Manny Ramirez Signs with Oakland A's: 10 Saddest All-Time Career Finales

Tommy Stokke@StokkeTommyCorrespondent IFebruary 22, 2012

Manny Ramirez Signs with Oakland A's: 10 Saddest All-Time Career Finales

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    When Manny Ramirez agreed to a minor league deal with the Oakland Athletics, it marked the return of a career that is sad to see continue.

    Ramirez, once considered one of the best right-handed hitters of the era, is now more famous in punchlines than box scores.

    Ramirez isn't the only player with a sad ending to an otherwise great or promising career.

    Here are 10 players who went out on sad terms in what were otherwise great, or potentially great, careers.

10. Jorge Posada

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    Part of the "Core Four," Posada is enshrined in Yankee greatness forever. Posada was an integral part of five World Series championships for New York in his career.

    However, the end wasn't pretty.

    Posada hit just .235 in his final season while being benched for the majority of the 2011 season by manager Joe Girardi.

    And Posada wasn't happy about it.

    Posada was "very disappointed" in Girardi's decision, adding: "I'm not happy about it, but right now I can't do nothing about it," he said. "I put myself in this situation. I've just got to keep on working."

    There were even discussions about the possibility of releasing the catcher.

    Posada finished the season with the Yankees before retiring in the offseason, but his contributions were few and far between while dealing with swirling rumors about his future.

    Not exactly the way he probably envisioned his final season in pinstripes.  

9. Steve Howe

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    Drafted in the first round of the 1979 draft, Steve Howe made an instant impact for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    The lefty out of the University of Michigan made his debut in 1980 at 22 years old when he won the National League Rookie of the Year award.

    Howe led the Dodgers' relievers in wins with five in a World Series-winning 1981 season. He won Game 4 of the World Series against the Yankees and saved the deciding Game 6.

    His success continued with a 2.08 ERA in 1982 and 1.44 ERA in 1983 while recording 13 and 18 saves, respectively.

    From there, nothing went right for Howe.

    Howe checked himself into a substance abuse clinic for cocaine and alcohol. He was suspended the entire 1984 season for relapsing.

    He was out of the league again in 1986 and was released by the Texas Rangers in 1988.

    He returned in 1991, but he was banned for life from baseball in 1992 before being reinstated.

    In 1994, he recorded 15 saves for the Yankees, but the comeback was short-lived and he was out of the majors in 1996.

    The use of drugs cost Howe much more than a successful career, as he deceased in 2006 in an automobile accident resulting from his use of methamphetamine.

8. Mark Prior

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    Mark Prior was selected second overall in the 2001 draft, only behind Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer.

    Prior was considered a can't-miss prospect with perfect mechanics. Along with Kerry Wood, the two were supposed to be the future ace tandem of the Chicago Cubs.

    Prior recorded a 3.32 ERA in 19 starts his rookie year before going 18-6 with a 2.32 ERA in 2003. Prior finished third in Cy Young voting behind Eric Gagne and Jason Schmidt.

    From there, his list of injuries is greater than his accomplishments.

    In 2004, an injured Achilles tendon cost him two months. A sprained elbow cost him 15 days in 2005 before taking a line drive off the elbow later in May, adding another month to his injury time.

    Prior made only nine starts in 2006 because of elbow tendinitis. All of 2007 was lost because of shoulder surgery.

    After his Cubs career came to an end, he tried making a comeback with the San Diego Padres, New York Yankees and even spent time in independent baseball.

    Prior was released by the Yankees on November 2, 2011.

7. Babe Ruth

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    Babe Ruth was both a great pitcher and a great hitter, but that wasn't enough to satisfy Ruth throughout his career.

    It ultimately led to an unsatisfying finish.

    Ruth was traded to the Boston Braves with the hopes of becoming a player-manager. After not getting his wish, he played 28 games before deciding enough was enough.

    Ruth, who averaged 32 home runs and a .342 BA in his career, registered a .182 average while hitting just six home runs his final season. Ruth ended his career on an 0-for-13 skid.

    Much of his demise was due to a knee injury that plagued the out-of-shape Ruth.

    Ruth's legacy was a little tarnished by his lifestyle surrounding alcohol, women and high-spending. It was this irresponsibility that was deemed the reason for him not getting a managing job after his playing days.

    Ruth eventually died of throat cancer in 1948.

6. Barry Bonds

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    Barry Bonds' last season wasn't all that bad. In 2007, his final season, Bonds broke Hank Aaron's career home run record while hitting 28 homers and posting a .480 OBP.

    But all things considered, the end of Bonds' career was sad in light of what it once was.

    Bonds was often seen limping because of ailing knees, and if he didn't hit a home run, there wasn't much chance of reaching second base. He hit only 14 doubles and was a liability in left field.

    Bonds was greeted by boos almost everywhere he went during his final season due to the BALCO case surrounding him.

    With many calls for an asterisk next to his record, many baseball advocates look down on Bonds and his record for his reported use of performance-enhancing drugs.

    The real shame in the situation is that Bonds was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career before the 2001 season, where his numbers jumped astronomically from 49 home runs to 73 at the age of 37, not the typical time to improve in athletics.

    Now Bonds may not reach the Hall, even though he holds what is one of sport's most respected records.

5. Dwight Gooden

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    The fifth overall pick in the 1982 draft, Dwight Gooden didn't take long to reach success.

    At just 19, Gooden was called up by the New York Mets at the beginning of the 1984 season, one in which he won the National League Rookie of the Year award.

    That season was followed by winning the National League Cy Young award in 1985 while capturing the triple crown after leading the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA.

    The youngest Cy Young award winner ever finished 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA while striking out 268 batters in one of the most impressive seasons for a starting pitcher ever.

    The only way to top that season? By leading the Mets to a World Series championship in 1986.

    But when Gooden failed to show up for the parade, questions began circulating as to what happened to Gooden.

    Gooden tested positive for cocaine in spring training of 1987. He entered rehab and made just 25 starts that season, but he was a solid 15-7 with a 3.21 ERA.

    Injuries began to plague Gooden before testing positive for cocaine once again in 1994. He was suspended the entire 1995 season. He pitched for three teams in 2000, but his struggles continued and he was forced to walk away from the game.

    It's a shame for not only Mets fans, but baseball fans as well that we will never know what kind of career drugs took away from Gooden.

4. Sammy Sosa

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    Sammy Sosa ranks this high not for how his time in Texas ended, but how his career ended in Chicago and the strained relationship today.

    Sosa is the Cubs' all-time leader in home runs (545) and served as the face of the franchise for 10 seasons before a disheartening breakup seemed to have diminished everything he accomplished for the Cubs and baseball.

    Just like most breakups, the one between the Cubs and Sosa didn't end on good terms.

    Sosa, caught in his worst season since an injury-riddled 1994, asked to be taken out of the final game of the season in 2004. He was then caught on tape leaving the stadium before the game was over. This, along with the corked bat incident and alleged PED use, was the last straw for Cubs management.

    Sosa was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Mike Fontenot that offseason, and Sosa hasn't been acknowledged or welcomed back since.

    After a year with Baltimore and the Rangers each, Sosa officially retired in 2009.

    It's tough to imagine the fall from grace that Sosa experienced. Largely responsible for the rejuvenation of the popularity of baseball, Sosa was much more important than just what he did on the field. His influence in ticket sales and marketing across all of baseball is undeniable. There weren't many days that his home run chase with Mark McGwire wasn't the type of story on ESPN that Jeremy Lin or Tim Tebow is now.

    Regardless if he used PEDs or not, he was more important to baseball than he is recognized for now.

    Perhaps new ownership will be ready to welcome back the former star to Chicago.

3. Manny Ramirez

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    Manny being Manny used to be one of the most entertaining facets of baseball.

    Now? Not so much.

    Ramirez not only left a bad taste in the mouth of Boston fans, but his carnival act took stops to Los Angeles, Chicago as well as Tampa Bay.

    It was evident that his antics weren't worth his slow bat and lousy fielding. And there may be a glaring reason why.

    Ramirez finished 2008 with a combined 37 home runs and 121 RBI between the Dodgers and Red Sox. He started 2009 with a failed drug test.

    He was suspended 50 games for using PEDs. Upon his return, he hit 19 homers with 63 RBI, but his batting average dropped from .332 to .290. That's an alarming stat for a hitter once in the conversation for greatest right-handed hitter of all time.

    A midseason acquisition by Chicago White Sox general manager Kenny Williams in 2010 didn't pan out (shocker) when he acquired Ramirez, who hit just one home run in 24 games for the White Sox.

    If that wasn't enough, Ramirez hit just .059 in five games with Tampa Bay before receiving a second suspension for PEDs, this one for 100 games. He promptly retired, showing his lack of commitment to the sport and his team.

    His reputation for being fun-loving was quickly erased amid allegations of clubhouse disruptions that eventually led to problems at home.

    If that wasn't sad enough, he is now trying to make a comeback. He showed no positives in his brief stint with Tampa Bay or Chicago. Billy Beane is keeping the A's in the media, but I'm not sure this is a move that will work out in the end.

    Manny being Manny holds a whole other connotation than it did in Boston's World Series run in 2004.

2. Ken Griffey Jr.

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    Ken Griffey Jr. had the prettiest swing with the brightest future in the beginning of his career in Seattle.

    But after 11 seasons, Griffey Jr. left for the Cincinnati Reds.

    Caught up in injuries for the majority of his tenure there, it was easy to feel sympathy for the player that was to take down Hank Aaron's record by doing it the right way.

    But there wasn't much sympathy left for Griffey Jr. after his second stint with the Mariners.

    The Kid returned to Seattle to hit just .214 in 117 games in 2009. In 2010, Griffey hit .184 in 33 games.

    Poor performance was forgivable for all Griffey Jr. did in his prime for the Mariners. But what was later reported was not.

    Rumors swirled that Griffey Jr. was becoming a distraction in the clubhouse, as he would be unavailable to pinch-hit in games late in his career because he was sleeping in the clubhouse.

    Despite any tension that existed with manager Don Wakamatsu, sleeping in the dugout during a game in unfathomable.

    While it is, overall, a blip on the radar, it's a shame that Griffey's great career didn't turn out better.

    Griffey Jr. stands at fifth all time for home runs with 630. But he averaged just 21 home runs a season in his final 11 seasons after averaging 36 home runs in his first 11 seasons in the league.

    If Griffey Jr. stays on that average throughout his career, he storms past Aaron and Bonds and finishes with 796 home runs. That leaves him plenty of room for decline late in his career.

    Unfortunately, it's tough to say if baseball will think of The Kid in the backwards baseball cap with a smile on his face, striking a pose while watching a home run, or if they will remember the Griffey Jr. in Cincinnati with ankle, shoulder, knee and hamstring problems throughout his career.

    Normally, it'd be easy to remember the better days, but with lackluster numbers throughout the final 11 seasons of his career, and his last two years in Seattle, you can't help but ask, "What if?"

1. "Shoeless" Joe Jackson

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    "Shoeless" Joe Jackson committed baseball's biggest sin: Losing a game on purpose for money.

    It wasn't just any game. It was the entire 1919 World Series.

    Jackson was allegedly offered $5,000 to throw the World Series. As the star of the team, the black cloud largely looms over Jackson and his career.

    Angry over low pay from owner Charles Comiskey, Jackson and other teammates were willing to accept any added bonus and looked to get back at their owner.

    Jackson wasn't the only one involved, but the fact that he was involved at all is bad enough. His numbers suggest he may not have been involved (.375 batting average). But who knows what impact he could have had?

    Eight players were involved in all, so it would've been foolish for Jackson to have taken an obvious dive if he knew others were in on it as well.

    Jackson tried saving face while also being involved, but it ultimately hurt him the most.

    Jackson received a lifetime ban from baseball. Through 11 seasons, he batted .356 with a .413 OBP. With over 1,700 hits, it isn't out of the question to assume Jackson would have reached 3,000.

    Whenever athletes are at the championship level of their particular sport, it's often heard, "You never know when you'll get this opportunity again."

    Jackson wasn't hurt by injuries or addictions. Instead, he made a decision to accept money and give up his and his teammates' chance at the ultimate prize.

    It wasn't just him and Comiskey that he stole the opportunity from, but he stole the opportunity from his teammates and fans of the thrill of winning a World Series.

    Losing a career to injuries is sad. Not living up to potential because of drug use is sad. But there's nothing worse than costing yourself the rest of your career and the chance of a lifetime for an extra payday and revenge.