Pudge Rodriguez to make history

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Ivan Rodriguez is poised to tie Carlton Fisk’s all-time games-caught
mark tonight and, knees willing, break it tomorrow. Best of all, it’s
going to happen in Arlington, where his remarkable career got started.
That was a long time ago — his debut came a couple of weeks after I
graduated high school, and I’m an old man now — and Rodriguez’s long
career has the Houston Chronicle’s Jose De Jesus Ortiz, and others, recalling the career of one of the greatest catchers the game has ever seen:

As manager of the Kansas City Royals from 1995-97, [Bob] Boone actually predicted Rodriguez would break Fisk’s record.

“I’m proud of the fact I played the game right a long time,” Bob
Boone said. “You happen to get a record, that’s kind of neat, but it
really doesn’t affect my daily life. I can remember looking at Pudge
when I was managing Kansas City and thinking he would break the record.

“There’s an art form to not getting hurt. There’s a lot of
athleticism to not being hurt. We’d just look at each other, and I’d
think he was going to get the record. I just kind of smiled about it. I
think he’s a great player. I’ve been a fan of his a long time. The
combination of offense and defense he’s brought to the game has been

Is Boone genuinely admirable, or is his use of the phrase “played the
game right,” code for steroids in this case as it is in most other
cases in which it’s employed? I suppose there’s no escaping that
subject with Rodriguez since Jose Canseco claims in his book to have
educated him (along with Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez) about
steroids when they were teammates in Texas. He also claims to have
acquired steroids on behalf of Rodriguez and to have personally
injected him. Given Canseco’s track record on these things, there’s
something more than an Ibanezeseque case to be made against Pudge on
this count.

But you know what? I don’t care. I’m not sure how everyone else
approaches this issue, but I’ve taken to making rough guesses about how
a PED-implicated player might have performed without the drugs, and
then determining whether he still seems like a Hall of Famer
afterwards. No, I’m not doing stats here nor do I claim to even be
doing anything approaching science. It’s just a mental exercise that I
think represents about the best anyone can do for the pre-testing era
players. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens pass my little test. Mark
McGwire is a closer case. Rafael Palmiero fails it. There really aren’t
as many close cases as folks like to think.

Pudge is one of them. But with Pudge, I see a guy who was an amazing
defensive catcher before Canseco ever made it to Texas, and has
remained one even after the institution of testing and his subsequent
reduction in physique. If Canseco is telling the truth about Rodriguez,
we can probably expect that his power numbers would have been down, and
we can likewise expect that he may have missed a few more games to
injury or fatigue than he did over his long career.

Maybe your mileage varies on this — indeed, maybe you’d have a bar
on the door to the Hall of Fame for anyone implicated in the PED mess
— but takng his career as a whole, I still see a Hall of Famer when I
look at Ivan Rodriguez, and I will be cheering him tonight and tomorrow
as he makes history.

Orioles interested in Denard Span

Denard Span
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.

Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.

The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.

Blue Jays showing interest in Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.

Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.

Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.

After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.

Trevor Cahill considering the Pirates as a potential destination

Trevor Cahill
AP Photo/Paul Beaty

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.

It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.

Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.

Blue Jays narrow GM search to two candidates: Tony LaCava and Ross Atkins

Tony LaCava
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.

LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.

Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.