I had an opportunity to interview Ivan Rodriguez on Monday. Of course, I only got the call because Fitz was unavailable and Adam was in mediation, but there are plenty of people that stepped up when everyone else was unavailable and came through in the clutch. Remember closer Austin Hedges?
Alas, I was not one of those people. I recorded the Zoom call without audio. And I didn’t take notes because I thought “hey, I’ll have this Zoom recording to refresh my memory” so I don’t even have a nice typed up interview with direct quotes. I’ll just have to go by memory and rely on my obscurity to protect me from anything I might mischaracterize.
I always enjoyed how accessible Pudge was to the press throughout his time with the Rangers, and he was very friendly and approachable on Monday despite what must have been a “look at this guy” reaction when he opened the Zoom meeting, saw me and the underside of my carport, and noticed the constant interruptions from my roosters crowing.
I started things off by asking about what he thought Evan Carter might be experiencing given Rodriguez’s debut at a similarly tender age. I think I was anticipating some discussion of the culture shock of jumping from the relatively low rent minors to the glitz of the big leagues, particularly since Pudge’s final promotion took him from Tulsa to Arlington. Although the old Arlington Stadium may not have been that much different than Tulsa, I guess. He did acknowledge that there are a lot more people doing things for you in the majors, but he said that a player like Evan Carter has been preparing his whole life for this and has great makeup and that translates into what we’re witnessing now. For whatever reason, I thought maybe a young man thrust into a postseason with very little preamble might suffer from self-doubt or impostor syndrome, but I gathered from what Rodriguez said that people that suffer from a lot of self-doubt don’t make their Major League debuts at 21 and if they do they don’t put up a gaudy 1.236 OPS.
I also asked him about his role as a special assistant to the GM, and he said that it involved a lot of texts between him and the front office staff right now but didn’t offer a lot of specifics. He did say that the Rangers are a well run organization as evidenced by the turnaround we witnessed this season. When he noted that Bruce Bochy is a great manager, I asked him what he thought separated good managers from average ones and if he preferred a heavy hand or a lighter touch. He didn’t answer that directly, but when he said that he’d played for a lot of different managers the two he mentioned were Bobby Valentine and Jim Leyland and I think they were both pretty tightly wound, so I’m guessing he likes the drill sergeants.
Given the many very hot games I experienced at both Arlington Stadium and Ameriquest/Globe Life, I wanted to know what Pudge thought of the new park and what it would have meant for his career to have played in air conditioning. He was remarkably sanguine, saying that he always thought baseball was an outside sport and the heat didn’t bother him that much since he grew up in Puerto Rico. He did allow that maybe playing in the air conditioning would have extended his career even further and he would have ended up retiring at a million years old like Julio Franco and Omar Vizquel.
I run an animal rescue and rehabilitation facility, and I’m always kind of curious about people’s pets. Pudge says he owns seven dogs (two German shepherds, some rottweilers, a dogo argentino that is 180 pounds... and a Boston terrier). I noted that his preferences seemed skewed towards large dogs, and he said he definitely prefers big dogs and that he likes wrestling with them. I wish more people felt that way because dogs over 25 pounds are the ones that spend the most time waiting for homes, are the hardest to get adopted out, and are the most often euthanized.
My toddler was playing in the yard while we were talking so I decided to ask him for parenting advice. He told me that it sounded like whatever he was doing that he was having a good time, and I should encourage that and participate in it because it would keep me young. He also said not to tell him what sports to play, to let him explore what he enjoys and become his own man. “Don’t tell him he can’t play basketball.” I didn’t tell him that I’m 5’5” and my wife is 5’0” so it won’t be me telling him not to play basketball, it will be his genetics.
Rodriguez is part of a promotion for Saxx, a luxury men’s underwear brand, and their Ballgorithm... a ball focused statistic. If a fan accurately predicts the Ballgorithm for the World Series to 3 decimal places they’ll receive a lifetime supply of Saxx underwear. I asked him if he preferred boxers or briefs, and he prefers boxers (as evidenced by this video he did in his underwear with statistician Eno Sarris explaining the Ballgorithm).
I hope y’all can join me for my next interview of a Hall of Fame baseball player when my Zoom recording will inexplicably turn out to be German dubbed Night Court rerun or something.