by Paul Semendinger
(Continuing a series…)
Aurelio Rodriguez was a terrific defensive third baseman who, like others in that era, including Graig Nettles, probably deserved some consideration for more Gold Gloves, but couldn't ever win one because the award went to Brooks Robinson every single year. And there were some years when Brooks Robinson was not the best fielding third baseman in the American League.
In 1970, for example, both Rodriguez and Nettles had more assists than Brooks Robinson. They also turned more double plays and both had a higher Total Zone Run ranking as well (even though that statistic wasn't yet invented).
In 1971, Nettles led the league in putouts, assists, and double plays.
In 1972, it was Rodriguez who led in putouts and assists and he was second in the league in double plays (behind Rico Petrocelli).
In 1973, Nettles led the league in assists and both he and Rodriguez turned more double plays than ol' Brooks.
I could go on...
None of this is to say that Brooks Robinson wasn't a great third baseman. He was, of course. But, there was a time when it was seemingly preordained (or so it seems in retrospect) that Robinson would get the award every single year whether he was the best defensive third baseman or not. He won the Gold Glove every single year from 1960 through 1975.
It was Aurelio Rodriguez who broke the streak set by Brooks Robinson by winning the Gold Glove award in 1976. Nettles then won the Gold Glove in 1977 and 1978. Buddy Bell went on to win the award for the next six seasons beginning in 1980. I have to wonder if he also deserved the award all those years, but that's a topic for another day.
When awards are handed out at the end of a season, those awards impact on the legacy of each player. When awards are denied to certain players, their legacies get somewhat tarnished. When awards are given frivolously to other players, their reputations become artificially inflated.
When players are looked at for considerations of things like salary, the lack of awards can have a negative impact on their earning power. When a player is later considered for the Hall of Fame, their awards history is often a big part of the discussion. Players are compared to each other based upon their awards history:
"How many MVPs did he win?"
"How can you keep a player with that many Gold Gloves out of the Hall of Fame?"
On and on and etcetera.
Some great player never win MVP awards. Derek Jeter is a great example. But, for the borderline guys, players like Graig Nettles, the lack of Gold Gloves certainly impacts the way they are remembered. Nettles probably deserved a few more.
As did Aurelio Rodriguez.
Now, Rodriguez was not a Hall of Fame third baseman, but he's largely forgotten today, mainly because he never was able to earn an award he probably deserved a few times. An award denied to him because it was easier just to say, "Brooks Robinson is the best, let's give him the award."
Rodriguez played 17 years in the big leagues. He played in 2,017 games. His career began in 1967 with the Angels. In 1970, he played with the Angels and the Senators, The Senators then sent Rodriguez as part of a pretty big trade to the Tigers. That trade included Denny McLain and Elliott Maddox going to the Senators. Rodriguez would go on to spend the rest of the 1970s with the Detroit Tigers.
In 1980, Rodriguez played for the Padres and then the Yankees who he was also with in 1981.
The Yankees acquired Rodriguez because Graig Nettles came down with hepatitis in 1980 and they needed a third baseman. Rodriguez was the man they brought in. He played in 52 games that year for the Yankees and batted just .220. He never was much of a hitter, as his lifetime .237 lifetime batting average clearly states, but in 1981, he did bat .346 in the 27 games he played in pinstripes.
After playing with the Yankees Aurelio Rodriguez also played for the White Sox and the Orioles. After his big league career, he went to the Mexican League and won two Most Valuable Player awards.
Aurelio Rodriguez was a player who isn't much remembered today. He was a Yankee for all of 79 games over two seasons. I don't think many fans even know or remember that he wore pinstripes. He wasn't a great player, but as a point of reference, his lifetime bWAR (15.1) is similar to another Yankees third baseman, Scott Brosius (15.7).
It's a shame Aurelio Rodriguez is mostly forgotten. If he had won a few more Gold Gloves that he deserved, maybe he wouldn't be.