone could and most likely will go on the DL before ST is out, but that someone needs to be a position player, as I don’t think the Mets have the wherewithal to substitute Pudge for one of their pitchers. Also, carrying Pudge in leiu of a diabled player simply delays the inevitable, and that is having to cut or trade someone when there are too many healthy bodies to fit on the 25-man roster. Sooner or later, that choice is going to have to be made.

    Regarding carrying 12 pitchers, that is what I am in favor of. Sometimes teams choose to carry 11 pitchers and 14 position players (6 bench players) out of ST because, as you mentioned, the 5th starters spot doesn’t come up until a few weeks into the season. I am not in favor of carrying 13 pitchers, because that leaves space for just 4 bench players – and if 3 of them are catchers, then you have far too little flexibility on the bench. However, I’m looking at the schedule too, and it seems to me the Mets will need their #5 starter on April 12, which is their 6th game of the season. Otherwise their #2 starter will be going on 3 days rest. The Mets can get away with carrying an extra bench player up until that point, but then need to bring up that #5 starter and free up a spot.

    If I get a decent minor leaguer in return for Castro, I would absolutely trade him, as long as I wasn’t eating his entire contract and Pudge isn’t asking for too much money. Castro’s a free agent at season’s end and doubt he’ll fetch a draft pick on the free agent market, so if you can get anything back for him, in addition to creating room to sign Pudge, that’s a plus. However, I think the more realistic option is trading Marlon Anderson, who, with his lower price tag, flexibility in the field, and track record of pinch hitting ability, would be a lot more attractive in a trade. At that point the Mets are committing themselves to a 25-man roster with 3 catchers, but with the lack of righties on the bench and the vulnerability of Castro getting hurt, I don’t think that would be a bad idea.

  5. joe March 12, 2009 at 10:26 am
    ‘dude, I offered up the first link that came up in Google. Pudge has been publicly talking about wanting to play for the Mets since November. In fact he personally called Omar Minaya in October, though that hasn’t come out publicly. Other than that phone call, there have been at least a dozen instances of Pudge talking about playing for the Mets. I’m not sure how you missed them, but whatever.

    You talk about having to carry Pudge like he’s a liability. The thinking should be: how can the Mets continue to carry the slothlike, constantly injured Castro? how can they fit the good-field, no-hit wonders Sullivan or Reed? how will they be able to make room for Marlon Anderson, who has become a one-dimensional, less-versatile, LH version of Julio Franco? All the guys on the bubble that you’re considering for the last few roster spots are bench guys, and only bench guys. Pudge would actually be a semi-regular, and likely would take over as the starting catcher if given the opportunity.

    Of course, it doesn’t help that the Mets, in their infinite wisdom, gave Alex Cora a guaranteed deal. It’s amazing how they cement themselves into a corner with low-value veteran retreads on an annual basis. With a set lineup, you’d think they’d at least like some flexibility with their bench.

    As for the pitching staff, I’ll try this again: the #5 starter can be in the bullpen. So Tim Redding or Livan Hernandez can make that start on the 12th and then be the long man until further notice, which means you don’t have to keep around slugs like Connor Robertson, Rocky Cherry, or Carlos Muniz. Or, give that start on the 12th to Brandon Knight and then ship him back to AAA the next day. He’s out of options but I doubt anyone is going to jump on him.

  6. isuzudude March 12, 2009 at 3:03 pm
    Well, if Pudge did call Omar personally, and still was told no thanks, then that should be the end of story. Myths or no myths regarding Pudge, if the Mets aren’t interested then what’s the point in dragging this issue thru the mud? In our opinion we think Pudge would be a good fit, though you think getting him on the team would be an easier task than I. But the Mets don’t think Pudge fits well on the Mets, for a reason you may not have noticed while composing this story, and it might as well be accepted that Pudge is not going to be a Met. Pudge may want to be a Met very badly, but if the Mets honestly feel like they have better options, then so be it.

    I am not talking about Pudge like he is a liability, either. I’m all in favor of adding him over Castro. However, I think the liability lies if the Mets wind up carrying 3 catchers at the expense of a pitcher or some other bench player who will be useful. I’d think the same think if the 3 catchers were McCann, Soto, and Russell Martin, because there’s only so much room on a roster for so many catchers. It’s also unfortunate that you cast off Sullivan and Reed as “no-hit” contributors, while assuming Pudge will maintain his career numbers at AVG, SLG, and OBP all while seeing less playing time and being 37 years old. I understand Pudge would be a semi-regular, but it simply is not a given that Pudge will any better than Marlon Anderson or Jeremy Reed if given the same amount of at-bats while sacrificing the versatility of the bench. Perhaps you are 100% confident in Pudge, but I am not. That’s probably what’s at the heart of the matter. I like Pudge as an upgrade over Castro, but if Pudge’s addition compromises the production of the rest of the bench or the depth of the pitching staff, then I don’t see his addition as helping the team.

    And as for the pitching staff, much like stashing someone away on DL to make room for Pudge, eventually there will come a time when that tough decision will have to be made between shortening the bullpen or sacrificing a valuable bench piece. You would just be delaying the inevitable, and I would like the Mets to do a better job of planning a Pudge signing than just pushing the tough choice to a later date.

  7. joe March 12, 2009 at 5:02 pm
    First, if we’ve paid attention to Omar Minaya in the past few years, we know he never says “no” outright to anything. Didn’t he keep the door to Pedro open until late January? I’m sure the conversation went something like this:

    Pudge: “Omar, I wanna play for the Mets”
    Omar: “That’s great, you know I love you baby, we’ll think about it.”

    Second, the Mets DID carry 3 catchers at several points last year … often because Castro was hurt enough not to be able to squat behind the plate, but not hurt enough to go on the DL. Also because Uncle Jerry liked the option of using Castro as a PH. So, if the Mets break camp with Robinson Cancel or Rene Rivera as the 25th man, how will that go over with you? Do you think either of them is an upgrade over Sullivan / Anderson / etc. ?

    Third, I don’t “cast away” Sullivan and Reed. Rather, I value them for what they are: good-fielding, LH-hitting outfielders with above-average speed who may hit around .270 with no punch. In other words, Endy Chavez, minus the flair. If you hadn’t noticed, Endy Chavez had cobwebs growing around his ankles once Jerry Manuel took over. I actually like Reed and Sullivan, but I don’t see where they fit into the Manuel shuffle … especially since it looks like Bobby Kielty has a chance to grab a spot. At best, I see Reed/Sullivan coming into games in the late innings for defense for Dan Murphy/Tatis. There are at least 100 people in organized baseball from AA on up that can fill that role, probably another 100 in the independent leagues. In contrast, how many individuals can catch and hit at the level of Ivan Rodriguez? Even an Ivan Rodriguez in the twilight of his career? Solid, two-way catchers are simply impossible to find, otherwise people like Brian Schneider wouldn’t be making $5M a year (and he’s barely an adequate MLB hitter).

    And I can turn your argument right around. It’s simply not a given that Marlon Anderson or Jerory Reedullivan will outproduce Pudge, either. What I can do, though, is look at past history. Pudge has not only done it before, he’s been a freakin’ MVP. Reed / Sullivan / Kielty / etc. have never even held regular jobs through a full season. I’ll take my chances on a guy who has had an HOF career, and be prepared to take my lumps if he fails — especially since I have yet to see any indication from Rodriguez that he might fail my confidence. He’s been pooh-poohed as “finished” since 2002, and he keeps coming back, catching 120 games, and hitting .300. His last 30 games of 2008 were slightly concerning, since he hurt his knee, but he looks pretty healthy now in the WBC.

    Since you finished your post with “… stashing someone away on DL to make room for Pudge”, you still see Pudge as guy #23-25. This is where we’ll agree to disagree. I see Pudge as being somehere in the teens as far as where he’d be on the roster. If he was a Met, the concern, to me, would be, again, whether I’d sacrifice a pitcher or bench guy to make room for Castro, Anderson, Sullivan, et al.

    But, it matter not what I think, because the 2009 Mets don’t eat contracts, so your view of the situation is much more realistic. These small-market penny pinchers would rather keep one-dimensional players on their already inflexible roster than admit to their mistakes and pay them to go away. Hope the strategy works out.

  8. isuzudude March 17, 2009 at 9:21 am
    Pudge to Astros for $1.5 million.
  9. Walnutz15 March 17, 2009 at 10:49 am
    Pudge was never realistically going to become a Met unless Castro and his $2.5MM was moved…

    Castro’s still a Met, and Pudge is now considered “bargain-bin” — hopefully, Fatboy stays healthy.

  10. Walnutz15 March 19, 2009 at 11:07 am
    Welp, that didn’t take long…did it?

    “The results of an MRI revealed that Brian Schneider has a PCL strain in his knee and strained calf.

    According to the New York Post, ‘Schneider is sidelined indefinitely.’

    He suffered both injuries Tuesday and did not play yesterday.”

    The aforementioned “Fatboy” was in reference to Ramon Castro — I didn’t even really contemplate an injury to Schneider so early on.

    We’ll see what happens, but really — Pudge at $1.5MM is an absolute no-brainer. Especially since a “good” year from Castro typically sees him appear in 50 or so games….unless he’s 100% healthy all year.

    At least he “looks” trimmer.

  11. isuzudude March 19, 2009 at 11:17 am
    Well, to be fair, Walnutz, Omar has stated that Schneider’s injury isn’t a significant concern, hinting that the PCL strain should not keep Schneider out too long. And if he does have to spend a few weeks on the DL in April, then Robinson Cancel or Rene Rivera should provide sufficient backup support. Yes, Pudge would have been a much more desirable replacement, but Schneider’s injury (Tuesday) came after Pudge signed with the Astros (Monday). Chalk this one up to bad luck.
  12. Walnutz15 March 19, 2009 at 12:47 pm
    What’s up, Duuuude?

    I understand the chronology of it all — however, I’m just stating that I feel that their gameplan was foolish at best.

    Schneider at $4.9MM, more or less hamstrung them in terms of making a deal involving him…..and Castro is pretty expensive for a back-up catcher at $2.5MM or so.

    However, I feel they could’ve pursued this one a bit more aggressively in terms of “alternate options”….but admittedly, I do have a Pudge-bias; based on my concept that he’s one of the best defensive catchers of all-time.

    Pudge is certainly capable of playing an entire season behind the dish — and at $1.5MM…..that’s pretty much chump-change — not even factoring into the equation, that he swung a very good stick during the WBC.

    This may or may not be a temporary derailment for Schneider — but whenever you’re dealing with ligaments in the knee, it’s not a given that he’ll bounce back quickly. Especially a catcher headed toward his mid-30’s.

    The PCL is more or less what allows him to crouch….so, hopefully it’s just a mild strain. I had been out for almost a month when I tore my MCL — and figure at the time, I was pretty young in comparison to Schneider is right now and an outfielder.

    Depends on the severity of the strain….and obviously, no athlete follows along the same path in terms of injury-recovery…..

    I just think that the Mets rend to overlook very positive situations that would be perfect fits — in terms of what they currently have on their roster.

    Throwing a cheap Pudge into the fray, with players like Delgado, Beltran, Reyes, et al — would not only throw a little more “fiest” into the (sometimes lacking) “fire”…but would have also been a nice platoon situation, if need be.

    I’m just someone who views Ramon Castro as the poster-boy for what the Mets have tolerated too much of, through the years. Oft-injured — highly paid for what they contribute — and when they are around, there’s the sometime “lacking” aura about them.

    Castro’s a guy who, until this spring, was always very fat and sluggish — and from what we’ve read — has been late or overslept more than once or twice during his tenure. Nitpicking? I’m not so sure….

    It’s not much to ask of a guy getting paid good coin to play maybe 50 games a year if we’re very lucky.

  13. Walnutz15 March 20, 2009 at 7:25 am
    So, today we’re seeing Schneider listed as “day-to-day” with a strained right knee and calf……

    From the NY Times:

    “There was some speculation that Schneider’s injury might be fairly serious, but he calmed concerns when he showed up to Mets camp Thursday morning. “Today’s way better,” he said. “I don’t know what made it flare up.” Schneider is hoping to jump back into the lineup on Sunday.”

    We’ll see how this goes as the season gets started — I definitely don’t want to run into a situation where we become dependent on Castro shouldering the load. And to see Schneider’s $4.9MM sitting on the shelf would just be nauseating.

    Hopefully, it’s not a nagging thing.