Why Did They Retire?

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On a recent thread, Alex in SF asked why Cap Anson ever retired ... he strung together a few good seasons in his 40's and was still very productive at age 45.


My guess is that he wanted to concentrate more on managing, can anyone here confirm that? Players also weren't so concerned with stats back then, as opposed to now where a guy might play for a couple extra years to pad their career numbers and reach certain milestones (500HR, 3000H, etc.)

This is the thread where we wonder why certain players ever retired, and other posters chime in with the reasons/explanations.

Exhibit B, Tom Henke:


Only 37, never had a bad season, won the Rolaids relief award in 1995, and then nothing. I can't remember what happened to him.

NoTimeBeforeTime (Barry Bruner), Sunday, 1 October 2006 09:21 (fifteen years ago) link

In 50 years, I suppose people will look at the numbers and wonder why Tony Gwynn ever retired (.324/.384/.461 in his final year, mainly as a pinch-hitter though), hahaha.

NoTimeBeforeTime (Barry Bruner), Sunday, 1 October 2006 09:41 (fifteen years ago) link

Jeff Bagwell retiring early vs Craig Biggio going on forever: does either get to the hall of fame?

Michael F Gill (Michael F Gill), Sunday, 1 October 2006 12:22 (fifteen years ago) link

Biggio will reach 3000 hits next year if he keeps playing, and he was the most dominant player at his position during his era (well, either him or Alomar). But players like him never get in on the first ballot -- voters look at 2B and 3Bmen (who normally don't have eye-catching HR and RBI numbers) and start wondering what the big deal was.

There have been a lot of great players recently who went to shit in only a year or two (McGwire, Sosa, Bagwell, Belle, Vaughn, Palmeiro) and fans 50 years from now will probably wonder why those guys broke down while guys like Bonds and Ryan Howard were able to play forever.

NoTimeBeforeTime (Barry Bruner), Sunday, 1 October 2006 17:00 (fifteen years ago) link

I guess Biggio wuill be more like Sandberg than Joe Morgan re HOF? But has a 3000-hit guy ever NOT gotten in on the first ballot? It's like Zimmerman's 100 rbi parctically guaranteeing him the NL ROY this year.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 1 October 2006 17:25 (fifteen years ago) link

great thread

j blount (papa la bas), Sunday, 1 October 2006 18:37 (fifteen years ago) link

...while guys like Bonds and Ryan Howard were able to play forever.

So how many years did Howard end up playing? Seems like only last year that he was Rookie of the Year.

boldbury (boldbury), Monday, 2 October 2006 02:40 (fifteen years ago) link

three years pass...

Lou Whitaker?


I guess he was breaking down due to injuries ... but there was hardly any decline in his rate stats.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Wednesday, 28 October 2009 20:59 (twelve years ago) link

his obp was awesome! i did notice him and Trammell retired within a year of eachother.

The Cursed Return of the Dastardly Thermo Thinwall, Wednesday, 28 October 2009 21:18 (twelve years ago) link

one year passes...

There's a great article about Whitaker by Bill Parker on ESPN's Sweetspot blog:


He makes a really convincing argument, IMO. We've talked about this a bit on the HOF threads, but I'm also becoming more and more convinced that anyone in the all-time top 10 at their position should be in the HOF (e.g. Jim Edmonds).

NoTimeBeforeTime, Saturday, 5 March 2011 10:18 (ten years ago) link

Whitaker's weakness is two-fold: 1) his greatest value came from walks and the value of walks is criminally under-appreciated and 2) he never threw up an MVP caliber seasons. Those things will hurt Edmonds too (perhaps slightly less so since he was a greater offensive force even relative to his era).

Fig On A Plate Cart (Alex in SF), Saturday, 5 March 2011 15:50 (ten years ago) link

Actually Edmonds did have two top-five MVP votes. It's kind of hard to believe it took until Edmonds was 25 for him to become an MLB regular.

Fig On A Plate Cart (Alex in SF), Saturday, 5 March 2011 15:54 (ten years ago) link

Worth noting next time someone argues for example "oh Cameron Maybin is done stick a fork in that dude look as his SO/BB ratio in the minor leagues, etc" Jim Edmonds minor league stats are very meh and his SO/BB ratio was even worse than Maybin's was. Some folks take weird paths to greatness (not arguing that Maybin will be great obv, just that he still could be.)

Fig On A Plate Cart (Alex in SF), Saturday, 5 March 2011 16:02 (ten years ago) link

Yeah, those are fair criticisms of Whitaker (and he discusses them in the article). Not putting up any monster seasons is a big negative if you want to argue that someone belongs in the HOF, even for a second baseman.

Great hitters from the 80's are really underrated right now because they're (unfairly) compared with the great hitters of the 90's (who are similarly overrated). This probably won't change anytime soon either, with all of the major 90's and 00's stars hitting the HOF ballot in the next few years.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Saturday, 5 March 2011 16:19 (ten years ago) link

I know, I know--not again.

James had a really interesting thing on Trammell and Whitaker once that tried to explain why Trammell got a certain amount of attention and Whitaker got none. Now that Trammell himself gets overlooked in the HOF voting, that may make less sense than it did when it was originally written. Anyway, I'll see if I can dig it up tomorrow and summarize some of what he wrote.

clemenza, Saturday, 5 March 2011 18:55 (ten years ago) link

But Trammell is still on the ballot and Whitaker didn't even make it through one pass.

Fig On A Plate Cart (Alex in SF), Saturday, 5 March 2011 19:10 (ten years ago) link

I know...there's no contradiction between what James wrote and that fact; he was trying to explain why he though Whitaker was badly underrated. (Unless the contradiction you see is between me saying Trammell gets overlooked in the HOF voting and the fact that he's still on the ballot. Still on there, yes--but at 22.4% in his 9th year and with lots of new people coming on, I don't know how promising his chances are.)

clemenza, Saturday, 5 March 2011 19:17 (ten years ago) link

Oops, wrong vote--Trammell's at 24.3% in his 10th year. He's made incremental gains for the past three ballots, so, in view of Blyleven's election, maybe it's too soon to write him off altogether.

clemenza, Saturday, 5 March 2011 19:20 (ten years ago) link

Yeah I'm not arguing Trammell is going to get in, just that even in HoF voting he's still gotten more attention/respect than Whitaker.

Fig On A Plate Cart (Alex in SF), Saturday, 5 March 2011 19:22 (ten years ago) link

I may have found the Whitaker/Trammell thing...I'm not sure; I found something in the '91 Baseball Book, but it's more general than I remembered. Also more pointed. After showing that their Games/Runs/RBIs/OBA/SA were virtually identical to that point in their careers, James put a lot of the perceived differences between the two down to race: "In spite of this, there, is, believe it or not, a widespread belief among the Detroit public that Trammell is a tough, agressive player who has built himself up to this level by working hard, while Lou is just...well, a kind of shiftless black guy who has a lot of ability but hasn't done much with it. This appalling attitude, as close to overt racism as you can get without ruining your linen, is expressed freely in the Motor City media." He also points out, derisively, that "Trammell is a visible on field 'leader,' a holler guy; Whitaker is quiet, laid back. Sometimes he's a little bit of a space cadet."

clemenza, Sunday, 6 March 2011 18:31 (ten years ago) link

one year passes...

Can someone remind me why Will Clark retired when he did? He was 36 and had a 964 OPS in his final season. He played 130 games that season too, so it wasn't injuries.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Saturday, 30 June 2012 10:39 (nine years ago) link

three weeks pass...

I'd probably bet that baseball got in the way of hunting season and Will Clark had enough money to not have to worry about having to travel and play baseball anymore.

earlnash, Saturday, 21 July 2012 03:40 (nine years ago) link

That sounds exactly right for him. I doubt he's given the game a 2nd thought since retiring.

Neil Jung (WmC), Saturday, 21 July 2012 03:56 (nine years ago) link

Clark comes in to talk to the young guys

pun lovin criminal (polyphonic), Saturday, 21 July 2012 06:45 (nine years ago) link

NoTime briefly alluded to Belle above, but what exactly were the circumstances of his retirement--had he just worn out his welcome league-wide, was it physical, or were PEDs lurking in the background? I've forgotten. Even in an inflated era, 23 homers/103 RBI/.281/.342/.474 doesn't seem like an exit season at age 34.

clemenza, Saturday, 21 July 2012 15:16 (nine years ago) link

I remember reading he was having physical problems -- back? arthritis? I can't remember the details.

Neil Jung (WmC), Saturday, 21 July 2012 15:20 (nine years ago) link

Arthritic right hip, apparently.

Neil Jung (WmC), Saturday, 21 July 2012 15:24 (nine years ago) link

That rings a bell. (Sorry.) Give him five more years, and he probably becomes a somewhat controversial HOF case.

clemenza, Saturday, 21 July 2012 15:27 (nine years ago) link

AB's hips were falling apart.

Often stated pieces of trivia about the Niekro bros was that they go to the age where they couldn't react fast enuf to the comebacker; not that they couldn't keep pitching

Grimy Little Pimp (Jimmy The Mod Awaits The Return Of His Beloved), Saturday, 21 July 2012 15:29 (nine years ago) link

what i remember about p-neeks was in his last few years of pitching he looked like he was 70 years old

omar little, Saturday, 21 July 2012 19:52 (nine years ago) link

ten months pass...

Derrek Lee? I know his mid-career monster year was largely a product of the era (which may answer the question) and the park (Wrigley), but in his final season he ended with a huge September in Pittsburgh (.337, 7 homers, .584 slugging pct.) and pretty good numbers overall for the year. Was he injured, or did nobody want him? He was 35.

clemenza, Saturday, 15 June 2013 15:32 (eight years ago) link

Should never assume...Lee's 2005 had nothing to do with Wrigley. He was .328/.425/.669 at home, with 24 home runs, and .342/.421/.654 on the road, with 22. 26 doubles at home, 24 on the road. 60 runs and 52 RBI at home, 60 and 55 on the road. Dead even.

clemenza, Saturday, 15 June 2013 16:49 (eight years ago) link

there were rumors last summer of him pulling a roy oswalt and joining a team midseason, but i guess they never panned out, not sure why

mookieproof, Saturday, 15 June 2013 19:05 (eight years ago) link

was Ralph Kiner a huge lush who had to retire because of his drinking (what my dad told me growing up)? or was it really his back or knees?

bishop desmond youtube (sanskrit), Saturday, 15 June 2013 19:06 (eight years ago) link

(btw oswalt is 3-2, 2.16 in five starts for double-a tulsa and will probably join the rockies next week)

mookieproof, Saturday, 15 June 2013 19:08 (eight years ago) link

Back trouble for Kiner, according to Wikipedia; also mentions recurring salary disputes with Branch Rickey as his ticket out of Pittsburgh two years earlier. He was 32, coming off his worst season since he was a rookie, and the Indians released him. Only found one message-board post for a "Ralph Kiner alcohol" search, but the link won't work for me.

clemenza, Saturday, 15 June 2013 19:17 (eight years ago) link

Derrek Lee turned down an offer from the Yankees this March. I think it was the sort of thing where he was only willing to play if somebody made him a nice offer

Panaïs Pnin (The Yellow Kid), Saturday, 15 June 2013 21:57 (eight years ago) link

one year passes...

Related to the revived HOF thread:

Brian Downing:


He was one of the best old players ever, and could still rake even at age 40 and 41 (2.6 oWAR each year, 138 OPS+ at age 41).

Also, what about Doyle Alexander:


He retired after the '89 season, only two years removed from being the toast of baseball in '87. He did lead the league in losses and was 38, but had thrown 200 + IP for six straight years. His K rate took a dive and BB rate jumped, so I guess his stuff was gone? The '89 game logs seem to suggest this -- he had a good start to the year and steadily declined.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Monday, 13 October 2014 04:28 (seven years ago) link

Billy Wagner is another closer that really hadn't lost anything when he hung it up. I think for some of these guys, they make so much money they just get tired of the job.

earlnash, Monday, 13 October 2014 04:47 (seven years ago) link

I don't remember the exact circumstances with Downing and Alexander, but looking at their career boxes, it looks to me like they had gone as far as they could. Downing's contract had expired and he was 41, so he probably just didn't have any offers (even though, as you say, he was still productive). Alexander had just gone 6-18 at age 38, with a worse-than-league ERA, and had pitched 19 years for eight different teams.

Downing makes me think of weightlifting, and that James used to name him as his favourite player. With Alexander, it's being carried off the field in '85 when the Jays clinched their first divisional title.

clemenza, Monday, 13 October 2014 05:21 (seven years ago) link

Brian Downing had one of the more unique batting styles with that totally open stance.

earlnash, Monday, 13 October 2014 05:25 (seven years ago) link

That too! Forgot about that--really unusual.

clemenza, Monday, 13 October 2014 05:27 (seven years ago) link

I think the pressures of playing baseball really drained Wagner, he'd made up his mind to retire before the season began. He'd had enough of the grind, I don't think it was the money.

Contract status probably did come into play with some of the older guys. Alexander took one year deals in '88 and '89, the Tigers didn't want him back and he would have had to search for a new team. Instead, he retired. In today's game, he would have signed a 3-4 year free agent deal after '87 and pitched until his arm fell off.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Monday, 13 October 2014 05:37 (seven years ago) link

three years pass...

Chris Hoiles?

He popped up on the Baseball Reference photo-collage at the top left today. He had a fantastic year in '93 (.310/.416/.585, 29 HR, 162 OPS+), especially for a catcher, and received a few MVP votes. For the next five seasons, he settles in around 2.5 WAR and 17 or 18 HR a year. In his final season, still only 33, he hits 15 HR with a slash line of .262/.358/.476, his best slugging pct. since '93. Looked to be pretty good defensively too.

clemenza, Tuesday, 25 September 2018 18:55 (three years ago) link

His Wikipedia page doesn't offer any explanation, though he did go on to coach at the university level--maybe he had a job all lined up.

His .994 career fielding percentage ranks ninth all-time among Major League catchers. Hoiles' career .837 on-base plus slugging percentage is seventh-highest all-time among major league catchers. His .467 slugging percentage is 11th highest all-time among major league catchers.

PED era, but still.

clemenza, Tuesday, 25 September 2018 18:58 (three years ago) link

could no longer catch with a degenerative hip and bad back

mookieproof, Tuesday, 25 September 2018 19:09 (three years ago) link

willis otanez did not turn out to be a wise choice, tho

mookieproof, Tuesday, 25 September 2018 19:12 (three years ago) link

Paul Molitor and Moises Alou both could still swing the stick at the end of their career.

Molitor is one of the players that probably benefited most from the DH, as he could not stay healthy playing in the field. His counting stats would have been even more off the charts as he easily missed 3 seasons of games for injuries in his first decade of playing.

earlnash, Wednesday, 26 September 2018 00:42 (three years ago) link

Molitor was definitely one of the best "old" hitters ever. 225 hits at age 39! He probably could have hung around for another couple of years as a pinch hitter if he wanted to.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Wednesday, 26 September 2018 08:50 (three years ago) link

I think Molitor pushed it about as far as he could. There was clear decline his last three years, he was 41, and, by his own standards (and in the context of peak-PED-era), he really wasn't much of a hitter his last year.

clemenza, Wednesday, 26 September 2018 16:48 (three years ago) link

two years pass...

Dave Cash?

Steady and solid through the '70s, MVP votes three consecutive years, hits .321 with the Expos in 1979, has his first negative WAR year with the Padres in '80, gets released, and--at the age of 32--never plays again. Was no one interested, or did he just retire?

clemenza, Friday, 21 May 2021 15:45 (eight months ago) link

Cash went to spring training in 1981 but was released as the season started on April 4. He hit just .172 in the exhibition games for the Padres, yet it was still a shock to him to be let go. Cash said, “I know I hadn’t produced during the spring, but I was playing on a slightly injured knee. It occurred in batting practice, and the knee bothered me a bit after that. I’m not using it as an excuse, but it did have an effect.” After his release, he attempted to catch on with a team that would be a contender, but things never worked out.

Piven After Midnight (The Yellow Kid), Friday, 21 May 2021 15:51 (eight months ago) link

Thanks...so he definitely wanted to play. I though he might have gone to Japan, which many players did at the time.

clemenza, Friday, 21 May 2021 15:55 (eight months ago) link

not Japan but...

In 1989, Cash played for the Orlando Juice of the Senior Professional Baseball Association. He hit .321 in 35 games with the team. The next season, he played for the Florida Tropics and hit .304 in 14 games before the league folded.

Piven After Midnight (The Yellow Kid), Friday, 21 May 2021 16:00 (eight months ago) link

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