Derek Jeter and the 12 Other MLB Players That Need to Retire Now
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In May, I wrote a piece called “The 15 MLB All-Stars Who Really Ought to Retire. Now.” Like a weak-kneed testifier called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, I named names: I stated exactly who among the game’s former greats I thought ought to hang up their spikes.
I was right about a number of them. Since publishing the piece, both Kerry Wood and Omar Vizquel have walked away from Major League Baseball. And now that the season’s done and the postseason is reaching its climax, it seems like the right time to revisit that list and name my new list of MLB players that need to retire. Now.
1. Vladimir Guerrero
Guerrero in his last MLB game, in 2011.
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Don’t take this the wrong way: I loved Vlad the Impaler. Still do, in fact. I’ve loved him since he came up with the
Washington Nationals Montreal Expos (yes, he’s that old), even though his rookie card looks like he’s playing Halloween dress-up in his big brother’s uniform. But here’s the thing: he’s got to go ahead and declare his retirement from the game.
Yes, it’s frustrating that a man with Guerrero’s stat line—.318 lifetime BA, 449 career homers, 1,496 RBI—can have a great year like he did with the Orioles in 2011, then find no takers in the free agent market. And it’s a shame that he was resigned midseason by the Blue Jays and then got cut, despite producing in his warm-up assignment in the minors.
But you know what? He’s 37, and he’s a year out of the pros. As great as he was, it’s time for him to hang ‘em up. There’s no need for him to go begging. Vlad will end up in the Hall of Fame.
2. Manny Ramirez
Manny posed in his A's uniform despite never taking a regular season at-bat for the team.
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While we're on the subject of “unsigned free agents” who don't play for any team, yet insist that they are pro ballplayers (cough, Rickey Henderson, cough), let’s consider our old friend ManRam. Manny’s been “just being Manny” on his couch eating Bon Bon's for a while now.
His outright antipathy for the strictures of the game these last few years have overshadowed his great offensive numbers, and between multiple lackluster shortened seasons and a string of half hearted comebacks—the most recent being a brief, ugly stint with Oakland's AAA team—the idea of any major league manager wanting to put him on a lineup card sounds downright laughable.
We're sad to see Vlad Guerrero go. But in the case of Manny, we're happy to watch him leave.
3. Chipper Jones
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While we’re on the subjects of third basemen walking away gracefully, can we all just give a golf clap for Chipper?
One of the greatest players of his generation, Chipper Jones has personified Braves baseball for two decades. And he’s walking away the right way: with his head held high.
Though he hasn’t officially announced his retirement yet, everyone knows it’s coming. And when it does, they ought to put a statue of him outside of Turner Field.
4. Jamie Moyer
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Moyer broke records this season. He’s not only the oldest pitcher ever to win a game in the MLB, he’s also the oldest player to hit an RBI. That’s right, Moyer set records this year on both sides of the plate.
Cooperstown has already asked for Moyer’s effects, and yet, the nearly 50 year-old free agent—released three times this season—maintains that he’s still on the market.
We get it,
Wooderson Jamie. You keep gettin’ older and they keep stayin’ the same age. Though there’s grass on the field and you keep nailin’ ‘em—the hitters, that is—that doesn’t make it right. It's time to walk away.
5. Derek Jeter
Jeter, after breaking his ankle fielding a grounder.
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You knew he'd be here—his name is in the article’s title.
In Derek Jeter’s junior-high yearbook he was voted most likely to one day play shortstop for the New York Yankees—that’s just how made he’s been for his role. He’s a 13-time All Star, a member of the thirteen-hit club, and he’s effectively guaranteed to have his number retired by the Yankees—No.2, right between No.1 Phil Rizzuto and No.3 Lou Gehrig—and his name enshrined with his teammates in Cooperstown. Jeter’s great—his .316 average and league-leading 216 hits this year proved that he’s still great. But it’s time for him to go.
Derek Jeter’s ankle is fractured. The break can be helped by offseason surgery, but the problem will remain. His ankle was weak even before the injury this postseason, and Jeter is on the tail end of a career that has spanned eighteen years in the pros—that’s a long time.
No one’s saying he’s not a competitor. Even Pete Rose, the hard-nosed embodiment of baseball scrappiness, has said as much (although, admittedly, while rejecting Jeter’s chances of breaking Rose’s all-time hits record). But pushing 40 years of age, Derek Jeter is just about out of time.
6. Jason Bay
Jason Bay isn't getting it done on the basepaths, either.
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Here’s a guy who would love to have Jeter’s excuse for his performance: Jason Bay.
After an All-Star year in Boston, Bay hoodwinked the formerly free-spending Mets into offering him $16 million per year. And what have the Mets gotten for this outlay?
2010: .259 BA, 6 HR, 47 RBI in 95 games.
2011: .245 BA, 12 HR, 57 RBI in 123 games.
2012: .165 BA, 8 HR, 20 RBI in 70 games.
And people wonder why America has so much sovereign debt. If New Yorkers will offer this much to a weak-hitting Canadian left fielder, isn't it a given we're overpaying for foreign oil?
7. Scott Rolen
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Scott Rolen was great once. He really was. Rolen, a former Rookie of the Year winner just like Jason Bay, has seven All-Star nods and seven Golden Glove awards to his credit.
Now, he's a third baseman with no speed or power who’s struggled to stay healthy and whose combined OPS over the past two seasons is hovering in the high .600’s.
Scott, your love of playing the hot corner for red-and-white NL teams (The Phillies? The Cardinals? The Reds?) has not gone unnoticed. But it’s about time for you to recognize you’re not getting any younger, faster or stronger, and it’s time for you to go.
8. Bobby Abreu
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From one old-timer to another.
Bobby Abreu would love to have his detractors believe that he really stuck one in the eye of the Angels, who released him very early this season, when he caught on with the Dodgers and provided spot hitting for his old team’s crosstown rivals. But here’s the thing: he hit just under .250 in about 200 at-bats, with an OPS barely over .700.
Is this something to celebrate?
Bobby Abreu’s trying to play the old-guy-in-the-outfield card like he’s some sort of stoic Johnny Damon. But he isn’t. His bat has lost the pop, he’s not fast anymore, and as his preseason comments to the press have shown he’s a grumbler. With the free agent market as it is, there’s no way he’ll get anything close to the $9 million he commanded last year—nor is there any chance his ego will let him believe he’s worth a penny less.
9. Johnny Damon
Damon in a rare up moment this year for the Indians.
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And while we’re on the topic of Johnny Damon, let’s call the man himself to the plate.
All that has been said about Abreu could be repeated about Damon. His pop is gone; his speed is gone, too. He’s finished out his third of three straight single-season contracts shuffling time between DH, outfield, and spot hitting, and each year, his output has been poorer.
They liked Damon in Kansas City, they loved him in Boston, and they even begrudgingly put up with him in New York while he could still play. But time waits for no man, and it’s Johnny Damon’s time.
10. Chone Figgins
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Chone Figgins had the audacity to tell reporters that he “couldn’t take” playing for a losing team like the Mariners any more after the season they’ve had this year.
That’s quite a comment from Figgins, who followed up his .188 season at the plate for Seattle in 2011 with a .181 year in 2012.
Chone, here’s a news flash: the feeling is mutual. If the Mariners could get out of the next two years at $9 million a pop they have on your contract, they surely would. And if you hate playing in Seattle so much, just retire. M’s fans would thank you for it.
11. Brandon Inge
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While we're on the subject of players who've lost the ability to hit, consider poor Brandon Inge. (Well, not that poor: the one-time All-Star has made over $40 million across the span of his career, according to Baseball-Reference.com). He followed up a sub-Mendoza Line 2011 with a .218 average split between two squads this last season.
Inge hasn’t hit over .250 since 2006. At 35, his power and arm have long since peaked, as well.
Even if Inge doesn’t retire outright, it’s unlikely anyone will sign him in the free-agent market. Who wants a washed-up third baseman whose knees are shot from coming up as a catcher?
Inge at least got to enjoy his last year playing for the Tigers and A’s, two strong squads. He should relish the memory and walk away from the MLB.
12. James Loney
One of these guys is already gone from Boston...
Chone Figgins and Brandon Inge lost their ability to hit. James Loney never had it in the first place.
Loney is arguably the worst-hitting everyday first baseman in baseball. He doesn’t hit for average and he doesn’t hit for power—his 72 at bats-per-HR ranks him last among everyday first baseman in the bigs, and Loney has never hit more than 15 home runs in any season in his seven-year career. His career OPS is a paltry .758, and he doesn’t even have a particularly good eye at the plate—Loney averages under 40 walks per season.
Despite being a miserable hitter, James Loney won’t actually actively retire—he’s only 28, ostensibly at his athletic peak—but he should. No GM in his right mind in pro baseball should even consider signing this anchor around the neck.
13. Brad Lidge
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Brad Lidge was once one of the game’s best closers. But closers have short shelf lives, and Lidge's career has expired.
The 35 year-old Lidge pitched 9.1 innings in 11 games for this year’s surprise NL East champs, the Washington Nationals. In those 9.1 innings, he gave up 10 earned runs, building himself an ERA of 9.64 before receiving his outright release.
Lidge is technically listed as a “free agent”, but he really ought to consider himself “free to do whatever he wants,” because no pro baseball team will want to sign him.
You were a champion with the Phillies during their postseason runs, Brad—22 games, 20.1 IP, 12 saves and just 4 earned runs allowed is none too shabby. But like the rest of the players on this list, your time has come.