Pudge Rodriguez is Hall of Fame eligible for the first time this year, and early returns suggest the former Texas Rangers catcher should be working on his acceptance speech.
With 127 ballots having been released so far, out of an estimated 435 expected to be cast (per Ryan Thibodaux’s ballot tracker), Pudge has been selected by 107 voters, which has him at 84.3% so far. Pudge still needs to be on a little more than 70% of the remaining ballots to get to the necessary 75% for induction, but at this point, it would be a significant upset if he doesn’t get elected.
Pudge definitely has a Hall of Fame resume, with a career .296/.334/.464 slash line in a remarkable 21 major league seasons, including an MVP Award, 14 All Star appearances, and 13 Gold Gloves. Pudge played in the most games at catcher in MLB history, and is third all-time in career bWAR among catchers, behind just Johnny Bench and Gary Carter, and was generally considered to be one of the best catchers in the game for the bulk of his career.
However, there has been some question about whether Pudge would get in the first year he was eligible. Part of that is due to the general bias the voters have against players appearing on the ballot for the first time — the notion that only the Babe Ruths of the world deserve the honor of being inducted their first year.
The other issue that was potentially looming with Pudge is the “steroid era” problem, with voters having been more reluctant to vote for those who, like Pudge, have been suspected or accused of PED use. That has not appeared to be a problem for Pudge, however, and it appears that the stigma of PED suspicions has become less of a factor overall, with the two poster child for the issue — Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds — both currently getting 70% of the vote so far, after registering just 45% last year.
So the Rangers will, it appears, finally have a position player going into the Hall with a “T” on his cap. One of the ironic things about this franchise is, despite it being known more for hitters than pitchers, the former Rangers who are in the Hall — Gaylord Perry, Fergie Jenkins, Nolan Ryan, Goose Gossage and Bert Blyleven — are pitchers, not hitters.
Texas could, in fact, have two former position players inducted this year, as Vlad Guerrero, in his first year of eligibility, is currently polling at 76.4%. I consider Vlad a borderline case, and probably would lean towards not casting a ballot for him if I had a vote, but he’s close, and I think he’s a worthy inductee if he does get in.
The other candidates who appear likely to get in this year are Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines, each of whom are over 90% so far. This is Raines’ last season of eligibility, since they’ve dropped the time a player is on the ballot from 15 years to 10 years, and I’m hopeful he gets in.
Others who appear to be serious candidates this year are Trevor Hoffman, Edgar Martinez, and Mike Mussina. I don’t consider Hoffman a Hall of Famer, but I do think Edgar and Mussina should be in, and I would have no problem with Hoffman got in if Edgar and Mussina get in as well.