Recent retirees gear up for next chapter of life
Plenty of big names, and not-so-big names, retire in recent months
Retirement was in vogue this winter and up through the spring, even if that was for no reason other than coincidence.
Unofficially, the count of Major League players who have retired since the end of last season is 30. Carlos Delgado, the most recent to bow out who's not named Manny Ramirez, announced on Wednesday that his playing days were over after 17 seasons. He left an extraordinary career behind him: 473 home runs, 2,038 hits and numerous Blue Jays hitting records.
Considering the quality of players who called it a career since the end of last season, those numbers are almost to be expected.
Jermaine Dye, Jim Edmonds and Mike Hampton. Trevor Hoffman, Andy Pettitte and Gary Sheffield. All are among the retirees, a group that includes just five players who played in the Majors for fewer than 10 seasons. On average, their careers lasted nearly 14 seasons.
It's a remarkable collection of careers to have ended at practically the same time.
Who's lost in it all, particularly in a span that saw such outstanding talent step away, is the player you didn't think twice about when they were playing -- never mind when they're weren't.
Recently retired ballplayers
"I retired for my own reasons, obviously, but after that there was a slew of guys that threw in the towel," said Jody Gerut, who played for five teams in six seasons. "I called Ian Snell [who may make a return after announcing his own retirement this spring], and I had a conversation with him about it. It's an interesting phenomenon, you had a bunch of guys: Jermaine Dye, Garret Anderson, and then [Jose] Guillen and then me and now Manny, and I'm skipping a whole bunch of guys."
Thirty is an unofficial count for just that reason: it's too easy to skip a whole bunch of guys. When most ballplayers retire, they do so through the media instead of filing official paperwork with the Major League Baseball Players Association. That's because paperwork, as it has a tendency to do, only leads to more paperwork.
Simply, if a player decides he wants to come back after having retired in writing, he has more hurdles than a player who kept his name off the dotted line.
Many don't announce they're gone. After he was designated for assignment by the Mets last May, Frank Catalanotto knew he was done, but the public and even old friends of his didn't know that right away. It wasn't until the soon-to-be 37-year-old chatted this spring with Newsday, the newspaper in his native Long Island, that word got out.
"I called my agent up about two months ago, I said listen, I want to officially retire," Catalanotto said. "Every now and then, I'll see on ESPN or MLB.com that so-and-so retired. Not that I think it's going to be a big deal that I retire, [but] still, I want to kind of make it official.
"[My agent] said, 'All right, let's call the union, see what they say.' They got back to him and said, 'Listen, we suggest that Frank doesn't sign the papers and make anything official. Just in case he changes his mind.' I told my agent, well, no, I had made up my mind. I'm gone, that's it."
When word finally did break that Catalanotto had called it a career, it was almost a relief. He's not alone in that sentiment.
"I'm actually glad it happened," Catalanotto said. "I got some publicity out of that, I got a bunch of phone calls from family and friends to congratulate me on my career, stuff like that. I felt like that kind of gave me a little better sendoff."
Ambiguity, too, clouds the picture of who's in and who's out. Dye didn't play last season, a free agent holding out for an offer he believed was suitable. Jarrod Washburn reportedly could be doing the same thing. Troy Glaus is said to be up in the air. Pedro Martinez recently talked about donning a Red Sox uniform again, even though he hasn't pitched in the big leagues since his nine-game cameo appearance with the Phillies in 2009.
No retiree this offseason received more attention than Pettitte. When the 240-game winner made the announcement in early February, the Yankees issued a press release with quotes from nearly every great associated with the team.
"One of the tops the Yankees ever had," said Yogi Berra, one of the few Yankees to have won more World Series than Pettitte, who has five rings (Berra has 10). "He's a guy you always depend on and we're gonna miss him."
Sheffield, who hadn't played since 2009, was the longest-tenured player to retire this offseason. His 22 seasons included controversy, but also 509 home runs.
Garret Anderson, who spent the first 15 of his 17 seasons with the Angels, put together 2,529 hits. Thirteen years in Kansas City inherently put Mike Sweeney's career under the radar, and injuries didn't help. His 16 seasons included a second-place finish for a batting title, in 2002, when his .340 average was nine points behind Ramirez.
Ramirez, of course, qualifies as retired now, too, but the circumstances under which his 19-year career ended -- reportedly because he faced a 100-game suspension for a second failed performance-enhancing drug test -- make for more contemplation than celebration. In the books are his 555 home runs and .312 career average.
Maybe most impressive in the group are the closers. There were 1,023 saves notched between Hoffman and Billy Wagner, who stand at first and fifth among the all-time leader in that statistic. They weren't the only relievers to step away, though.
"I think everybody enjoys being recognized if you did well," said reliever Bob Howry, who called it a career after 13 seasons.
Giving the "Whatever happened to that guy?" moment its due, here's a look at three Major Leaguers who retired this offseason with stories to tell, even if they weren't household names.
Only in professional sports could 40 be considered a late retirement age. It's somewhat startling, then, that Gerut called it quits at 30.
Rocco Baldelli was just 29 when he walked away in January, but his situation was unique: his ability to play was sapped not only by injuries, but by a perplexing illness. Gil Meche was 32, and he left $12 million on the table. For Gerut, whose best season was his first in 2003, the passion was simply gone. After signing with the Mariners as a free agent in January, he called it a career on Feb. 27.
He admits, though, that it can be difficult not being out there playing.
"The tricky thing for me is that I'm healthy," Gerut said. "That part of it is kind of the temptation angle of it. And there's always a reflex to want to jump back into something once you've had a break. Seattle was gracious enough to leave the door open for me.
"I don't think it's an issue of whether or not I want to play. I think I'd rather be playing, but mentally I just would prefer not to be out there in the capacity of a player. It's not that I don't love the game. I love the game still."
Gerut isn't disappearing. He's working hard on a financial-services venture, one that's intended to help athletes. He's also looked into broadcasting.
At face value, Gerut's story isn't original: Here's a guy who hit 22 home runs for the Indians in 2003 and simply never lived up to the expectations of his rookie year.
Gerut doesn't disagree that he never became what he could have become.
"I think it's fair to say that I underperformed to my potential outright," he said. "I can really only look back and say I had two good years."
What separates Gerut from others, though, was that his rookie season did not hang over him. It didn't provide some reminder of what he was not every season. That wasn't the issue.
There were injuries. He missed all of 2006 and 2007, and a disagreement with general manager Mark Shapiro helped him to the door in Cleveland. Gerut has accepted that rift as his fault.
Of course, it didn't help that, as a left-handed hitter, he tried to change his mechanics to better hit southpaws.
"When I was healthy, I wasn't consistent enough as much as I wanted to be," he said. "I really believe I would've stuck in cities. I would've stuck in Cleveland, I would've stuck in Pittsburgh, I would've stuck in a lot of the places I played. ... I could've done more, I could've done better. That's the regret that I take away from professional baseball."
Gerut isn't somber, though, not in the least. He's enthusiastic about his post-playing days, and he's glad he made the decision to go out earlier rather than later. Better too soon than too late.
"There's a chivalry of it," Gerut said. "For the savings of reputations and perhaps the notion that a player hangs on to collect more paychecks. ... It matters, it matters for that player's reputation, how he goes out."
Howry knows the manner in which his career ended didn't help bring him praise, not that he was seeking any.
"You're kind remembered as what you did, kind of 'What have you done for me lately?'" the 37-year-old right-hander said. "For me, the way I went out, I started off really bad in Arizona [last season], I got released. I did all right for that first month. Went back to Chicago and then it just snapped at the All-Star break."
Howry's tenure as an eighth-inning bridge -- he was a closer for part of one season, in 1999 with the White Sox -- isn't to be sneezed at. His record was a mediocre 45-52, but his career ERA was 3.84, and he made more than 60 appearances nine times. He made at least 78 appearances in each of three consecutive seasons, 2005-07.
Relievers who aren't standout closers rarely receive much notice, in retirement or otherwise. For Howry, who's happy to be coaching his eight-year-old son these days, that's the job he signed up for.
"It's one of those things if you're not starting or closing," Howry said. "You could tell you had a good season if you didn't ever have to talk to the reporters. Because you could pitch well all year, and if you do that you're never going to have to talk to anybody because you did what you're supposed to."
Catalanotto never got to play in a postseason, the one disappointment he said he might have. The 14-year veteran did, though, play five positions, and fully beat the odds.
In 2001, the six-foot, 170-pounder made a push in the American League batting race, finishing fifth with a .330 clip.
"In high school, I wasn't the best player on my team," Catalanotto said. "It was always a dream of mine to play Major League baseball, I really didn't think it was a reality. I worked hard and had a good ethic work, and even in the Minor Leagues, the critics and the scouts and the organization, they didn't think I had a chance to make it.
"Looking back, seeing how not only myself, how I didn't think I'd make it, how all the other people didn't think I'd make it, I feel like I put together a good career."
Catalanotto got to spend his final days as player living at home in New York, playing for the Mets last season. Now he's taking business trips: he's partnered with a sports nutrition company, he's writing a book on his career and the lessons he learned, and he's done some coaching for Team Italy.
Broadcasting could be on the horizon, too.
"I talked to SNY," Catalanotto said, referring to the Mets' cable network. "They said they'll try to sprinkle me in here and there during the season when Bob Ojeda needs some days off. I'm not sure if that's really where my passion will lie, but, nevertheless, I'd like to give it a try."
If he tries, Catalanotto isn't one to fail, even if he doesn't take home an Emmy. He knows he wasn't always the best. A tip of the cap, though, never hurt. Record-setters or not, Catalanotto and all the others who called it quits during the past few months have this in common: They all made it.
"The day that I was called up to the Major Leagues," Catalanotto said, "to be able to call my mom and dad and let them know that I realized my dream -- that was a special moment."