30 games into the 2012 MLB season, a number of storylines have begun to crystallize across the league.
The St. Louis Cardinals remain strong, even without Albert Pujols. The Los Angeles Dodgers are resurgent, perhaps due to at last having shed the weight of the TMZ-style drama that was their old ownership.
The Texas Rangers are still great, Cubs fans are in for another very long year and, somehow, the boys at Camden Yards are holding off all of the other teams that folks had figured would outperform the O’s in the AL East—which is to say, everybody.
That said, with the exception of the aforementioned Pujols, most of the stories to date about individual players have covered only those who have excelled—Matt Kemp, David Wright and the like.
This article will not be one of those.
No, for the next few minutes, we here at Bleacher Report will be investigating the players who need to call it quits—the ones for whom the fat lady is singing. And we won’t just be looking at utility guys, either. What follows is a list of 15 former All-Stars who, for the benefit of themselves, their teams, their fans and their own dignities, need to quietly walk off into the sunset.
Now, before it’s too late.
Oh, poor Mariano. He’s a great player, a heck of a competitor and baseball's all-time leader in saves. He’s a lock for the Hall of Fame, a five-time World Series winner and a champion.
And he’s also crippled. We’ve all seen the video: While shagging flies during batting practice before a game against the Kansas City Royals—part of his regular workout routine, apparently—Rivera misstepped and tore his ACL.
Most athletes need up to a year of rehab to recover after ACL surgery—and that’s if they’re young. Mariano Rivera is 42 years old.
I hate to sound callous, but it’s time for Rivera to hang ‘em up.
No one likes seeing an aging wonder trying to hang on past due. (Remember how tough it was to watch Muhammad Ali without all his faculties, back when they kept showing him on TV despite his deteriorating state?)
So Mariano, even though you are much admired, please, understand that it’s time to step aside. For all of us.
Mets fans everywhere can likely get behind this one.
Bay enjoyed a promising start to his career in Pittsburgh, played a great year-and-a-half in Boston, then was signed to a monster of a deal with the New York Mets (four years at an average of about $15 million per year, according to Baseball Reference), at which point, he promptly forgot how to hit.
Since coming to Flushing after 2009, Bay is averaging 10 HRs per 500 ABs with a .250 batting average. What's more, he turns 34 during the tail end of the pennant race; this is not a guy who’s about to start getting better again.
Jason Bay, on behalf of everyone who's sick of paying $40 to sit in the nosebleeds at Citi Field: It's time for you to let go.
Look, I get it. Omar Vizquel doesn't want to retire; he's only about 150 hits away from reaching 3,000. Furthermore, the fact that he even made a regular-season roster as a 45-year-old position player is nothing short of outstanding.
That said, the guy is a shell of his former self. He’s denigrated into a spot platoon player who hasn’t managed to string together a season of even 350 ABs since George W. Bush was still in the White House. His speed is gone, and at the moment, he’s hitting .133 in limited action for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Omar, we love you. No one is going to forget your string of nine straight Gold Glove seasons at shortstop. You’re going to the Hall of Fame. But remember: you’ve got to retire to get elected as a player.
So just walk away, Omar. Walk away.
Brad Lidge was great once. In the last decade, both the Astros and the Phillies rode his arm and ability to close games all the way to the World Series, and in ’09, Lidge even won a crown.
That, however, was long ago. Now, Lidge is mired in middle relief, and guess what? Old closers who lose their pop never get un-demoted.
And not only has his job been pulled away from him, but Lidge has also seemingly lost his ability to baffle hitters. His ERA is over 5.00, his WHIP hovers at around 2.000, and Lidge shows no signs of ever regaining that great form.
Old closers, like old horses, don’t really ever get put out to pasture with apples and sugar cubes aplenty. They get sent to the mucilage factory.
Let's not wait around to see that happen.
Whether or not you believe that Jimmy Rollins swiping the 2007 NL MVP Award from Matt Holliday—a man who not only bested him in every major offensive category, but also claimed the NL hits, RBI and batting average crowns for the season—was the biggest crime since George Lucas started mucking around again with the Star Wars movies, there’s no question that Rollins' output has fallen off precipitously in the last few years.
He’s hitting .223 and has zero HR in 112 ABs so far this season. That’s worse than the Pujols slump.
Rollins used to be so dangerous at the plate because he could beat you with power or with speed. Now, he’s barely even able to get on base. His pop is gone—four measly doubles on the year mark the extent of his extra-base hit production—and he’s not running much any more, either.
Rollins just re-signed with the Phillies over the offseason to the tune of $11 million per year, and I bet the team wishes it could have that money back. He’s overpaid, so no smart GM will accept him in trade. The only way the Phillies can exit this bad deal gracefully is if they can convince Rollins to just hang up his spikes and go.
And maybe, frankly, it's time for Rollins to do just that.
Jacoby Ellsbury has speed, power, fire, skill, athleticism and heart.
He also, apparently, has a body constructed entirely out of copper wire and tin foil.
Injured again, Ellsbury is showing that, despite his deep reserve of talent, his body may not be up to the rigors of daily play—at least, not in the high-intensity, full-throttle way he demands.
Ellsbury is great to watch, but so were Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield, and they finally hung up their cleats over the offseason as age finally caught up to them. Though Ellsbury’s still young, his body’s starting to betray him—maybe it’s time he follow his elders’ lead.
OK, James Loney isn’t actually an All-Star, so by rights, he shouldn't be featured here. Besides, if you really, really follow baseball, you know that there are some other non-stars who ought to think about calling it quits: journeyman career role-players like Matt Diaz, Austin Kearns, Clint Barmes and Rod Barajas, for instance, are all on their last legs, and they’re not getting profiled here.
So what gives?
Well, there's two things. First, Loney is playing for the potentially playoff-bound Dodgers. And he’s just not getting it done. Yes, a .202 batting average and one homer in 84 at-bats does in fact make him the better of the two L.A. first basemen so far this year, but just barely. And that's not something to cheer about.
Second, though Loney certainly has the build of an athlete, he has long been a liability at the plate. He’s never once, in his seven-year MLB career, knocked even 20 home runs in a season. Which, from a power position like first base, is troubling.
I’m sure Loney is a good guy. But like they say: You play in a big city, you get more media attention. Loney’s getting some, and it’s not all good.
It may be time—relatively soon—for Loney to hang 'em up.
Bobby Abreu had a great career. Only thing is, it should have ended in 2009.
Abreu is 38. He went from averaging in the .300 range a few years ago to hitting .250 over the last pair of seasons. This year, he’s right around .200.
Given that he’s too old to still play outfield on a regular basis, that makes him a natural DH with the offensive numbers of a shortstop.
Only problem is, Abreu's now in the National League.
No matter how you slice it, it’s about time for Abreu to hang ‘em up. Sure, it’s great that the crosstown Dodgers picked him up once the Angels realized last month they didn’t have space for him and cut him, but I would not be terribly surprised if Abreu finished the 2012 season left off of any team’s 40-man roster.
What's his upside? That's the part that's hard to see. It may well be time for Abreu to walk away.
Chone Figgins plays mostly third base and outfield, but he has no power. He had speed, but whereas he used to be good for 40-some steals in a season, last year, he only managed 11 (and he got caught more than a third of the time, to boot).
In his early 30s, Figgins could still hit around .300. Last year, he hit .188. For now, he’s doing better, but just barely—his 2012 batting average to date is .189.
Chone Figgins’ career is likely in its final days—he might even be out of the league by the time you read this. Sorry, Chone. We hate to see you go.
Jamie Moyer is 49 years old. After a year out of the game, he’s back. And he is killing it.
I know I said this was going to be an article about All-Stars who should retire, and it is. And you know who should retire? Not Jamie Moyer.
Moyer, the king of longevity, is leading the Colorado Rockies in starts. Without much run support, he’s managing to keep his head down and just play, holding his ERA—despite playing all his home games in hitter-happy Coors Field—right around 4.00.
It's impressive. So keep it up, Jamie. You give hope to us old fogies everywhere.
The odd man out when the Tigers signed Prince Fielder and shuttled Miguel Cabrera to third base, Brandon Inge has somehow found his way onto the Oakland A’s. But my guess is, he won’t be there—or anywhere—much longer.
A career .234 hitter, Inge has strung together a 12-year career on being willing to play just about anywhere. He’s fielded six of the nine positions on the field (curious? He's suited up everywhere but first base, shortstop and pitcher) and in ’09, he led the league in games played—and was named to the AL All-Star squad—despite stringing together just a .230 average.
All that’s over, though. He hit .197 in half a season last year, and he’s averaging just .140 right now. I don’t know why the A’s decided they wanted him, but he’s probably not going to be around the East Bay for long.
Poor Johnny Damon. Once the king of Kansas City, then the prince of Boston, then the duke of New York, now he’s now playing for his seventh MLB team...and it’s Cleveland.
Damon’s once-dangerous speed is gone, and so is his batting eye: He’s down to hitting a paltry .235. He doesn’t have the range to play center field anymore, so he’s relegated to platooning in left and at DH.
He's hanging on for now, but if the rest of the Indians outfielders weren’t having so much trouble at the plate, Damon would likely be gone already. In fact, by the All-Star break, he probably will be anyway.
So long, Johnny. See you at the A&P.
All right, all right, so he’s never been an All-Star yet. But after pitching a perfect game last month, you’ve got to imagine he will be this summer. And that gets him on the list.
So since he's the sudden darling of the South Side, why the call to retire? Because he’s hit his zenith. The guy’s pitched a perfect game! That’s as good as it’s ever going to get for him.
My advice? Get out while the getting’s good and your legacy is still intact, Humber. Buy yourself a car dealership or something. Just walk away now, while you still can.
You want to leave gracefully and with your head held high, not like our next pitcher on this list...
Oh, Kerry Wood, the one-time savior-to-be of the Cubs franchise. There’s no doubt the kid had talent. A Rookie of the Year award, a strikeout title—he had a major injury, yes, but he came back from that strong as ever.
But then he had another one. And then the powers that be moved him to the bullpen, and he was a great closer for a while. But then he got hurt a third time.
And that last injury just about did him in.
Now, the kid—doesn’t Kerry Wood still seem young?—is on the cusp of turning 35 years old. He hasn’t been a closer in three years, and as with Lidge, he ought to know that he’s never going to get called back up to a spot in the limelight. He was great once, but now, he’s a middling middle reliever just barely holding on.
Wood had great promise, but he was brought down by forces he could not control. That’s a shame, but it doesn’t mean that Wood isn’t subject to the same pressures as any other player. Back with the Cubs, at least, after a few stints elsewhere that never really felt right, his ERA has ballooned to 13.50 in his five games on the mound this season.
Let's not mince words: Now, it’s time for Kerry Wood to say his goodbyes to the game.
The last player on our list is Scott Rolen. An eight-time Gold Glover and seven-time All-Star, Scott Rolen is one of those players that for years was filed away in the back of everyone’s mind as a potentially dangerous player. He was always consistent, he always hit well and he always seemed like a guy who worked hard and loved to be out there.
And I can only imagine he does still work hard and he does still love it. But he happens to also be 37 years old, which is quite a few in baseball years—not to mention, he’s hitting .188 and getting paid $13 million to do it.
This is almost definitely going to be Rolen’s last year—no one is going to want to pay him the kind of money he’s used to making to age like poorly corked wine, which is to say, less than well.
For Scott Rolen, this is his last hurrah. It would be great if he could go deep into the postseason with the Reds and ride this train as far as it will go.
But either way, for Scott Rolen—as for the rest of the players profiled herein—2012 looks to be the end of the line.