Friday, February 25, 2011

Like Inge, Rodriguez Was Mostly Field, Less Hit

He played as a contemporary of Brooks Robinson, which meant that the Gold Glove would be as off limits to him as a cookie to a child before dinner.

I can see him in action now, without even closing my eyes: the graceful snag of a smash targeted for left field, followed by the snap throw to first base that was lasered into the mitt of Norm Cash, Jason Thompson, or whoever the Tigers had planted there.

He was Aurelio Rodriguez, the smiling third sacker who ought to come to mind to Tigers fans old enough to remember him, as they assess the team's current custodian of the Hot Corner.

The comparison between Rodriguez and Brandon Inge is apt, because both had gloves of gold but bats of tin.

Like Inge, who is decried today for his low batting average and propensity for strikeouts, Rodriguez swung a puny bat for the Tigers when he played for them from 1971-79.

Aurelio's high water mark as a Tiger was .265, in limited duty in 1978. Mostly, there were a lot of .220s, .230s, and .240s on his record.

And like Inge, Rodriguez had some occasional pop; he could slam a home run if you threw a bad pitch.

But oh, that glove.

Rodriguez led the American League in fielding percentage for third sackers with a robust .978 in 1976, committing just nine errors in 128 games.

His arm was phenomenal, the laser throws often preceded by a patient double cocking that signaled, "I'm about to throw you out now by half a step."

Aurelio Rodriguez: 1947-2000

Rodriguez was a frequent occupant of eighth or ninth in the Tigers' batting order, typically swapping those spots with shortstop Eddie Brinkman, the quintessential good field, no hit infielder.

Rodriguez, Brinkman, and pitchers Joe Coleman and Jim Hannan came to the Tigers from Washington after the 1970 season in the celebrated trade which shipped pitchers Denny McLain and Norm McRae, 3B Don Wert and OF Elliot Maddox to the Senators.

It was one of the biggest steals in Tigers history.

There's no real point here today, other than when I think of Brandon Inge, I can't help but also think of Aurelio Rodriguez, himself a fan favorite back in the day.

Sadly, Rodriguez died tragically, being hit by a runaway car in southwest Detroit on September 23, 2000.

The Happy Mexican was but 52 years old.


Blogger xman said...

I'm shocked that an Inge column hasn't been peppered with his defenders and his critics!
You make a good analogy between third sackers, Greg...I'd only add that Aurelio received but a fraction of the attention that Brandon gets.

4:33 PM  

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