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.