By In Stuff

The Return of Jeter

There is really no doubt at all that Derek Jeter will return and play baseball in 2014. People talk about retirement and legacies and Willie Mays falling down in the outfield — and I’m sure there will be more of that talk all offseason — but I’m willing to wager you won’t hear Derek Jeter talk about any of that stuff. Jeter will be back because he has to come back. It’s in his nature. It’s in the nature of all the greats.

George Brett told me more than once that he wishes he had come back for one more season. When you look at Brett’s career,you can’t help but think he rode it out to the end. His last year, at age 40, he hit .266 (this after hitting .272 the previous two seasons) and had his first sub-100 OPS+. He retired in beautiful fashion, famously kissing home plate at Kauffman Stadium, a photograph that countless Kansas City fans have on their walls at home. He finished with 3,000 hits, with more doubles than anyone not named Speaker, Rose, Musial or Cobb (he has since been passed by Craig Biggio), with more great and memorable moments than just about anyone of his time.

Still, Brett wishes he’d come back, just to try it … he says he wishes that he had signed a league-minimum contract and come to spring training to compete for a job, just like he had as a kid in the minor leagues.

“Do you think you could have made it back?” I asked him.

“We’ll never know,” he said. “But, yeah, I do.”

A familiar story. Yaz, one of the great left fielders of all time, stayed around for four years as a semi-regular DH. He already had his 3,000 hits. He already was a Boston legend — soon, finally, he will have a statue at Fenway Park. He stayed anyway. He wanted to play ball.

Hank Aaron — a .300 hitter if there ever was one — hit .234 and .229 his final two seasons. Everyone knows about Ted Williams’ final at-bat but not as many know that at age 40, the greatest hitter who ever walked down the street hit .254, almost 100 points below his career average. He couldn’t let it end like that. He came back for another season. He somehow hit .316 and somehow hit that home run his last time up.

Al Kaline hit .255 and .262 his final two years — the last entirely as a DH. Stan the Man hit .255/.325/.404 as a 42-year old; at 37, his career batting average was .340. it ended at .331. Mike Schmidt hit .203 with six home runs in 42 games his final year. Cal Ripken, after feats of endurance that boggled the mind, spent his final three years as a part-time player. In his last he hit .239/.276/.361.

The baseball warrior Jackie Robinson hit .266 his final two seasons and the Dodgers actually traded him to the hated Giants. Instead, he quit and became president of the Chock full O’Nuts company. At the end, Tony Gwynn could still hit, but he could not stay on the field — he played just 107 combined games his final two seasons and walked away. A 41-year-old Wade Boggs hit .301 in 90 games for the 93-loss Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Ernie Banks hit .193 as a 40-year-old and realized, painfully, that it was over.

Robin Yount hit .257/.330/.381 his final four seasons and said goodbye. The bat magician, Rod Carew, who had hit .300 for 15 straight seasons, failed to hit .300 as a 38-year-old (he hit .295). He came back at 39-year-old, hit even lower (.280) and gave in. Mickey Mantle stayed on those painful knees as long as he could — he hit .245 as a 35-year-old, came back with the hope of turning it around, and hit .237 and slugged sub-.400 for the only time in his career. Much of it was context. Mantle’s walks still made him very valuable and those were two years when pitching dominated the game. Still, after that .237 season he walked away.

Willie Mays, as we know, played another five seasons, and in the last he hit .211 for the Mets.

Paul Molitor, who seemed ageless, had an 86 OPS+ his final year. Dave Winfield hit .290, .271, .252 and .191 progressively his last four years. Ken Griffey got hit 600th homer, returned to Seattle, hit .214 and then tried to come back one more time to no avail (.184 in 33 games). Harmon Killebrew tried a season with the Royals. Tom Seaver tried a season with the Red Sox. Steve Carlton tried to hook up with the Giants, the White Sox, the Indians and the Twins. Ty Cobb played with the Philadelphia Athletics. Frank Robinson played for and managed the Cleveland Indians. Ron Santo spent a year playing for the crosstown White Sox. Manny Ramirez — who often showed signs of not even liking baseball — played five games for Tampa Bay and still seems to be trying to return.

You can go on like this for as long as it takes to read the Baseball Encyclopedia cover-to-cover. Baseball players — or football players, or basketball players, or hockey, or soccer or, heck, sportswriters or lawyers or recreational softballers or just about anyone else — cannot see the end coming. The body goes before the mind. Speed runs out before the heart. Skill expires before the will.

I think of Ali. Muhammad Ali was clearly fading fast as a boxer in the years after the Thrilla in Manilla. Ken Norton, who always gave Ali hard time, went 15 rounds with the champ. Then a relative journeyman — a Uruguayan fighter named Alfredo Evangelista — went 15 rounds also. Earnie Shavers hurt Ali several times in their 15-round fight. Then Ali fought a game but thoroughly inexperienced Gold Medalist named Leon Spinks. Before the Ali fight, Spinks had fought just seven professional fights — including a draw against the unimpressive Scott LeDoux — and it should have been an easy one for Ali. It was not. He was out of shape, looked slow, and Spinks kept throwing pinches. Spinks shocked everyone and won the title.

It was clear that Ali had little left as a fighter. Well, clear to everyone else. Ali had to win back his title, so he got in shape, beat Spinks in a boring but functional 15-round decision. And he retired with the title. He said he was done fighting.

Two years later, Ali came back to fight Larry Holmes. The word was he needed the money. Ali was 38-years old and long past his prime. But he lost a bunch of weight and looked pretty good as he entered the ring. He was always such a good talker that he convinced everyone — including himself, I suspect — that he could still be the Ali of old. Holmes destroyed him. It was awful to watch. Before the 11th round, Ali’s trainer and friend Angelo Dundee stopped the fight. Ali had not landed a solid punch on Holmes the entire fight.

It was over before that fight. It was certainly over afterward. But, even then, Ali had to fight one more time. His mind gave him a million reasons to try once more. He claimed that he had lost weight too fast for the Holmes fight. Medication had left him weak and sick. He had not prepared the way he KNEW he could prepare. The mind will come with a million pretenses to black out the realities of age. Ali just had to fight one more — and it might have been the saddest sporting event of the 20th Century. Ali fought Trevor Berbick in Nassau, with a cowbell someone found nearby used to end and begin rounds. Ali lost a 10-round decision that wasn’t close. Less than three years later, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

Ali’s life in so many ways is bigger, bolder, more controversial, more entertaining, more awe-inspiring, more maddening — he was just bigger than life. But you could argue he just went through a more dramatic version of the cycle every great athlete goes through. Brilliance. Decline. Denial. Resurgence. More denial. I don’t know if Derek Jeter has anything left. I suspect he’s probably at the end as a shortstop and a regular player — I just don’t think his body has enough spring or durability left — but what do I know? His 2012 season surprised me, and it would be a fantastic story if he could return as a productive baseball player.

But whenever the end comes for Jeter, you can be sure that others will see it before he does. Think of all he has accomplished in his amazing career. Think of all the doubters he silenced. Think of all the hurdles he overcame. Think of all the the times he was right about himself and others were wrong. You can expect Derek Jeter to come back with confidence, with certainty, with an intense belief that he will succeed again. Of course he will. It’s human nature.

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71 Responses to The Return of Jeter

  1. bluwood says:

    Muhammad Ali, without a doubt, is the single greatest sports figure of the 20th century. Love him (as I do) or hate him, if you are at all knowledgeable about sports, politics, race relations, religion or pop culture, you have an opinion on the man. And what a man he is…

  2. Why do we ask Jeter what HE thinks of his future? From your examples, it’s plain that the athletes are the least reliable, most delusional assessors of their futures towards the ends of their careers.

  3. Kansas City says:

    Can anyone think of an athlete who actually quit while on top? And stayed quit? Koufax did, but I think it was because his arm was killing him. There must be others, but I can’t think of any.

    I have never understood the great affection for Ali. He personally is responsible for the trash talking generations of athletes over the past 40 years (at least he started it, maybe someone else would have done so). There is an apparently interesting book by Cashill that seeks to expose Ali, but I have not read it so I don’t know if it is any good. But the idea that Ali is so above criticism always struck me as strange.

    • Brad's Blog says:

      The first guy I think of is John Elway.. sure he was older but 2 straight super bowls and then retiring.. thats going out with style.

    • invitro says:

      Wilt Chamberlain was #2 in the NBA in Win Shares his last three seasons (to Abdul-Jabbar). In his last season, he led in rebounds and FG%, was #2 in minutes played, #4 in MVP voting, first team All-Defensive NBA, and his team lost in the finals. Wilt was maybe not literally on top, but he was only one spot down from the top.

    • Saverno says:

      Barry Sanders left when he was on top of whatever it is that is the top of the top. . . Jim Brown, too.

    • Phil says:

      Mussina retired after finally winning 20. (Not that it was his best season or anything, but he did pitch well.) Tom Henke saved 36 games with a 1.82 ERA his last year, and he was also only 37. Not sure if he voluntarily walked away, though, or whether it was just that nobody signed him.

    • Hello—Jeter’s teammate Mariano Rivera is still pretty good, and he’s hanging them up this year.

    • Ian R. says:

      It depends on your criteria for “on top,” but Will Clark actually had one of his best years in his final season. His .319/.418/.546 line in 2000 was substantially above his career averages, and he walked away on his own terms after his Cardinals were eliminated from the playoffs.

    • MtheL says:

      DiMaggio came pretty close. While he didn’t quite go out on top, he certainly accepted his limitations and retired at age 36 after one poor season (by his standards) where he hit only .263 (he was above .300 the prior season). Unlike so many others mentioned in Joe’s post, DiMaggio certainly didn’t try to hang on when it was obvious to all that age was beginning to take its toll.

    • Kansas City says:

      These are great responses. Thank you. I tend to agree wiht all of them, and especially Barry Sandners and Jim Brown. Would not have thought of Will Clark, but the numbers support the identification. Nice to know. DiMaggio (and Elway) were probably done, but they had the grace and judgment to recognize it.

      Rivera still is pretty good, but I don’t know if he is in the category of going out on top at age 43 [?] with about 7 blown saves. Nonetheless, he is a great pitcher and still good.

  4. Kansas City says:

    I may not know enough about Ali, but aside from being a great fighter for a period of time, what is it that makes him such an icon?

    • Andrew says:

      Check out the documentary When We Were Kings. Even from decades-old footage, Ali’s personality is all-encompassing.

    • Handsome, articulate, and supremely talented, Cassius Clay came to prominence as a Gold Medal boxer during the Jim Crow era, when blacks were supposed to know their place and be quiet. He first adopted the over-the-top showmanship of pro wrestlers like Gorgeous George—the boasting, the trash-talking—and backed it up in the ring with an upset victory over Sonny Liston. This captivated/antagonized the public like no other athlete, but Clay was only beginning. He became a Black Muslim, and changed his name to Muhammad Ali, becoming something like the Malcolm X of sports during the Civil Rights era. For this he was vilified, with many whites (and some blacks, like Floyd Patterson) refusing to even call him by his new name. The hatred only intensified when he refused to fight in Vietnam as a conscientious objector. For taking this stand, he lost everything—his title, his permission to box during the prime of his career, and the millions of dollars that would have gone with it. In some circles, he was the most hated man in America, though in others, in America and abroad, he was widely admired for his courage in standing up to an unjust establishment.

      After years of legal battles, he was able to box again, though he was never quite the same fighter that he was before his banishment from boxing. His upset victory against George Foreman, and his epic trio of fights with Joe Frazier, sealed his place in boxing history.

      Meanwhile, most Americans came to see the Vietnam War as a tragic folly, and Ali’s position that he had nothing against the Vietnamese came to seem eminently sensible. Even those who still supported the war had to admit that Ali was willing to stand up for what he believed in, even in the face of vilification and ruin. He became a hero who transcended sports, in a way that later superstars like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods did not. Finally, by contracting Parkinson’s disease at such an early age, he became a sympathetic figure, as if all of his battles in and out of the ring had taken a toll on this once proud warrior. To see the former Olympian Ali, hobbled but unbowed, light the torch at the Atlanta Olympics was his last great moment on the world stage, for he was one of the few athletes who became truly world famous. Muhammad Ali was not without his flaws, but he was a unique figure in sports—and American—history.

    • Kansas City says:

      Great answer. Thank you. I lived through that time and most of what you say resonates with my faded recollection.

      The Black Muslim part was very controversial at the time. But it was a different time and the controversy today about Muslim terrorism is entirely different than whatever the controversy was about becoming a Muslem back then (mostly racial and foreign, as I remember it). No doubt Ali was charismatic, but he also was pompous, arrogant and a huge braggert. My impression at the time was that it was all a show. He was not “popular” in the 1960’s, but the dramatic changes in the 1970’s catapulted him to icon status. He was the “beneficiary” of a huge societal change. Quite an American story. I need to read Cashill’s book and a comparable pro-Ali book to sort things out.

      Also, I think it likely that Liston threw at least the second fight and maybe the first as well. Don’t know that Ali would have had anything to do with the fixes. And, Ali might have won even if Liston was not taking a dive.

  5. Mark Sabino says:

    Have you considered getting an editor? Oof.

    • clashfan says:

      This is a blog Joe writes for free, in his spare time. When he’s not writing articles that he actually gets paid for. We’re getting free content from Joe, and you’re focused on typos?

    • Mai Koch says:

      Actually, this is a cross-post from Posnanski’s paid job at NBC Sports.

    • Frank says:

      Clash – I appreciate your comment. My concern, however, is that one of these days one of Joe’s typos will come out to in the form of a regrettable faux pas, and Joe will be unfairly tainted. He, himself, told the story the other day about his job with the Charlotte Observer of a poorly written line about the owners of the Charlotte Knights getting “screwed in their seats.” Joe can be absolutely brilliant, but the typos are annoying. At this point, it’s like seeing a beautiful woman with a zit on the end of her nose.

    • B Zman says:

      It was “ceremoniously screwed”.

    • billydaking says:

      To be honest, if a beautiful woman was sitting in front of me, I really wouldn’t be too concerned about the zit on her nose….

  6. Mark says:

    Ron Santo is the outlier on Joe’s list above, being only 34 when he retired. Please someone, tell me why the White Sox moved Santo from 3rd to 2nd base? I can see moving him to first or DH but 2nd?

    Now we know why it too so long for him to make the Hall. He didn’t get five years of stat padding.

    RIP, Ron.

    • mickey says:

      bill melton was the incumbent 3b….won the HR title in 70 or 71. Santo was hated by White Sox fans because he was so obnoxious with the Cubs and they would not have tolerated having Santo supplant Melton. (Sort of like ARod moving to 3b from ss when he joined the Yankees even though most considered him a better ss than Jeter). Santo ruined whatever chemistry the White Sox had, and his toxic presence was a factor in Dick Allen (who was league MVP in 72) retiring prematurely.

  7. Mark Daniel says:

    I saw a Billie Jean King documentary on TV a couple nights ago. I didn’t know this, but apparently she retired from singles play well before doubles play. In this documentary, she was talking about this retirement (which was in 1975, I think) and said she regretted retiring like that, and what spurred her to do it was the notion of “retiring on top”. She says that was a mistake because it was based on what others thought, not what she felt. I suppose that like King, and George Brett, these athletes are more satisfied with trying and failing than with the regret they would feel if they quit while still being able to produce.

  8. invitro says:

    Here’s the last season of all hitters by WAR:

    1. Shoeless Joe Jackson 32 1920 | 7.3 | 7.1 -0.5 | Black Sox
    2. Happy Felsch 28 1920 | 5.2 | 4.6 0.3 | Black Sox
    3. Roberto Clemente 37 1972 | 4.7 | 3.2 0.9 | death
    4. Jackie Robinson 37 1956 | 4.3 | 2.5 2.0 |
    5. Roy Cullenbine 33 1947 | 4.0 | 3.2 0.1 |
    6. Bill Joyce 30 1898 | 4.0 | 3.8 0.2 |
    7. Chick Stahl 33 1906 | 3.9 | 3.6 -0.2 | death
    8. Ray Chapman 29 1920 | 3.7 | 3.1 1.4 | death
    9. Bill Lange 28 1899 | 3.3 | 2.5 0.4 | marriage
    10. Barry Bonds 42 2007 | 3.2 | 4.2 -1.5 |
    11. Jim Doyle 29 1911 | 3.2 | 2.4 1.3 | death
    12. Hank Greenberg 36 1947 | 3.2 | 3.4 -0.7 |
    13. Buck Weaver 29 1920 | 3.2 | 3.4 0.4 | Black Sox
    14. Mike Griffin 33 1898 | 3.0 | 2.5 -0.1 |
    15. Gil McDougald 32 1960 | 2.9 | 1.7 1.5 |
    16. Ted Williams 41 1960 | 2.9 | 4.7 -2.2 |
    17. Benny McCoy 25 1941 | 2.8 | 2.8 0.6 |
    18. Kirby Puckett 35 1995 | 2.8 | 3.6 -1.4 |
    19. Tillie Shafer 24 1913 | 2.8 | 3.1 0.1 |
    20. Joe DiMaggio 36 1951 | 2.7 | 2.4 0.2 |
    21. Stan Javier 37 2001 | 2.6 | 1.6 0.8 |
    22. Billy Lush 30 1904 | 2.6 | 2.3 -0.6 |
    23. Lyman Bostock 27 1978 | 2.5 | 2.7 -0.5 | death
    24. Bobby Doerr 33 1951 | 2.5 | 2.6 0.3 |
    25. Grover Gilmore 26 1915 | 2.5 | 1.2 0.5 |

    So Jackie Robinson is at the top of the list of batters in their last season. Nice call, Joe.

    Roy Cullenbine’s 4.3 WAR came from 24 HR and 137 BB… but a .224 BA. Wikipedia says: “But with only 104 hits his batting average dropped to .224 in 1947, and the Tigers released him after the season. Seeking to rebound from his release, he was picked up briefly by the Philadelphia Phillies only to be released again just three weeks into the 1948 season on April 19 without getting into a single game despite his high lifetime on-base percentage, a statistic not regarded anywhere near as highly in that era as it is today.”

    • Kansas City says:

      Great information. Not like Joe to miss so much as on Robinson (who I think was somewhat overrated, but the numbers do support that he was very good).

      Seeing Gil McDougald (who I did not remember retiring when he was still good – also don’t remember why he quit)reminds me that the Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson also quit at a young age. I have not looked up his numbers. They probably were not impressive, but he was a highly regarded second baseman on some very good Yankee teams. I think he left to be a preacher.

    • glenn says:

      There are injuries or other extenuating factors with almost all of those final seasons, though I can’t say with certainty about all of the pre-1920 guys. To answer the above comment, according to Wiki, Gil McDougald retired when he found out the Yankees weren’t going to protect him in the 1960 expansion draft.

      It seems like only Williams and DiMaggio retired on their own terms while still hitting well (but obviously below their own ridiculously high standards). Though I’m surprised there aren’t more among the top 25 like Benny McCoy whose promising career ended when he enlisted for WWII.

      Also… Stan Javier had one of the five best final seasons of the last 50 years? Huh.

    • invitro says:

      I screwed up and did not include players who played for >1 team in their last year in that list. That’s why Will Clark’s fine 2000 season is not there. He is #8 on the list, with a 3.8 WAR (3.7 oWAR, -0.7 dWAR). There are no other additions.

      I love this list because I really didn’t think there would be as many extreme career-ending factors like, well, death & the Black Sox… I expected more players who just voluntarily retired after a good year.

      Thanks guys for the info on McDougald. I’d like to hear info on the reasons for the other older guys. Doerr had a back injury. Wikipedia has no reason for Bill Joyce; his BA dropped from .333 to .303 to .258 in his final season, in 1898, but his WAR actually increased from 1897 to 1898. Maybe 1898 is when the dead-ball era started really kicking in? I’m too lazy to check right now.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Lyman Bostock brought back some memories. His first month with the Angels was so bad, he donated his first month free agent check to charity. Although he had a slow start, and the accompanying bad will from the fans for a poorly performing FA, he became a fan favorite & had turned his season around. His death was a really dark moment in my childhood. I never really understood it.

  9. Editor says:

    Beautiful writing, Joe.

  10. BobDD says:

    Top 5 guys who retired while still on top:
    Jim Brown
    Cary Grant
    George Washington
    Steve Wozniak (took up teaching)

  11. purebull says:

    joe…i admire your ability to write,and tell the truth in a way that will allow for…understanding.

    but, jeezus fucking christ man. really? how high are your monthly bills?

    derek jeter will return to play baseball for his contract, fucko.


  12. Ross says:

    Not really related to this post, but can we please just stop the BR Hall of Fame voting now, unless the ultimate goal is to uncover the ignorance of the “Brilliant” readers? The voting results are pretty embarrassing.

  13. brhalbleib says:

    Two comments on Ty Cobb. First, I don’t think his playing with the A’s had anything to do with playing the string out. Judge Landis forced him to move from the Tigers to the A’s, because of the whole game fixing scandal with Speaker.

    Second, although his OPS+ was the lowest of his career in his last year, it still was 112. He could still hit. I am not sure his example supports your position like the others certainly do. If anything he seems like a guy that realized, despite the fact that his stats were still quite good, that he was slipping an unable to play at the high level that he used to and he gracefully retired.

  14. sourcreamus says:

    I think with the exception of Boxing any athlete who retires on top is insane. If you love playing sports and you get paid millions to do it, voluntarily leaving that before you have to is nuts. You only get a certain amount of time where it is possible to play sports and you have the rest of your life to play golf and get fat.

  15. jamesa says:

    Joe, you guys check these comments? Any way to flag a comment? Thanks for all you do.

  16. Michael says:

    A minor, minor correction. Robinson had decided to retire before the Dodgers traded him to the Giants, then thought a little about continuing, but he had sold the rights to his retirement story AND Buzzie Bavasi said that Robinson wouldn’t be able to walk away from the money.

    Now to the point a commenter made: Was Robinson overrated? As a player, partly by dint of being the first black player since 1884, partly by who he was, he changed the approach to the game. More to the point, no other player had to face what he faced on and off the field. Whatever he did on the field, we are left to wonder what more he could have done had he not been subjected to the abuse he received. But a rookie of the year and an MVP award speak to his ability, too.

    • invitro says:

      I have him as the #6 second baseman all-time… what about you?

    • Rob Smith says:

      Since he didn’t start until age 28, allowances have to be made for the 6 or 7 seasons he would have played without segregation….. Prime seasons. And a lifetime 137 OPS+ and 54 WAR in a shortened career aren’t too shabby.

    • Ian R. says:

      6 or 7 seasons? Jackie Robinson only played one year in the Negro Leagues and one year in the minors. In an integrated league, the Dodgers probably still would have kept him in the minors for a year… so he probably only lost one season to segregation.

      Jackie’s problem is that he didn’t even start playing organized ball until he was 26. Military service ate up his early- to mid-20s, and he was a football player before that.

    • invitro says:

      “allowances have to be made for the 6 or 7 seasons he would have played without segregation”

      The allowances I make are to rate him based on his WAR7 and World Series performances.

      I’m just curious if anyone will claim that he’s ahead of Hornsby, Collins, Lajoie, or Morgan (or Gehringer).

    • “More to the point, no other player had to face what he faced on and off the field.”

      While I agree to an extent because he was indeed first, and the attention surrounding Jackie Robinson’s debut (April 15, 1947) because he was a star at UCLA and now playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers in New York, I don’t think enough people realize Larry Doby made his debut with the Cleveland Indians less than three months later (July 5, 1947). I imagine Doby had an idea of what Robinson went through.

      Again, I knew the media focused more on Dodgers GM Branch Rickey and Robinson because of a number of things, but Doby often gets overlooked in Robinson’s shadow.

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  18. Alejo says:

    Is Vlad Guerrero a HoFer?

  19. TimBasuino says:

    As far as managers go, few can top the exit of Mr. Tony LaRussa.

    • Edgar Bergen says:

      LaRussa had to walk away when he did because eventually it would have come out that he encouraged players to use steroids or activity stayed ignorant of his players’ use of such substances. I’m sure it was best for him and baseball. For a change, the two interests matched.

      I have to admit that all of the comments about the retirement “on top” of Rivera troubles me. He has been a backup his entire career. He’s been a very good backup, but you can’t be “on top” as a backup. I’m certain of course that he will get in the Hall of Fame, and I will have a problem with that because there are no second string second basemen in the Hall. But the adulation for a player who has always been an excellent second-rate player is a bit odd. I’m waiting for the first backup quarterback to go into the football Hall of Fame.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Edgar, are these serious comments? Or, just trying to get a rise out of the Yankee and Cards fans? Your comparing a closer, who a manager wants to give the ball to at the end of the game, to a backup QB, who nobody wants to see in the game at any point, much less the critical end of the game is either high comedy or complete ignorance about how the modern game of baseball is played. Also, as much as I dislike LaRussa and his steroid enablement mentality, he wasn’t going to be losing any sleep over it…it was hardly new…. Nor was he going to retire over it. Hell, he was willing to hire Mark McGwire out of exile….that’s not the actions of someone who gives a rip what anyone thinks….. And he’d hardly be unique in the dugout or the front office by merely looking the other way. An entire generation of managers did the same.

    • Edgar Bergen says:

      You’re certainly correct about LaRussa. Not news, I agree. However, the Alex Rodriguez crackdown is going to strike and it’s not going to be pretty. LaRussa stuck it in baseball’s eye to bring McGwire back and doesn’t have the guts to admit that he knew or encouraged McGwire to take the stuff. Sure other managers did it, but LaRussa was the leader. Leaving was in his interest as well. He wants deniability

      And, the backup QB reference was not appropriate because it is too far of an exaggeration. However, I do have a problem with relief pitchers being in the Hall when there are no pinch hitters or backup second basemen there. Does the manger want Rivera in the game in the ninth inning? Sure. But would he want Kuroda there more. Anyone who has ever pitched a game will tell you what it is like to start a game (and have to pace yourself) rather than give it everything you have in one inning. Relief pitching is SO much easier than starting that it is just laughable. Show me a decent fourth starter and I’ll show you a terrific stopper. Did anyone say Luke Hochevar?

      Maybe there should be a “special” HOF for relief pitchers, backup catchers, pinch hitters, etc.

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  21. Tonus says:

    Ted Williams did more than ‘somehow’ hit .316 with a home run in his final plate appearance. He put up a line of .316/.451/.645 for an OPS+ of 190 in 390 PAs. Talk about retiring on top!

    The run-scoring environment of the mid-to-late 60s probably robbed us of a few more years of Mantle, assuming his knees would have held up. In 1967 and 1968 he put up OPS+ of 149 and 143, respectively. He was still a very valuable hitter, but the low batting average and RBI totals probably convinced everyone that he was through.

  22. In hitting .237, Mantle’s final year cost him a lifetime .300 batting average. He began the season at .301. He finished at .298.

  23. Hartzdog says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  24. Wouldn’t it be great if jeter, Pettite and Rivera all retired in the same year? Wouldn’t it be great for the Yankees to send a message to the fans that went something like this: The Steinbrenner era is over. The Joe Torre and post-Joe Torre era is over. The Jeter era is over. The old Yankee Stadium era is over. The era of spending astronomical amounts of money on a fantasy team no one feels any real attachment to is over. It’s a new day in the Bronx, time for a new approach and a new identity.

    But would that ever happen? I feel like this franchise has been desperately trying to hold onto the success of the recent past, very much to its own demise.

  25. Rob Smith says:

    Having just gone through the Chipper Jones exit, the chief issue may not even be fading skills. Chipper could still hit, though clearly not as well as a few years before, but the biggest issue was not being able to stay on the field. During his final year, the Braves didn’t even try to trot him out there daily. He got 2-3 days off a week and there were still injuries and more missed time. This is what I suspect will happen with Jeter. They’ll try to nurse him through another season with mixed success. He’ll have some good games, then will miss two weeks with turf toe. He’ll come back, struggle, get in a groove and then be out 10 days with a hamstring. And so it goes…. and he’ll be done for good at the end of the year. I suspect, however, that Jeter doesn’t have the forethought to realize that he should declare it his last season before it even starts…. but either way, that will be it. If he decides to hang on past this next year, it will get ugly.

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