When was the last time that a Washington baseball team had a future Hall of Famer who batted and fielded at a Hall of Fame level? [...]Perhaps we must go back to Joe Cronin in the 1930s, before even my time.
But now that has changed. For in April 2010, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, certainly a future Hall of Famer, played catcher for the Washington Nationals at a Hall of Fame level. Pudge didn't just bat .400 for the month; he fought off tough pitches to deliver clutch RBIs. Pudge didn't just throw out lead runners on bunts when ordinary catchers would have taken the easy out; the zip on his throws convinced opposing runners not to even attempt stealing a base (only three runners tried to steal off of him; he gunned down two of them). And Pudge's ability to work with pitchers helped revitalize (at least for now) the career of the "washed-up" Livan Hernandez and successfully launch (at least for now) the career of Pudge's fellow Puerto Rican, Luis Alitano.
Pudge has done quite a bit for the Nats this season. I've seen at least five player interviews on MASN so far this year where various Nationals have attributed their winning ways this year to the veteran superstar catcher, mostly with regard to intangibles such as "drive" and "playing the game the right way". I'm not dumb enough to think that .400 batting average is going to last, but I'm pretty sure Rodriguez' inspirational abilities will last throughout the season. Maybe the Nationals won't keep their record above .500 all season, but they sure as hell aren't going 59-103 again this year. I can't say I expected the awesome April hitting, but I was definitely hoping for this kind of shot in the arm to the team's morale so they could continue building on the end of 2009's season, when Desmond and Maxwell helped the team beat the devil and the living God out of the Braves and the Mets. It's a long season, but I think it's going to be a good one.