Will the BBWAA keep Pudge Rodriguez out of the Hall of Fame? Only God knows.


Any elite player’s retirement brings forth the question: will he make the Hall of Fame?  Pudge Rodriguez’s retirement is no different.  Of course, the answer to that question is more complicated.

On the merits he’s a no-brainer: He has the most games caught of any catcher, totaled nearly 3,000 hits, won an MVP award, a World Series MVP award and was arguably the best defensive catcher of all time. That’s normally a first-ballot ticket to Cooperstown.

But then there’s the PED problem.  As we’ve seen in recent years, players with any PED associations are basically blackballed from Hall of Fame consideration no matter how strong their on-the-field case is.  And that goes for those players who were admitted or documented users like Mark McGwire and for those who merely have whisper campaigns waged against them like Jeff Bagwell.  Basically, if a bunch of moralizing writers think you’re dirty, you’re not getting into the Hall of Fame.

So where does Pudge Rodriguez fall on that scale?  He was not named in the Mitchell Report. He has not been revealed to be on the famous list of 103 ballplayers who tested positive during baseball’s pilot testing program in 2004. He has not admitted to any PED use and hasn’t otherwise been brought into the greater PED scandal via legal action or the like. But:

  • Jose Canseco wrote in his book that he personally injected Pudge with steroids;
  • When asked if he was on the list of 103, Rodriguez responded “Only God knows”;
  • He played for the Texas Rangers in the 1990s; and
  • His physique varied fairly radically over the years, with it being beefier pre-testing and noticeably smaller once testing was implemented.

Did he do PEDs? Hell, I don’t know. I certainly wouldn’t be shocked if he did, but I don’t know for sure.

But I do know that while, in a court of law, all of those bullet points would represent circumstantial evidence at best, inadmissible hearsay at worst, Hall of Fame voting doesn’t operate at that standard. In the world of baseball, those bullet points — as well as any more or less reasonable suspicions that Pudge did, in fact, take PEDs — are more than enough to get writers to withhold votes.

And unless something happens to change the current pattern of Hall of Fame voting in the next five years — like, say, people electing Barry Bonds because, Jesus, it’s dumb to have a Hall of Fame without Barry Bonds — I think Rodriguez will be on the outside looking in for some time.

2018 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2018 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Texas Rangers had been, more or less, the class of the AL West for several years, but that came to an end last year. Injuries, a bad bullpen and underachievement doomed them early and before all the leaves were on the trees the Astros had all but locked up the division. There were some bright spots — Adrian Beltre notched his 3,000th hit and Joey Gallo emerged as the 40-homer threat many have long thought he might be — but otherwise it was a bad year for the Rangers.

Will it be another bad year? Hard to say no, though there is a lot more upside with this club than with a lot of other sub-80 win teams from 2017. For that upside to pay off, however, the Rangers are going to have to win a lot of bets.

The outfield is a good place to begin looking for that upside. Nomar Mazara has not yet put it together over the course of a whole season, but he has shown some promise and could be poised for a breakout. Delino DeShields may not be what many thought he might be a few years back, but he’s got wheels and can get on base. Left field is being kept warm for top prospect Willie Calhoun who came over in the Yu Darvish trade and is having his service time manipulated, but he’ll be up soon. He’s expected to rake. Whether he can hold the position or, rather, will have to take at-bats away from Shin-Soo Choo at DH is an open question.

The infield needs a couple of fairly attainable things to happen for the lineup to really be a plus. First, it needs Adrian Beltre to be healthy and to show that he has at least some gas left in the tank. I have learned over the past 20 years to not bet against Adrian Beltre, ever, so Father Time will have to prove me wrong. It also needs Rougned Odor to snap back into shape after a lost-in-the-woods 2017. I hate the phrase “he’s better than that,” but he really is better than that. Elvis Andrus is Elvis Andrus and that’s fine. If Gallo can cut down on the K’s even a little bit and mix in a couple of more base hits to go with all of that power he could be an MVP candidate. In order of likelihood, I put it (1) Beltre being Beltre; (b) Odor bouncing back; and (c) Gallo cutting down on strikeouts, but if just two of those things happen the Rangers lineup will be in good shape.

There are a lot of question marks with the starting pitching and a couple of lottery tickets. Yu Darvish is long gone, but Cole Hamels remains at the top of the rotation. The problem is that Hamels had his worst full season in several years last year and it may be that all of the miles on his odometer are catching up with him. The biggest offseason pickup for Texas was Mike Minor, who had a monster comeback season with the Royals after multiple years lost due to arm injuries. That monster year came out of the bullpen, though, so it remains to be seen if he can move back to the rotation and remain both impressive and durable. He’s one of the lottery tickets, although one with much better odds than, say, the Powerball. He’s like a scratch-off with some risk but a decent shot at some winnings.

A longer shot is Matt “Mega Millions” Moore. The one time top prospect of the Tampa Bay Rays is still somehow just 28, but he’s coming off a lousy year in San Francisco, in which he led the NL in both losses and earned runs while plying his trade in a pitcher’s park. I guess you can be a silver-lining guy and say he’s durable again or you could do that thing where people look at a one-time phenom and imagine that he has at least one full-promise year in him, but it’s not super likely either. Martin Perez and Doug Fister round things out. You basically know what you’re getting out of those two at this point: competence, but not necessarily any shot at greatness. Bartolo Colon is knocking around and he’ll likely get some starts at some point. He always gets starts.

The bullpen was a mess last year. It’s not clear that it’ll be better this year, but it’ll certainly be more interesting, as Jon Daniels went out and signed Tim Lincecum and gave him a big league deal from which to launch his comeback. He may challenge for the closer role, though Alex Claudio has it for now. Matt Bush will look to recapture 2016 form as a setup guy. Jake Diekman should be back to full strength after a mostly lost 2017 due to colon surgery. Not a great group, truth be told, even if they will be fun to watch at times.

Overall, I think the Rangers are better than bad but the pitching is a big problem and they need too many things to go their way to count on being good. If everyone stays healthy and more than half of the guys who struggled last year return to form or fulfill potential, hey, it’s a pretty interesting group of players. A group which, while not good enough to challenge Houston, could be in the mix with the Angels and the Mariners to be a Wild Card representative.

If most of those bets don’t pay off, though, it’s gonna be a long year. I’m a risk averse gambler, so I’m going to hope to be pleasantly surprised, but I predict that the upside will remain out of reach.

Prediction: Fourth Place, AL West