Though it was announced a few days ago, Ivan Rodriguez officially retired from baseball today. The announcement was made in conjunction with the Rangers, no surprise there considering he spent 13 of his 21 MLB seasons in Texas. While there’s no doubt he’ll be best remembered (and probably be inducted into Cooperstown as one) I naturally like to remember him for his 5 seasons as a Tiger.
Pudge joined the team in the winter of 2004 -following a 2003 season that saw him win his only World Series ring, while the Tigers set an AL record with 119 losses. Of course, the media had fun with the tag-line “first to worst”. still, Pudge said all the right things: he believed in Mike Ilitch and Dave Dombrowski; that he believed the pieces were in place; that he envisioned the Tigers in the World Series within a few years (or words to that effect). Pudge’s signing with the Tigers was a risky move for both parties: the Tigers were desperate to become relevant and probably overpaid him. To many, Pudge looked like a mercenary – cashing in on a huge payday from a down-in-the-dumps franchise. Fans couldn’t help but think that this would wind up like the signing and departure of Juan Gonzalez.
Fortunately for the Tiger front office, the acquisition of Pudge paid off huge dividends. He instantly became the team’s marquee player. 2004 saw a 29 win improvement for the team. Other players around the league started to take notice. 2006 saw the Tigers win their first AL pennant since 1984. In fact, the Tigers return to baseball prominence started with the acquisition of Pudge. The signings of Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder may have never happened had Pudge not decided to take a chance in the D.
As a fan, I would like to say to Pudge: Thank you, for making Detroit Tiger baseball matter again.
We’ll see you in Cooperstown in 2017.