Ten of the not-so-shy — but possibly retiring — types
Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones has been among the elite so long that he has trouble just being good.So when he showed up in spring training, Jones sounded like the end of his career could be at hand.Coming off the least productive season of his career, Jones said if he doesn’t rebound in 2010, he won’t be back in 2011, even though he would be walking away from $28 million he is guaranteed for the 2011-12 seasons.Is he serious? Time will tell. But the game’s premier players do have a hard time dealing with just being good.And Jones won’t be the only veteran with an impressive resume who ponders retirement at the end of this season.
Right-handed pitchers John Smoltz (turns 43 in May) and Pedro Martinez (38)
First, they have to find jobs this year. Both have said they will wait to see what happens once the season starts, feeling they could provide a midseason lift to a team. Martinez, who battled injuries his final three years with the Mets, followed that path last year and wound up going 5-1 in nine games with the Phillies the last two months of the '09 season. Smoltz is the only pitcher in history with 150 saves and 200 wins, but last year was a definite challenge for him. Spending time with Boston and St. Louis, he appeared in only 15 games and had a 6.35 ERA. If either lands a job at some point this year, they would be pushing the envelope and would be primed to walk away at season’s end.
Outfielder Magglio Ordonez, Detroit (36)
Ordonez reached the performance levels to kick in his $13 million option for this year, but will he hit the needed levels — 135 games played and 540 at-bats — this summer to guarantee the $13 million option for 2011? Odds aren’t in his favor, particularly with the addition of Johnny Damon to add to the outfield/DH mix in Detroit. And there is no buyout, so rest assured the Tigers won’t exercise the option if Ordonez falls short. Then it comes down to how much of a pay cut Ordonez’s pride will allow him to accept in 2011.
Left-handed starter Andy Pettitte, Yankees (turns 38 June 15)
He has failed to win at least once in only one of 15 big-league seasons and has won at least 14 each of the past five. His return, however, has been a debate at home the past couple of years, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he decides to finally spend summers with the wife and kids after this year, particularly if the Yankees win another world championship.
Outfielder Manny Ramirez, Dodgers (turns 38 on May 30)
Ramirez is a DH in the National League and stayed with the Dodgers only because the $20 million option was his, not the Dodgers'. He is a defensive liability, has become a clubhouse distraction and doesn’t figure to get offered what he will think he is worth next season, which could prompt him to take a hike. After sitting out 50 days last season for having used a female fertility drug, he hit .255, including .218 from Sept. 1 until season's end.
The game’s all-time saves leader was let go by San Diego after 16 years with the Padres and then revived his career with the Brewers in 2009, converting 37 of 41 saves, compiling a 1.83 ERA and earning his seventh All-Star appearance. The question he will face is whether he wants to go out on top. He has never had an ERA as high as 4.00 for a season, and he has had at least 20 saves in 15 of the past 16 seasons and at least 30 in 14 of the past 15. The lone exception was 2003, when injuries limited him to nine games.
DH David Ortiz, Boston (34)
He is a one-dimensional player, and for a guy making $12.5 million a year, the dimension is diminishing. Consider that last year he hit.212 against left-handers, .213 on the road and .238 with men in scoring position. Teams like to have versatility with the DH role, but Ortiz clogs that spot and also clogs the bases.
Left-handed pitcher Jamie Moyer, Philadelphia (47)
Moyer was 12-10 with a 4.94 ERA last year, but he made only three starts the final seven weeks of the season and is back, as much as anything, because he is guaranteed $6.5 million this year. Moyer, however, never has known when to quit. Consider at the age of 32 he was 59-76 in the big leagues and was sent back to Triple-A. A winter session with pitching guru Bus Campbell after that season and Moyer became one of the most consistent winners in the big leagues. He is 199-119 in his past 14 seasons and has won at least 11 games in 13 of those seasons. He is, however, the oldest pitcher in the NL since Phil Niekro pitched at age 48 in 1988, the second-oldest since Hoyt Wilhelm was a 49-year-old reliever with the Dodgers in 1972 and the oldest non-knuckleballer to pitch in the NL since spitballer Jack Quinn celebrated his 50th birthday during the 1933 season with Cincinnati.
First baseman Jason Giambi, Colorado (39)
He might have walked away at the end of last year, but after being released from Oakland, he hooked up with the Rockies. While he was primarily a bat off the bench during the September stretch run, he became a cult figure among fans and a motivator among teammates. He looked for a DH opportunity in the AL, couldn’t find one and wound up returning to the Rockies, where he will again be relied on for clutch pinch-hits with an occasional day at first in place of Todd Helton.
Outfielder Kenny Griffey Jr., Seattle (40)
Once a Gold Glove, All-Star caliber center fielder, Griffey is now a key part of the Mariners clubhouse and the primary DH. He played only 11 games in the outfield last year and he hit only .214 with 19 home runs and 57 RBIs. The biggest draw for Griffey will hinge on how consumed he is with reaching 3,000 hits. Right now, he has 2,763, which might not seem that far away from the magical level, but remember he had 83 hits last year.
Third baseman Chipper Jones, Atlanda (turns 38 in April)
He ranks second all-time among switch-hitters with a .307 average, nine points back of Frank Frisch, and third in home runs with 426, trailing Eddie Murray (504) and Mickey Mantle (536). Last year, however, he saw his batting average drop 100 points — from an NL-leading .364 in 2008 to .264, and he fell to career lows in home runs (18) and RBIs (71). Even more troublesome were the 22 errors. And all that in what was a relatively healthy season, which adds to his frustration.