September 11, 2008
The single-season save record he's chasing was set across the street, which might have put Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez in the perfect Answer Man mood for his session at U.S. Cellular Field last Saturday.
Usually ready for anything opposing teams pit against him, Rodriguez patiently but enthusiastically navigated a minefield of topics that included destination weddings, how he gets by without his once-trademark eyewear, what the world might be like under the mop top of Magglio Ordonez and why Venezuela worships the Cubs backup catcher, Hank White.
Q: People here in Chicago are under the impression that, of all the great Venezuelans playing ball in the U.S. — Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Zambrano, Johan Santana, Miguel Cabrera, you — that back home, Henry Blanco is the biggest deal. Is that true?
Francisco Rodriguez: Yeah, it is. He's really popular out there in Caracas. He's captain of the Lions, a winter league team. He has a tremendous personality and he's been around for a long time. He's one of those big-league players who's always, starting on the first day of the season back home, he's playing.
Q: After Chavez retires, do you think Henry can step in and run the country?
FR: Ha! Yeah, why not? He's got a pretty big crowd following him back home, so yeah.
Q: What do you think your delivery would look like if you had hair like Magglio's?
FR: Oh, man! I'd be real messed up. I don't think I would be able to see. That's really bad pelo (hair) right there. That's what we call it.
Q: Is Venezuela a good place for a destination wedding for someone from the United States?
Q: How come?
FR: I don't know, but for some reason, I can't see it, no. Not at all.
Q: Well, which country would you pick?
FR: Hmm. Well, let's see. You could go ... I think the U.S. would be fine.
Q: Stay in the U.S.? Wait. People say Costa Rica, or Belize or Trinidad would be good.
FR: I've never been to those places, but I've been to St. Martin and that's a really nice place.
Q: Is it true that your first glove was a milk carton?
FR: That is totally true.
Q: How long until it wore out?
FR: It would wear out quick; it would maybe last two or three games.
Q: Did you catch better with chocolate milk, or regular?
FR: I think it was regular milk.
Q: What would you have done if your family got its milk in bottles?
FR: Would have used my bare hand. I remember my second glove — after the ones I made with the milk cartons —was given to me from Carlos Subero, who's now the Double-A manager with the White Sox. He'd give me gloves and shoes.
Q: The U.S. gets so many players from Venezuela, should we be airlifting gloves and other supplies into there as a gesture of good faith and an investment in the future?
FR: Yeah, it should. Matter of fact, I've got an academy back home, from where I come from, and I supply all the kids with shoes, gloves and batting gloves. I just want to make sure they have what I didn't have.
Q: Vladimir Guerrero doesn't really say much in English interviews, so English-only speakers don't really know what he's like. So, what's he like?
FR: [Smiling]. He's a tremendous guy. A great character. He knows how to speak English, but he's shy to speak. He's a tremendous person. It's fun having him around.
Q: There are two Darrens in the bullpen, Oliver and O'Day — are the guys on the team always getting them mixed-up?
FR: Mmm, Oliver, we call "the Old Man." He's "El Viejo." And O'Day, we just go with the O'Day. We don't go by the first name with either. Always by the last name.
Q: Can you remember all of your nicknames?
FR: Oh, I do. Frankie, Francisco, Fran, Pancho, Kid, K-Rod, Nene (Baby), Nene Fran, Bebe. Oh, there's so many.
Q: Which is the most "you"?
FR: Nene Fran. Just because that's what my mom and dad, and all my closest friends, that's what they call me. I like that better than Frankie or K-Rod, or whatever.
Q: Doesn't K-Rod sound too much like A-Rod? It's just kind of ripping off him which, maybe five years ago, was cool. Now, maybe it's not as cool to be like A-Rod.
FR: I don't know what to tell you about that [laughs].
Q: In 2002 when the Angels brought you up in September, did you feel like a secret weapon?
FR: Kind of. I know the Angels knew what was being kept by them. But nobody else knew who I was. They didn't even know that I existed because I was down in the minor leagues.
Q: So many people miss your goggles. Why don't you wear them anymore?
FR: Because Oakley won't provide me. Oakley won't provide the glasses. They always play when I make the order, and the guy never talks to me and never sends me more glasses, so I stopped wearing them.
Q: Did you try someone other than Oakley?
FR: I tried different companies, different kinds and they wanted me to wear the glasses, but I didn't feel comfortable that much wearing them as I did with the Oakley glasses.
Q: Do you want money for a sponsorship?
FR: Nah. Not anymore. That don't matter. I made the adjustment with my contacts. I'll be fine. I don't think I'll be wearing the glasses anytime soon.
Q: Did goggles have special powers? X-ray vision? They looked like safety goggles, or something you'd use for soldadura (soldering) or in wood shop, shooting skeet.
FR: Ha! No, not at all. They were good enough to see through. My mom used to make fun of me and say the the glasses would power me. She would tell me that Superman without a cape isn't Superman, and Frankie without glasses isn't Frankie.
Q: Which Michael Jackson song gets your groove on the best?
FR: "Thriller." That was a really popular song back home, back in the day, when I was growing up.
Q: And you're a really good breakdancer?
FR: I used to be! Not anymore. When I was 4, 5 or 6 years old, yes. After so many beat-downs [laughs] my mom used to give me because I'd get dirty all the time, I had to stop.
Q: OK, but when the 58th save comes, why don't you break out the break dancing once again to celebrate? That would be the ultimate Francisco Rodriguez celebration.
FR: Ha! Nah, nah, nah. Not at all. I don't want to make nobody upset or get offended.
Q: But it's fun to celebrate.
FR: Yeah, it is. But sometimes people take it in a way, in a bad way, in the wrong way. I'm not trying to show up or offend anybody on the opposing team. That's just how I learned to show the passion that I've got for the game.
Q: Are you more conservative now in how you celebrate?
FR: I'm pretty much the same, I just go with how I feel with the adrenaline, with the game on the line. It's just the passion in me. When I stop doing that, that's when I'll have nothing left and I will retire.
Q: Can you sing like Michael Jackson? Cantante-Rod?
FR: I wish I would, but I can't. Honestly, I can't. I'm a bad singer.
Previous Answer Men:
• Hunter Pence - April 10 • Justin Morneau - April 17 • David Wright - April 24 • Erin Andrews - April 25 • Andy Van Slyke - May 1 • Derek Jeter - May 8 • Bob Uecker - May 15 • Bert Blyleven - May 22 • Torii Hunter - May 29 • Joba Chamberlain - June 3 • Larry Bowa - June 13 • Zack Greinke - June 20 • Kerry Wood - June 26 • Huston Street - July 10 • Josh Hamilton - July 15 • Milton Bradley - July 24 • CC Sabathia - July 31 • Mike Mussina - Aug. 7 • Jason Bay - Aug. 14 • Cole Hamels - Aug. 22 • Ron Santo - Aug. 28