Major league baseball is one sport that offers its players the chance to go quietly into that good night - whether they want to or not.
Jarrod Washburn, for instance, told Jim Street at MLB.com that while he'd love to pitch again and feels he still can, retirement is an option.
Washburn, 35, has a deer farm in Webster, Wis., and has never been home for the annual spring birthing. If this is the first year he gets to be home, that's fine with him.
Unlike many sports, baseball rarely has its best players formally announce their retirement. Far more often, the end comes when no team offers a contract.
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Frank Thomas, Richie Sexson and - apparently - Mike Sweeney were all willing to play on when their careers stopped for lack of interest. This month, Hall of Fame candidates like Gary Sheffield and Carlos Delgado are free agents with portfolio but no concrete offers.
Garrett Anderson doesn't have an offer. Rich Aurillia wants another year on the field, but has a job lined up in the booth, just in case. So far, no team has seriously pursued Aaron Boone, Hank Blalock, Paul Byrd, Jermaine Dye, Darin Erstad, Nomar Garciaparra, Mike Hampton, Pedro Martinez, Troy Percival and John Smoltz.
You don't have to go back too far to find some of those players at the top of their field, playing in All-Star or post-season games. Few are ready to leave it all behind. Some will have no choice.
The business of baseball rarely has found graceful exits for its aging players, especially now that they want to play into their 40s. For every player who walks away a year early, there are a handful who literally have to have their uniforms confiscated.
It's a reminder that no matter how much money they make, how much success they have had, leaving baseball voluntarily is impossible for many players.
"You play this game your whole life, and then you have to stop," Bret Boone once told me. "No matter what else is out there for you, it's probably something you've never done before. When you do something you wanted to do your whole life, stopping is just not part of the dream."
Now a few links:
- New York shortstop Derek Jeter was told by the Yankees three years ago he was losing range and worked hard to regain a quick step. Now he and the team face another challenge - a new contract after 2010.
- Nationals beat writer Mark Zuckerman and the rest of the Washington Times sports staff were laid off in December. Unwilling to walk away from the game - sound familiar? - Zuckerman established his own website and got $5,000 from readers to pay for going to spring training. He'll blog daily.
- Johnny Damon continues to demand a two-year deal, but Atlanta offered him one year and about $4.5 million - much of it deferred.
- Cardinals shortstop Brendan Ryan had surgery on his right wrist this week to ease persistent pain he hadn't mentioned to the team all winter.
- Hoping to avoid arbitration, San Francisco offered Tim Lincecum a three-year deal that would pay him $9.5 million, then $12.5 million and $15 million over three seasons. Linecum and his agent then countered with a three-year package for more than $45 million. Yikes!
- Kyle Farnsworth, the 33-year-old reliever who was 1-5 with a 4.58 ERA in 41 games for Kansas City this year, will be groomed th is spring as a starting pitcher - though he hasn't started a game since 2000. Yikes, again!
- Milwaukee columnist Garry D. Hart has some advice for the Brewers regarding Prince Fielder: Sign him - now!