The Nationals are headed to play the Mets in New York, where this weekend, the biggest current story in baseball unfolded across town, in the Bronx. You already know about the details of the tabloid-ready headlines caused by the Jorge Posada flap. Handling the insubordination of 39-year-old catcher, for several days, became the Yankees’ biggest problem.
The Nationals, meantime, floated through their games this weekend without anyone noticing Ivan Rodriguez, aside from maybe the two hits he smacked and three runs he drove in Sunday. Rodriguez, since he sat in favor of Wilson Ramos on the second day of the season, has had many chances to express frustration or disappointment about his diminished role. On each occasion, he has been a model teammate.
In both his play and his attitude toward his role, Rodriguez has been the anti-Posada. Rodriguez, at 39, remarkably remains one of the best defensive catchers in the league, having thrown five of 12 base stealers. Offensively, Rodriguez is more limited. He’s hitting 238./273./.397 , and his .670 OPS ranks 17th among National League catchers. You do a lot worse with a part-time catcher.
Rodriguez has ceded most of his playing time to Ramos, though, having started 17 of 41 games this season, batting eighth in seven of those. He sits 168 hits away from 3,000 for his career, a milestone that he deeply cares about, and every missed at-bat is another chance he could have had to take one step closer. But not once has he complained, or even hinted at displeasure with his place on the Nationals.
“This is my first year doing this role,” Rodriguez said last week in Atlanta. “When I get my opportunity, I play. The good thing is, we have two good catchers on this ball club who can do the job. Wilson is doing a good job, and that’s a good thing.”
Rodriguez’s teammates have noticed. “He comes in here, they hit him eighth, he doesn’t say a thing,” one Nationals player said, motioning toward Rodriguez. “That guy is a beast.” His compliance sends a strong message to the rest of the clubhouse: If one of the best catchers of all time is not going to gripe about less playing time or a lesser role, how can anyone else?
All of this may or may not have a direct correlation on the Nationals’ win-loss record. It certainly does not hurt. Either way, it speaks to how professionally Rodriguez has comported himself with the Nationals, especially this season. If Posada is going to be excoriated for his behavior, then Rodriguez should be celebrated for his.
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 4, Norfolk 3: Craig Stammen allowed three runs in six innings on nine hits and no walks, striking out seven. Gregor Blanco went 0 for 2 with two walks. Jesus Flores went 1 for 4.
New Britain 4, Harrisburg 1: Stephen Lombardozzi went 2 for 4. Derek Norris went 2 for 4 with a double. Shairon Martis allowed no runs in seven innings on three hits and one walk, striking out five.
Frederick 2, Potomac 0: Eury Perez went 2 for 3. Paul Demny allowed two runs in six innings on five hits and three walks, striking out four.
Hagerstown was postponed.