Sports Commentary By: Paul Slobodzian, Writer and Editor at The Prowl and Growl
-Paul Slobodzian will be catching you up on everything you need to know before the MLB season opens this Sunday, April 3rd. Keep checking in through the week and read all four parts of Paul’s Preseason Coverage.
With every new MLB season comes new players. Rookies take the place of veteran, and some tenured players say good-bye to the game forever.
While there weren’t any monumental retirements like Mariano Rivera’s of Derek Jeter’s in 2013 or 2014, respectively, some notable players over the past decade and beyond have announced that they are hanging up the spikes.
This list only encompasses the players who announced their retirement during the offseason, so here’s a look at some of the bigger names:
Adam LaRoche (1B/DH)
Final Career Stats: .260 AVG, 255 HRs, 882 RBIs, 1,452 hits in 12 seasons with Braves, Pirates, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, Nationals and White Sox
Awards: 2012 NL Gold Glove and Silver Slugger at 1B
LaRoche wouldn’t find his name at the top of this list because of the eye-popping numbers he put up over his 12-year career. Rather, he unexpectedly called it quits after an organizational dispute over the time his son Drake spent around the White Sox during the regular season. Drake reportedly had been with the team almost every day of the season, and it’s unclear whether a player anonymously said something to management or if the owner or general manager had a problem with Drake being around the team so much and felt the need to address it. Either way, LaRoche was scheduled to rake in upwards of $13 million in 2016, so it was surprising to see him end his career so suddenly. He is appearing to choose family over salary, so he will only receive praise from my end.
Tim Hudson (SP)
Final Career Stats: 222 Wins, 2,080 Strikeouts, 3.49 ERA in 17 seasons with Athletics, Braves and Giants
Awards: Four-time all-star (2000, 2004, 2010, 2014), 2010 NL Comeback Player of the Year
Tim Hudson put together quite a major league career. After being drafted by the Oakland A’s in the sixth round of the 1997 amateur draft, he won 15 or more games in five of his first six years and set himself up for a strong showing in the bigs. He continued to be a reliable arm for many years, overcoming Tommy John surgery in 2008 and ankle surgery in 2013. He finished his career as a World Series champion as a member of the 2014 San Francisco Giants. Hudson did come back to pitch for the Giants in 2015, and, in September, he announced that it would be his final year. As a fan who watched “Huddy” pitch for the Braves for nine seasons, I want to thank him for the memories he created during his time in Atlanta and wish him all the best in retirement.
Jeremy Affeldt (RP)
Final Career Stats: 772 games, 3.97 ERA, 720 strikeouts in 16 seasons with Royals, Rockies, Reds and Giants
The average baseball fan may not be familiar with Jeremy Affeldt. He was a left-handed relief pitcher for three championship teams in San Francisco in 2010, 2012 and 2014, and aside from his uncharacteristically high ERA this past season, he had been a solid arm for the Giants during their Fall Classic runs. Now that he’s retiring, fans will not be treated to the postseason brilliance Affeldt is famous for as he boasts one of the longest scoreless innings streaks by a reliever in postseason history. That’s pretty good. I really have nothing bad to say about Affeldt other than the fact that his Giants knocked the Braves out of the playoffs in 2010, so, happy retirement!
Torii Hunter (OF)
Final Career Stats: .277 AVG, 353 HRs, 1,391 RBIs, 2,452 hits over 19 seasons with the Twins, Angels and Tigers
Awards: Five-time all-star (2002, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2013), Nine Gold Gloves (2001-2009), AL Silver Sluggers for outfielders in 2009 and 2013
Torii Hunter was arguably the best defensive center fielder for the about a decade, and he could certainly swing the bat, too. Hunter spent the majority of his prime years in Minnesota before signing with the Angels in the 2007 offseason. He then signed with the Tigers in the 2012 offseason before returning to Minnesota for the 2015 season to retire as a Twin. Hunter never played in a World Series, but he had a memorable moment in the 2002 All-Star game when he robbed Barry Bonds of a homerun in Milwaukee. Bonds then threw Hunter over his shoulder in a joking manner as he ran off the diamond. Hunter’s superb defense will definitely be missed across the league. He is a fan-favorite around the country, and his smile and raw skills won’t soon be forgotten.
Barry Zito (SP)
Final Career Stats: 165 wins, 1,885 strikeouts, 4.04 ERA over 15 seasons with the Athletics and Giants
Awards: 2002 AL Cy Young Award and three-time all-star (2002, 2003, 2006)
Barry Zito’s 12-6 curveball was legendary. Slow and loopy, it was simply a thing of beauty. He was a member of the feared starting pitching trio in Oakland in the early 2000s alongside Mark Mulder and the aforementioned Tim Hudson, and his career got off to a fast start as Zito won the Cy Young Award in only his third season. He signed a monstrous deal with the San Francisco Giants after the 2006 season, but he was never able to regain the dominance he had established in Oakland. His ERA never dropped below 4.00 in his seven seasons with the Giants, and it was nearing 6.00 in his final season with the team. Zito was able to resign with the A’s for a few games at the tail end of 2015, and he was able to retire with the team that drafted him in the ninth overall in the 1999 amateur draft.
Aramis Ramirez (3B)
Final Career Stats: .283 AVG, 386 HRs, 1,417 RBIs, 2,303 hits in 18 seasons with the Pirates, Cubs and Brewers
Awards: Three-time all-star (2005, 2008, 2014), 2008 NL Hank Aaron Award, 2011 NL Silver Slugger at 3B
Aramis Ramirez was one of the longest-tenured retirees of this offseason, and he put together a fantastic major league career. His professional career began when the Pittsburgh Pirates signed him as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 1994 when he was only 16 years old. The best stretch of his career was from 2004-2012 when he hit over 25 homeruns in eight of those nine years and batted over .300 in six of the nine. Ramirez was a classy ballplayer who respected the game and all it had to offer. He was traded to the Pirates near last season’s trade deadline and, like Hunter and Zito, was able to retire as a member of the team that gave him his start. All the best to Mr. Ramirez!
OF Michael Cuddyer (15 seasons with Twins, Rockies, Mets)
RHP Dan Haren (13 seasons with Cardinals, Athletics, Diamondbacks, Angels, Nationals, Dodgers, Marlins, Cubs)
1B/DH Carlos Pena (14 seasons with Rangers, Athletics, Tigers, Red Sox, Rays, Cubs, Astros, Royals)
RHP Jamey Wright (19 seasons with Rockies, Brewers, Cardinals, Royals, Giants, Angels, Indians, Mariners, Dodgers, Rays)
UTIL Chone Figgins (12 seasons with Angels, Mariners, Dodgers)
RHP Rafael Soriano (14 seasons with Mariners, Braves, Rays, Yankees, Nationals, Cubs)
RHP Brad Penny (14 seasons with Marlins, Dodgers, Red Sox, Giants, Cardinals, Tigers)
UTIL Willie Bloomquist (14 seasons with Mariners, Royals, Reds, Diamondbacks)
LHP Randy Wolf (16 seasons with Phillies, Dodgers, Padres, Astros, Brewers, Orioles, Tigers)
UTIL Skip Schumaker (11 seasons with Cardinals, Dodgers, Reds)
INF Maicer Izturis (11 seasons with Expos, Angels, Blue Jays)
RHP Rafael Betancourt (12 seasons with Indians and Rockies)
INF Nick Punto (14 seasons with Phillies, Twins, Cardinals, Red Sox, Dodgers, Athletics)
RHP Freddy Garcia (15 seasons with Mariners, White Sox, Phillies, Tigers, Yankees, Orioles, Braves)
OF/DH Andruw Jones (17 seasons with Braves, Dodgers, Rangers, White Sox, Yankees)
RHP Shaun Marcum (9 seasons with Blue Jays, Brewers, Mets, Indians)
RHP Scott Atchison (9 seasons with Mariners, Giants, Red Sox, Mets, Indians)
INF Freddy Sanchez (10 seasons with Red Sox, Pirates, Giants)
LHP Jeff Francis (11 seasons with Rockies, Royals, Reds, Athletics, Yankees, Blue Jays)
The Boston Red Sox’s DH/1B David Ortiz made headlines earlier this winter when he announced that 2016 would be his final season in the MLB. Ortiz just eclipsed the 500-homerun mark this past season and could pass a few more big names on the overall homerun list before the season, and his career for that matter, is over. Ortiz will forever be remembered for his clutch at-bats during Boston’s incredible World Series run in 2004, and he is one of the most clutch postseason hitters of all-time. Hopefully the 2016 season is all this Red Sox great hopes it will be and more.
While the offseason and Spring Training can be joy and excitement for some players, it also has its fair share of disappointment and setbacks for others. Injuries are commonplace in every sport, and the MLB has had some big names go down with injuries over the winter, including a few season-enders.
Here’s a deeper look into some of the biggest offseason/Spring Training injuries:
Carter Capps, Miami Marlins reliever/CP (Tommy John Surgery – out for season)
This was a tough blow for Marlins, and baseball, fans alike. Carter Capps is known for his blistering fastball and funky delivery that some people have deemed illegal. He has never been told to stop it, so we, as fans, can keep enjoying it (unless he’s dominating the Braves). This season, however, Capps will be recovering from season-ending elbow surgery. He injured himself during Spring Training, and tests unfortunately showed that he had ligament damage and would require Tommy John. The Marlins’ bullpen is going to take a major hit this season, because Capps posted a 1.16 ERA with 58 strikeouts in 30 games and he looked poised for a breakout season. Hopefully he can come back healthier than ever in 2017, because baseball needs jerky-delivery fireballer Carter Capps.
Lance Lynn, St. Louis Cardinals SP (Tommy John Surgery – out for season)
Lance Lynn will mill the entire 2016 season because he underwent TJ surgery on his right elbow in November. Lynn has been a reliable starter for the Cardinals over the past four seasons, so they will sorely miss his arm in the rotation. St. Louis is the type of team that can recover from an injury like this because of the depth within their organization. Lynn’s contributions will certainly be missed, but the Cardinals have young arms ready to take his spot in the rotation. Plus, most TJ surgery pitchers come back stronger than before, and Lynn should be healthy to begin the 2017 season.
Jhonny Peralta, St. Louis Cardinals SS (Left thumb surgery—possibly June)
St. Louis is faced with another tough injury here as their starting shortstop will be out of commission until at least June and maybe even into July. Peralta is a 13-year veteran who was also an all-star last season for the National League, so Mike Matheny will have to find some offensive production to compensate for Peralta’s absence. But, like I mentioned earlier regarding Lance Lynn, the Cardinals are the type of team that will find someone that can fill Peralta’s void nicely until mid-season.
Brett Anderson, Los Angeles Dodgers SP (Back surgery – possibly June)
Anderson injured himself in Spring Training, and the back surgery will cost him two to three months of the 2016 season. Anderson signed the $15.8 million qualifying offer Los Angeles extended to him, so it’s disappointing that he won’t be available until mid-season like Peralta. We’ll see how the Dodgers fare early on with Clayton Kershaw leading Los Angeles’ starters in an ultra-competitive NL West.
Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers OF (Fractured right tibia – possibly June)
The Dodgers are facing a lot of adversity early on as Ethier is another starting player who will miss extended time. Ethier fractured his tibia after a hit-by-pitch in a Spring Training game earlier this month, and he was fighting for everyday playing time with fellow outfielders Carl Crawford and Scott van Slyke. Los Angeles does have prospect Trayce Thompson who could find time in the outfield over the first few months of the major league season until Ethier’s return. It’ll be interesting to see how new manager Dave Roberts handles his outfield situation.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers SP (Shoulder surgery – possibly June)
Ryu underwent shoulder surgery in May 2015, and it will keep him sidelined until possibly June. Coupled with Anderson’s unexpected injury, the Dodgers will need to hope that Ryu can recover quickly and healthy to pitch some innings in the early months. It could be a tough beginning to the season for the Dodgers’ starting pitching outside of Kershaw.
Zack Wheeler, New York Mets SP (Tommy John surgery – possibly June 1st)
As if the Mets needed anymore young starting pitchers… The rotation already boasts Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard with Steven Matz waiting in the wings. Adding a rejuvenated and healthy Zack Wheeler would be icing on the cake. He underwent his elbow procedure in March 2015, and Wheeler looks to only be a few months away from MLB action again. National League opponents might want to look out for the Mets this season, because they have the starting pitching studs to make another World Series run even without Zack Wheeler. Mets fans might expect Wheeler to be ready to go sometime around early to mid-July.
Jason Grilli, Atlanta Braves CP (Ruptured Achilles Tendon – possibly Opening Day)
Grilli suffered a devastating injury last season when he ruptured his Achilles tendon covering first base in Colorado last season. The 39-year old reliever has managed to recover quickly and may even be ready for Opening Day for the Braves. Atlanta could certainly use Grilli’s veteran presence on the team as early as possible because of how young many of the players on the team are. It’s not certain how many more seasons Grilli has left in the league until his retirement, but hopefully he is able to put together a few more solid years for the Bravos before it’s all said and done.
Will Smith, Milwaukee Brewers reliever/CP (Torn Right Knee Ligament – TBD)
Will Smith is a literal hometown kid as he was born in Newnan and attended Northgate High School. Unfortunately for Mr. Smith, he suffered a torn ligament in his right knee, and the timetable for his return in the Brewers’ bullpen is yet to be determined. Smith posted good numbers for Milwaukee last season, appearing in 76 games and recording a 2.70 ERA. The recovery period for such an injury varies, so it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes for Newnan-ite Smith to be back pitching in the bigs.
Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers SP (Tommy John surgery – possibly late May)
Darvish has been one of the best pitchers over his past three seasons since coming over from Japan in the 2011 offseason. He is a three-time MLB all-star with a pure knack for getting batters out. That’s why it was unfortunate when news broke that Darvish would miss the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Luckily for the Rangers, though, Darvish be back before mid-season to help them out in the midst of a projected postseason race for the team.
Homer Bailey, Cincinnati Reds SP (Tommy John surgery – possibly May)
Bailey underwent TJ surgery in May 2015 and missed the remainder of the same season. Cincinnati is definitely going to be happy when Bailey returns to the rotation, because he will provide veteran leadership, much like Grilli for the Braves, to a young collection of pitchers. The Reds are not projected to be a very good team this season, so it could be a good time for Bailey to re-establish himself without too much media attention.
Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay Rays SP (Tommy John surgery – possibly August)
Cobb could be back in time for the end of the season as he recovers from TJ surgery in May 2015. He isn’t coming along as quickly as Bailey, but the recovery period is different for different players. Like the Reds, the Rays aren’t expected to be contenders this season and Cobb may not even be back to the mound at Tropicana Field before season’s end. I guess we’ll just have to see.
Brad Boxberger, Tampa Bay Rays, CP (Core Muscle surgery – possibly mid-May)
Boxberger took over the closer role for the Rays last season, and he didn’t perform as well as he did in 2014, but his numbers were respectable nonetheless. Now, as he prepares for his second season of closing games, he faces the adversity of overcoming surgery he underwent for a core muscle injury. The Rays definitely lack any substantial closing experience within the bullpen after trading Jake McGee to the Rockies, so manager Kevin Cash will have to make some tough decisions regarding the late innings of games for the first couple months of 2016.
Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians OF (Shoulder surgery – possibly a few weeks)
Michael Brantley is a major component to baseball success in Cleveland, but the Indians will be without their left fielder for at least a few weeks, and maybe even a month, at the beginning of the year. Brantley had a breakout year in 2014 and didn’t disappoint in 2015 with a .310 batting average and a league-high 45 doubles. Cleveland does have a dominant starting staff and some reliable hitters to hold down the lineup until Brantley is back healthy, so everything should be okay in “C-Town.”
Other Notable Injuries:
C.J. Wilson, Los Angeles Angels SP (Left Shoulder Tendinitis – TBD)
Evan Gattis, Houston Astros LF/DH (Hernia surgery – possibly mid-April)
Devon Travis, Toronto Blue Jays 2B (Left Shoulder surgery – possibly May or June)
Paco Rodriguez, Atlanta Braves LHP (Tommy John surgery – out for season)
Shae Simmons, Atlanta Braves RHP (Tommy John surgery – possibly 2016)
Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs UTIL (Left Thumb – possibly mid-April)
Brandon McCarthy, Los Angeles Dodgers SP (Tommy John surgery – sometime in 2016)
Jung-ho Kang, Pittsburgh Pirates INF (Left Knee Surgery – possibly April)
Cameron Maybin, Detroit Tigers OF (Fractured Left Wrist – possibly April)
Greg Bird, New York Yankees 1B (Shoulder surgery – out for season)
Andrew Miller, New York Yankees LHP (Right Wrist Fracture – might pitch through)