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One-stop MLB careers still common
Mariano Rivera, who has spent all 18 of his big-league seasons with the New York Yankees, initially indicated the possibility he could retire at season’s end, as well. But after he was carted off the field with a knee injury earlier this season, Rivera said he wanted to "walk" away from the game healthy and retirement plans could be put on hold.
Jones and Rivera are among 37 players ever who spent at least 18 seasons in the big leagues and all with the same team. In addition to Jones and Rivera, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is in his 18th year wearing pinstripes, although he has not talked about calling it quits. Jeter has an $18 million guarantee remaining on his contract for 2013, and a player option for $8 million in 2014.
Do Jeter, Jones and Rivera signal the end of an era? Nope.
There are often moans that there is no loyalty in baseball anymore, and free agency is singled out as the cause for a lack of loyalty between teams and players. Truth is that 21 of the 37 players whose careers spanned at least 18 seasons with one team played during free agency, which began after the 1976 season.
Before 1946, there had been only seven players to spend a career of as many as 18 years in the big leagues and play for only one team.
There will be more to follow Chipper, Rivera and Jeter, a fact underscored by the recent willingness of teams to extend the length of contracts to their key players and ensure they will not have to fill a void created by free agency.
The difference between baseball today and pre-free agency is the players, not the teams, can determine whether they stay or go, particularly key players.
Before the 2007 season, the Colorado Rockies were ready to trade Todd Helton. The first baseman, however, had signed a nine-year contract extension before the 2001 season that extended his contract through 2013. So, when a deal couldn’t be worked out with the Boston Red Sox — the only team he would approve for a trade — Helton was assured of finishing his career where he started.
Just this spring, the Cincinnati Reds gave first baseman Joey Votto, who had two years remaining on his contract, a 10-year, $225 million extension that will bind him to Cincinnati through 2023. At that point, he will have slightly more than 16 years in the big leagues, all with Cincinnati, and odds will be against him leaving for a final fling somewhere else.
Who's in charge?
The hiring of Jerry Dipoto during the offseason to be general manager of the Los Angeles Angels meant a decrease in power for manager Mike Scioscia in the decision-making process, and it has become apparent.
That was underscored by Dipoto’s decision to fire hitting coach Mickey Hatcher last week. Hatcher, a former teammate of Scioscia, had been the team’s hitting coach ever since Scioscia was hired for the 2000 season. He also served in that role for Scioscia at Triple-A Albuquerque in 1999.
Scioscia’s reaction to Hatcher’s departure?
"We were not in an offensive funk because of Mickey," Scioscia said. "We'll move on. I've said enough about that. . . . I've said what I'm going to say. I respect the decision, and we'll move on from that.
"I said it: Mickey's a terrific teacher, a great hitting instructor. We respect the job a general manager has to do in evaluating some things, and you have to respect his decisions."
The move with Hatcher came after the offseason signing of Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $240 million contract, which is believed to have been done because owner Arte Moreno wanted to make a splash, not because it would fill a major void on the team. Pujols is one of the elite hitters in the history of the game, but the Angels had multiple needs to fill — and first base wasn’t one of them.
Mark Trumbo, who stepped in at first base as a rookie last year, has bounced from first to third to designated hitter to left field and right field this season. He went into Sunday leading the Angels with a .352 average, .611 slugging percentage and .412 on-base percentage. The Angels are hoping he can evolve into being able to fill a void at third base because Pujols has a lock on first base and Kendrys Morales is limited to DH duty.
Obviously, things aren’t going well for the Angels, whose $154.5 million Opening Day payroll ranks fourth in baseball. Their 18-23 record at the quarter-point in the season was 22nd-best in the big leagues, and they were just a half-game ahead of the last-place Seattle Mariners in the American League West.
Fair or Fowler?
Colorado center fielder Dexter Fowler has become the target for disappointed Rockies fans. The big complaint is his .238 batting average. Wasn’t batting average proclaimed an overrated stat by the new breed of baseball minds?
With that in mind, consider that Fowler, despite hitting primarily eighth, ranks second among Rockies regulars in on-base percentage at .344 and leads the team with 17 walks. He is tied for third on the Rockies with four home runs and fourth with 18 RBI. He is third in batting average with runners in scoring position, at .364, behind only Carlos Gonzalez (.438) and Helton (.393).
Oh, and he is one of the most gifted defensive outfielders in the game.