Ivan Rodriguez will be inducted into Cooperstown this Sunday, along with Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, John Schuerholz, and Bud Selig. Rodriguez, 45, played 21 seasons in the majors, hitting .296 with 311 home runs, 1,332 RBI, and a .464 slugging percentage. He also won a World Series with the Marlins in 2003.
And, despite suspicions, he maintains he never used steroids. Rodriguez, 45, said that in his book, They Call Me Pudge: My Life Playing the Game I Love, and he said that Tuesday on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney.
“I respect the game,” the 14-time All-Star and first-ballot Hall of Famer said. “I played the game as hard as I can. I played the game with pride. I played the game with respect. If I’m a Hall of Famer, it’s because I’m a Hall of Famer. It’s because I played the game for a long time and I played the game with a lot of passion.”
Brandon Tierney thinks Rodriguez should say as much during his induction speech Sunday, that he should look into the camera and deny ever taking steroids during his career.
Rodriguez, though, didn’t necessarily agree.
“When you’re there, to me, it’s different,” he said. “You just appreciate all the people that helped you, all the people that cared for you, all the years you’ve been in the game, thanking all the managers, all the personalities that was with you for such a long time. Basically, I think that is what the Hall of Fame is all about. The speech is just to address the family that’s going to be right in front of me, especially the most important (people) in my life: my mom and dad. I think that is (what) Cooperstown is all about: just to thank these two people, and these three kids that I have, and my wife, and all the family that is going to be right in front of me. I think that is the most important thing.”
Rodriguez was asked if Barry Bonds and other steroid users should be in the Hall.
“I’m not a person to make that decision, but to me, they’re great players,” Rodriguez said. “When you hit 700+ home runs, that’s unbelievable. You have to play the game hard and you have to take the game seriously.”
Bonds, Rodriguez pointed out, would often only get one pitch to hit per game – and so often, that pitch would result in a homer.
“That’s ability,” Rodriguez said. “I respect all of them. What they all did for baseball entertained fans and entertained the game of baseball. It was amazing to see what they did in the game of baseball. I respect them very much and I wish them the best.”
Rodriguez was asked who was better in his prime: Bonds or Ken Griffey Jr.
“I say probably Bonds,” Rodriguez said after a long pause, “because Bonds (sees) only one pitch, maybe two, (per game). In Seattle, Griffey has very decent hitters behind him and got pitches to hit. Obviously he’s great hitter. Obviously he was a monster because he don’t miss any of those pitches. If I can say tie, yes. But because Bonds don’t see many pitches to hit, I say (Bonds).”
Rodriguez was also asked who was tougher to hit on his best day: Roger Clemens or Randy Johnson.
“I say probably Big Unit,” Rodriguez said. “The backdoor slider and the 99-mile-an-hour fastball, plus he’s 6-10 – so when that front foot lands, it feels like he’s right in front of me. Bug Unit, I’d say.”