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The Young Kid and the Old Guy
Posted By Marien Hornyak On Sep 2 2011 @ 2:16 pm In Washington Nationals | No Comments
The Washington Nationals are welcoming two players back to their active roster this weekend; two very good players who have spent a lot of time on the Disabled List. But while these two players make a perfect battery combination and have both been greatly missed by the Nationals and their fans, their similarities pretty much end there. 
Iván “Pudge” Rodriguez has been on the Disabled List since July due to a right oblique strain. He is finally ready to return to Major League action, and even caught Strephen Strasburg during one of his rehab starts with AA Harrisburg. “Pudge,” who will be turning 40 this November, has won many awards and accolades during his long and illustrious career; from an MVP award in 1999 (with the Texas Rangers) to eleven consecutive Gold Gloves to a World Series ring in 2003 (with the Florida Marlins).
On the other side of the spectrum is Stephen Strasburg, who has been on the DL all season due to his recovery from Tommy John surgery he underwent in August of last year. Strasburg is only 23 and has only had 12 Major League starts, but of those 12, Iván Rodriguez has caught 11 of them.
Both Rodriguez and Strasburg will be returning to the Nationals this weekend, when the Nats host the New York Mets for three games followed by a visit from the Los Angeles Dodgers. It has already been announced that Strasburg will start on Tuesday against the Dodgers, but it is still uncertain when “Pudge” will be making his official return behind the plate (while it would be nice for him to catch for Strasburg on Tuesday, Nationals’ manager Davey Johnson has already said that Wilson Ramos will be behind the plate for that one, saying that Iván “is not in top playing condition.”).
What does this mean for next season and the future of the Nationals with relation to Strasburg and Rodriguez? It’s pretty cut and dry in one case, and completely unknown in the other. Strasburg will be back with the Nationals next season, since he’s not eligible for arbitration until 2013, and all signs indicate that, assuming he stays healthy, the Nationals are willing to invest in him for the long haul. Rodriguez, however, is another story.
“Pudge” signed a two-year contract with the Nationals back in 2009, so that contract is up at the end of this season. Iván wants to continue playing, and has said on many occasions that he still has “a lot of baseball left” in him. He has made no secret of the fact that he wants to reach 3000 career hits, which would pair him with Roberto Clemente as the only two Puerto Ricans earning that distinction. But with current starting catcher Wilson Ramos (who is OK with the bat and pretty good behind the plate), backup catcher Jesús Flores (who stinks, in my opinion!) and a slew of decent catchers waiting in the Minors, are the Nationals ready to gamble on an “old” guy who has had his share of injuries? We’ll have to wait and see.
Personally, I want the Nationals to keep “Pudge,” but it’s purely for selfish reasons. Iván has been my favorite player since Kirby Puckett passed away, and I have enjoyed seeing him up-close when going to Nationals games and FanFest events. My husband has already promised me that we can go to Cooperstown to watch Iván get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame (where he will surely be a first-ballot pick); the question is, will we be there in 2016, or a few years after that? I guess I can’t make the hotel reservations yet, since we don’t know whether “Pudge” will be back next season or not.
In the meantime, while the Nationals figure out what to do with “Pudge,” I will be at next Monday’s Nationals/Dodgers game at NationalsPark. Since Iván is not scheduled to catch on Tuesday, wouldn’t it be nice if they put him behind the plate on Monday? Oh, a girl can only hope!
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