Fernando Rodney signed his first professional baseball contract before Juan Soto was born. He has been pitching in the major leagues longer than Switzerland has been a member of the United Nations. He has appeared in more games than Cy Young.
Clearly, Rodney has been around the game of baseball for a while. His first postseason appearance came on October 10, 2006. It was Game 1 of the ALCS between the Rodney-having Tigers and the not-Rodney-having Athletics. He faced eight hitters that night, including now-Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, later-to-be NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro, and good-but-never-elite Nick Swisher.
On Tuesday night, Rodney will be in uniform for his 16th different playoff series. He’ll likely pitch in a game before the World Series is over, which will add yet another interesting factoid to his legacy. If — or likely, when — Rodney appears in the 2019 Fall Classic, he will have pitched in an AL and NL Wild Card Game, plus the ALDS, NLDS, ALCS, NLCS, and World Series for both an AL and an NL team.
To add a cherry on top, Rodney has also pitched in the All-Star Game for both leagues and in the World Baseball Classic for every country. I’m joking about the latter fact, though Rodney was named to the All-World Baseball Classic Team as a member of the Dominican Republic squad in 2013, when the D.R. won gold.
But perhaps more remarkable than Rodney’s seemingly inevitable postseason feat is that he’s not the only ballplayer able to make such a claim. Jon Lester can also boast this achievement, as can Ben Zobrist and Carlos Beltrán.
Here’s a quick look at how each of these four players have gone about — or in the case of Rodney, will go about — filling out their postseason resumes. Each team and year listed represents when the player made his first appearance in the series. For example, Jon Lester was on the 2007 Red Sox team that played in the ALDS, but he didn’t pitch in the ALDS until 2008, as Boston swept the Angels in 2007. The yellow cells represent players who checked off a playoff round together:
|Player||ALWC||NLWC||ALDS||NLDS||ALCS||NLCS||WS (AL)||WS (NL)|
|Fernando Rodney||2013 TBR||2017 ARZ||2013 TBR||2015 CHC||2006 DET||2015 CHC||2006 DET||2019 WSH|
|Jon Lester||2014 OAK||2018 CHC||2008 BOS||2015 CHC||2007 BOS||2015 CHC||2007 BOS||2016 CHC|
|Carlos Beltrán||2015 NYY||2012 STL||2016 TEX||2004 HOU||2017 HOU||2004 HOU||2017 HOU||2013 STL|
|Ben Zobrist||2013 TBR||2018 CHC||2010 TBR||2016 CHC||2008 TBR||2016 CHC||2008 TBR||2016 CHC|
There are so many fun takeaways from this. For one, across these four players, there are six World Series rings. Zobrist and Lester garnered two of their six total championship rings together — with the 2016 Cubs, though Zobrist can also wear 2015 Royals’ bling, and Lester can also sport his 2007 and 2013 jewelry from those Boston teams. Beltrán, meanwhile, retired after winning his lone ring in 2017. And for all of the years (and playoff rounds) in which he has played, Rodney’s fingers lack any such finery. He’ll look to play his part in changing that starting tonight.
Beltrán’s case, in particular, is interesting, as he reached the NLDS, the ALCS and NLCS, and the World Series all with the Astros. Beltrán’s lap of the postseason rounds is partially thanks to Houston’s move to the Junior Circuit in 2013. And despite being known for his career with the Royals and Mets, he did not appear in any postseason round for the first time with either of those teams. It wasn’t until the Royals dealt him to Houston midway through the 2004 season that Beltrán experienced October baseball, and even after signing a seven-year, $119 million contract with the Mets, he only appeared in the postseason once with New York. This was in 2006, when he was bestowed repeat appearances in the NLDS and NLCS by the baseball gods. The Cardinals defeated the Mets in seven games that year, en route to their first World Series title since 1982. Had Yadier Molina not smacked this home run (Mets fans, don’t click) in the ninth inning of Game 7, perhaps Beltrán and the Mets would have at least appeared in the World Series. They may have also won it.
Who did those 2006 Cardinals defeat in the World Series? You bet, it was the Fernando Rodney-having Detroit Tigers. (Those Tigers also featured a young Justin Verlander, the Astros’ scheduled Game 2 starter) Rodney didn’t pitch that well in that series, appearing in four of the five games, including a pivotal blown save in Game 4. Nursing a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning, with a chance to knot the series at two games apiece, the Tigers brought Rodney into the game. Disaster ensued. David Eckstein doubled to center after Curtis Granderson tripped in the grass…
…and the score was tied on a Rodney errant throw trying to field a bunt:
That’s not what you want.
Preston Wilson would drive home another run later in the inning to give the Cardinals a 4-3 lead, and they would eventually go on to win the game 5-4.
Surely, Rodney hopes that this World Series will be different. It’s been 13 years. I had just started kindergarten when Rodney made that errant throw. I’m a freshman in college now. Time has passed; we’ve all moved on. This time around, I’m rooting for Rodney, not just to pitch and create some more baseball history, but to succeed. What he’s been able to do on a big league mound in incredible; not many of us are able to say we’ve been among the best of the best at our profession for 18 years, but Fernando Rodney can. And when he appears in the World Series at some point over the next week-plus, his story will get just a little bit cooler.
Devan Fink is a Contributor at FanGraphs. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.