Welcome to the wacky world of Tampa Bay second basemen! Yes, these are the Rays,and thanks to the magic that was Joe Maddon and the cunning that is Kevin Cash, the middle infield assignments at Tropicana Field have been nothing short of lively. Lets begin the High-Five of Tampa Bay Second Basemen.
Since Maddon’s arrival in 2006, the second base stats at Tampa Bay have been, more often than not, glued-together snippets of three or four players’ 50-ish game stints at the position. All that cutting and pasting of numbers leaves a mess behind for the armchair ranker to sort out. When all is said and done, the five men sitting at the top are not who you’d expect. Exhibit one; Sean Rodriguez at No. 5.
No. 5: Sean Rodriguez
The Tampa Bay Numbers
Home runs: 40
Batting average: .228
Games played at 2B: 205
Fielding percentage: .989
Looking at the numbers above, you’ve got to shake your head. Apart from relatively solid defensive numbers, Sean Rodriguez’s stats hardly scream “Fifth best in team history!” But I hold to my position that “Serpico” belongs on this list. Here’s why…
Sean Rodriguez played hard. Very hard. At times, some could argue too hard. Remember the cooler incident? The cooler certainly does. No matter if you cheered on or cringed at Rodriguez’s fiery attitude, there was never any doubt that the man’s heart was in every play. But there was more than fire to Rodriguez’s game. Let’s have a look at the numbers.
During his five seasons in Tampa Bay (2010-2014), Rodriguez played 205 games at second base. Admittedly, not a huge number, but this was the era of Maddon. Everybody played everywhere. This was hardly Sean Rodriguez’ fault. However, in 2010, Rodriguez did manage to play 92 games at the position. Committing only six errors in 366 chances, Rodriguez collected 222 assists, participated in 56 double plays and recorded a fielding percentage of .984 at second base. A very solid defensive season.
Coincidence or not, 2010 was offensively Rodriguez’s best in a Rays’ uniform. He hit .251 in 343 at-bats, driving in 40 runs on 86 hits and nine homers. He scored 53 runs while stealing 13 bases. At the end of the year, Rodriguez had a .705 OPS and a WAR of 3.7. Impressive for a man who played in only 118 games (92 at second base) that season.
Unfortunately, Rodriguez never got the opportunity to improve on those numbers. The remaining years in Tampa Bay, he played only sporadically at second base (48 games in ’11, 37 games in ’12, five games in ’13 and 23 games in ’14). Without that stability on the field, he suffered at the plate. In December of 2014 the Rays traded Rodriquez to the Pittsburgh Pirates where infamy and a cooler at Wrigley Field would await him.
No, Sean Rodriguez did not play a lot at second base in Tampa Bay. But neither did anybody else for a whole lot of years. His numbers were never flashy, but they were good. Remember, all things are relative, especially at Tropicana Field. So, it is with a smirk of disbelief and a wry chuckle, that the No. 5 spot on the Tampa Bay High-Five of Second Basemen goes to Sean Rodriguez.
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Next time, we’ll all see who claims the spot of No. 4. I’m still wrestling it all out myself. Welcome to the wacky world of Tampa Bay second basemen, indeed.