It’s hard to believe that it has been nearly five years since Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez signed with the Tigers as a free agent — only a few months after winning the World Series with the Marlins. I tuned in to ESPNEWS on Feb. 6, 2004, to see if they were going to broadcast Pudge’s introductory press conference from Comerica Park. And they did.
My first thoughts were that his body language and tone of voice didn’t align with someone who just signed up for four-plus years in The D. Rather, he looked more like a guy who was thinking “After all I’ve accomplished in my career, this is what I get?” Thankfully, his attitude improved modestly over the seasons that followed (somewhat less, of course, near the end of the Alan Trammell Era).
We’ve read all about the Baseball Renaissance that Pudge fueled in 2004, and it’s all true. I was a huge Pudge fan and marveled at the effect he had on the Tigers. (And his performance during the 2005 Home Run Derby at Comerica Park was remarkable.) Despite the good times, I knew Pudge would leave Detroit and it wouldn’t be a entirely pleasant.
Nevertheless, I was stunned when, on July 30, he was traded to the Yankees — the Yankees! — for Kyle Farnsworth. Talk about dÃ©jÃ vu.
At the same time, I was relieved that a decision had been made on the future of Detroit’s catching spot, specifically that it would not be Rodriguez’s in 2009. Still, it seemed asymmetrical that a future Hall of Famer would arrive with much fanfare and depart at the trade deadline in what amounted to a lose-lose trade for both teams.