Major League Baseball has had its share of legends who played deep into their careers. Some of the most recent to finally hang up their spikes and walk away from the game include Ken Griffey Jr., Trevor Hoffman, and, barring an unexpected comeback, Andy Pettitte.
Each of the aforementioned players stuck around for a long time and were able to leave a lasting impression on the game we all love.
Over the last couple of seasons, team executives have turned their focus to building winning programs with young, athletic, and less-expensive players while the elder generation nears a mass exedos via retirement.
Many of our favorite players will soon be leaving the field and this wave of retirees could certainly see the 2011 campaign as one last "hoorah." Let's take a quick look at ten impact players who will retire following the upcoming season.
Career Highlights: 14-time All-Star, '99 AL MVP, 13-time Gold Glove, 7-time Silver Slugger, '03 World Series Champ
Ivan Rodriguez was the game's most dominant backstop for a decade, both with the glove and with the bat. He will be remembered for his intensity, his cannon of an arm, and the rare combination of power and speed that he displayed as a catcher.
Pudge's ability and desire to win were most prominent when he hung onto the ball after a collision at the plate in Game 4 of the 2003 NLDS, winning the series and the propelling the Marlins to a World Series title.
Rodriguez figures to lose playing time to Wilson Ramos as the season goes on and may not want to continue his career as a backup catcher after 2011.
Career Highlights: 2-time All-Star, 10 post-season home runs, '09 World Series Champ and WS MVP
Hideki Matsui has been one of the best Japanese hitters in MLB history, second only to Ichiro. He was a great player during his first three seasons in New York (330 RBI in that span) and has stayed healthy enough over the last two years to be productive.
That being said, Matsui posted the lowest slugging percentage of his career in 2010 and is now solely a designated hitter in a league that is trending more towards using multiple players in the DH spot.
Anything short of a huge year from the 36 year old Matsui could mean a significant reduction and salary 12 months from now on the free agent market.
Career Highlights: 3-time All-Star, .990 fielding percentage (as a catcher), 189 stolen bases
Jason Kendall was once an All-Star, top of the lineup hitter for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
He is now a bottom of the order contact hitter for the Kansas City Royals.
Kendall had his days but is now getting up there in age while declining in skills. His value resides solely in his ability to call a game and receive the ball as his arm strength has diminished and he offers little at the plate.
Career Highlights: 3-time All-Star, '05 Gold Glove, '05 Silver Slugger, .994 fielding percentage, 2-time World Series Champ
"The Captain" of Red Sox Nation will most likely retire after the 2011 season as his skills have certainly declined in recent years.
He lost a lot of playing time to Victor Martinez in 2010 and will likely see Jarrod Saltalamacchia get the majority of the innings behind the dish this summer but that does not take anything away from what Jason Varitek has been able to accomplish during his long career.
Tek's biggest moment was likely being a key part of the team that broke the curse and brought a championship back to Boston.
Career Highlights: 6-time All-Star, '99 NL MVP, 2-time Silver Slugger, 436 home runs, .405 OBP, '95 World Series Champ
Injuries have long been a concern with Chipper Jones and the toll they've taken on his body may lead to a retirement after the 2011 campaign.
Chipper has hinted in the past that he didn't want to keep playing if he wasn't producing at a high level and he has only hit .264 and .265 in the last two years, respectively. Those numbers aren't horrible by any means, but they're also not near his career average of .306.
Career Highlights: '08 All-Star, .310 average in post-season, 123 home runs
Age is not working against Milton Bradley at this point, but his anger problems certainly are.
Bradley has always been known as a talented but troubled outfielder who seemed to always be surrounded by drama. Things appeared to be improving when he signed a multiyear deal with the Cubs before the 2009 season but he struggled to start the year and was eventually suspended by the team.
An off-season trade to Seattle had Bradley excited for another fresh start but once again struggled with anger issues and poor play. Then in January, Bradley was arrested and later released for making a felony threat, according to the Mariners' website.
With no guaranteed spot in Seattle's lineup as the 2011 season draws near, Milton Bradley will have to earn a roster spot and re-establish himself as a legitimate player before he runs out of Major League opportunities.
This could be a make or break year for the 32 year old Bradley.
Career Highlights: '09 All-Star, '10 Roberto Clemente Award, 2-time World Series Champ, 193 wins
The knuckle-baller who once signed an extension that included a perpetual option may be taking the mound for the last time in 2011.
Over the last three years, Wakefield's ERA has been rising while his starts have been decreasing. This led to a few appearances out of the bullpen last season, his first games in relief since 2004.
He projects to be a reliever and spot-starter in upcoming year as the Boston rotation already sports names such as Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Career Highlights: 2-time All-Star, 1564 runs, 2-time World Series Champ
Johnny Damon, formerly known as the Caveman, has had a nice career, winning a World Series with both the Yankees and the Red Sox along with way.
His best asset has become his ability to get on-base but he no longer has the great speed that made him a legitimate top of the order threat in his prime.
Playing in Tampa Bay could also expose his defensive struggles as he figures to get a majority of his playing time left field with a healthy Manny Ramirez residing in the DH spot.
Damon will have a shot to continue his career as a DH after this season but it will be for a lower salary which he may not be interested in.
Career Highlights: 5-time All-Star, 2-time Gold Glove, 3-time Silver Slugger, 2-time World Series Champ, '10 WS MVP
Edgar Renteria was considering retirement this off-season before signing a deal to be the shortstop of the Cincinnati Reds.
Renteria had regressed at the plate for each of the last two regular seasons but was able to show that he can still be a difference maker during the 2010 post-season. He was clutch at the plate and in the field and is sure to be a positive influence with a young Cincinnati team.
He has been a steady player for over a decade and has enjoyed a great amount of success.
Career Highlights: .362 OBP, 285 home runs, 955 RBI, 2-time World Series Champ
Pat "The Bat" Burrell, the former first overall draft pick, is coming off his second World Series title in three years.
During his earlier playing days with Philadelphia, Burrell was a feared, impact player in the middle of the lineup. He proceeded to struggle mightily for a year and a half with the Tampa Bay Rays before rebuilding some value down the stretch with the 2010 San Francisco Giants.
Burrell once again encountered a rough patch during the post-season and had an even worse World Series (0-13 with 11 strikeouts).
According to www.baseballreference.com, Burrell was only able to secure a $1MM contract to re-sign with the Giants earlier this off-season. It'll be tough for him to match the numbers he put up in the second half of last year which could make it difficult to find a contract much larger than $1MM after 2011.
Others who could decide to retire after the 2011 season include Roy Oswalt, Omar Vizquel, Arthur Rhodes, Darren Oliver, Vladimir Guerrero and Manny Ramirez but I see this bunch hanging around for at least one more year after this.
Which other players that are currently making a significant impact do you think will be pondering retirement after the upcoming season?