Former Texas Rangers catcher Ivan Rodriguez, the 1999 American League MVP and a 13-time Gold Glove winner and a 14-time All-Star, was voted for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday in his first year on the ballot.
Rodriguez appeared on 76 percent of the ballots submitted by eligible voters from the Baseball Writers Association of America, just past the 75-percent threshold to be elected, and will be inducted July 30 in Cooperstown, N.Y.
“This is a great day for my family, first,” Rodriguez said. “I want to think all the organizations that I played with. They gave me the opportunity to be in the Hall of Fame.”
Rodriguez made his major-league debut in 1991 at age 19 and in 1992 started a streak of 10 consecutive Gold Gloves and All-Star appearances. He spent the first 12 seasons of his career with the Rangers before joining the Florida Marlins in 2003 and helping them win the World Series.
Rodriguez, affectionately known as “Pudge,” also played for the Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees and Astros before returning briefly to the Rangers in 2009. He finished his career with the Washington Nationals in two seasons.
“His credentials are Hall of Fame credentials. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” said fellow Rangers Hall of Famer Michael Young. “I played with him. His arm strength and footwork was off the charts, and you combine that with he played 20 years in the big leagues.”
Rodriguez will become the 18th catcher in the Hall of Fame and only the second first-ballot catcher after he collected 2,844 hits in a 21-year career and finished with a .296 batting average, 311 home runs and 1,332 RBIs. He also threw out 42 percent of attempted base stealers.
He notched 1,747 hits, 352 doubles, 217 homers and 842 RBIs with the Rangers while batting .304, and he helped lead them to the first three playoff appearances in franchise history as AL West champions in 1996, 1998 and 1999.
In his MVP season, Rodriguez batted .332 with 35 homers, 113 RBIs and 116 runs, and is the only catcher in MLB history with a season with a .330 average, 35 homers, 110 RBIs and 110 runs.
Rodriguez remains the all-time MLB leader in games caught (2,427) and holds the record for most All-Star Game starts (12).
He is also only one of five players to achieve a .294 average, 2,800 hits, 550 doubles, 300 homers and 1,300 RBIs. The others in the group are Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, George Brett and Stan Musial.
Those credentials would seem to make Rodriguez any easy choice for Hall voters, but some were swayed away from him because of alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Jose Canseco wrote in his autobiography, Juiced, that he injected Rodriguez with steroids while Rangers teammates in the early 1990s. Rodriguez also showed a dramatic weight loss in 2005 after MLB started testing for PEDs.
Nevertheless, Rodriguez is Cooperstown-bound.
“He’s the best catcher of all time or in the top two,” Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. “Watching the game, he was one of those guys that was just the best at what he did. From my perspective, he was a guy you watched because he was just a Hall of Fame-caliber player.
“It’s amazing what he did from a physical standpoint. In my short career, I know how hard it has been on my body, and they didn’t have some of the same conditioning staff that we have now. I have a lot of respect for him.”