The NBA players may have ended their lockout and the NFL may be in full swing, but there has been plenty going on behind the scenes in Major League Baseball, with the winter meetings wrapping up, players being traded and free agents being signed. Albert Pujols signed with the Angels, Mark Buehrle went to the Marlins, and the Red Sox strengthened their bullpen by adding Mark Melancon to their pitching staff. But there's one player out there who remains a free agent, one veteran who still has a few years of ball left in him. No, I'm not referring to Prince Fielder (though I still don't know where he's going to end up). It should come as no surprise to those of you who read this blog on a regular basis that I am referring to future Hall-of-Famer Iván "Pudge" Rodriguez.
"There she goes again!" you're thinking to yourself. "Does she have to mention this old guy in every one of her posts?" Well, I'm sorry, but it's my blog, so I can mention him every time if I want to! :-) Seriously; Iván is currently playing winter ball in Puerto Rico, but after that season is done, he may not have a job. The Nationals are not going to re-sign him, because they currently have four catchers vying for spots on the opening day roster. That has been a stark reality that I've had to accept; I need to cherish the memories of the many times I watched Iván play live at Nationals Park and the time he signed my Puerto Rican flag. I need to put away my Nationals #7 Rodriguez jersey and print out all those pictures I've taken before my old computer decides to die and I lose those pictures forever. I need to move on and find another player for whom to root.
But really, doesn't anyone out there need a veteran catcher who still has a cannon for an arm and can work pitchers better than anyone? He's caught no-hitters, won an MVP and a World Series title, and is so close to reaching the 3000-hit milestone that it would be a crime if he wasn't given the opportunity to do so. How about a player/coach? Isn't there a team out there who could use a part-time catcher who can also serve as a very good bench coach? And while I'm asking, can that team be a National League one so I can go see him play when they come to DC? Don't sign with an AL team; I don't want to go back to Baltimore! There were rumors that the Marlins were interested in signing "Pudge," but those rumors have recently subsided. Iván has a home in Miami, he's a favorite of new manager Ozzie Guillen, and he would be a big draw for Marlins fans, who still remember him from his stint with their team back in 2003 when he helped the Marlins win the World Series. Come on; won't someone sign this highly valuable free agent? Anyone? Please???
So if Iván is forced to retire (gulp!), who can be my next baseball player to stalk - I mean, follow? When I first became interested in baseball back in the 80s, I was a big Ron Darling fan. I admit, not because he was an OK pitcher, but because he was good-looking. Then I followed Jim Abbott, the one-handed pitcher for the Angels. After Abbott fizzled, I became an ardent Kirby Puckett fan. His death at such a young age was very tragic for me, and I sought comfort in #7, the handsome and clean-cut catcher from Puerto Rico who could do no wrong. But now no one really stands out for me. I can't possibly follow Derek Jeter - that's way too "bandwagon." And Pujols is just - I don't know - he doesn't do it for me. Then there's Ryan Braun, but now that he may be suspended for the first 50 games of the season because of allegedly failing a drug test, he's off my list. I'm thinking of Ryan Zimmerman or Michael Morse, both of the Nationals and both really really good players. Zimmerman is too serious though; Morse is a jokester and has a carefree way about him. Hmmm... something to think about.
So while I ponder the thought of who my next baseball hottie will be, I will continue to count the days until the first game of Spring Training. 80 days and counting, my friends, and I can't wait! In the meantime, may you all have a wonderful holiday season this year, and may 2012 fill you and your families with good health and much happiness!