Shoehei Ohtani has said no, Aaron Boone has said yes, and the New York Yankees are prepared for a 2018 season that will be…weird, to say the least. After coming a game shy of the World Series, the Yankees will enter spring training with a new manager, several perennial MVP candidates, and the ‘rebuilding’ period left behind.
Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, and Luis Severino will get all of the talk in the coming months, but let’s talk about some recent Yankees who didn’t end their career in pinstripes. How many of these guys will you remember playing for other teams? How many of these players wearing pinstripes will you remember?
Really, our only true ground rule for this list that the players in questions are on the last team they spent a regular season game with. Players like John Flaherty who retired in spring training with another team (Red Sox!) or who went and played overseas/independent ball before retiring (Andruw Jones) are ineligible unless their final big league stint was with another team. Someone like Shane Spencer, who played for a non-Yankees team before playing overseas and retiring there.
Are you ready to feel nostalgic, old, and bewildered all at the same time? Let’s get to work.
15. Hideki Matsui – Tampa Bay Rays (2012)
Let’s start our list with something you definitely will not remember: Hideki Matsui suiting up for the Tampa Bay Rays at 38-years-old in 2012 during their constant “let’s sign washed up stars to be our designated hitter” phase. A 2011 season in Oakland (!) where Matsui was worth a career-worst 0.6 WAR and had only a .321 on-base percentage was likely a sign that things were nearing the end, but Godzilla managed to get into 34 games for the Rays in 2012 and slash .147/.214/.435 with two home runs.
By 2013, Matsui was officially retiring and now, he’s a mainstay at Old Timer’s Day in the Bronx every summer. Will we see him hit another upper deck home run next summer? Maybe Matsui should face Aaron Judge in a quick Home Run Derby…
14. Joba Chamberlain – Cleveland Indians (2016)
It’s not the forgetting Joba Chamberlain didn’t end his career in New York that makes it on the list – I think we can all remember his time in Detroit where he nailed Derek Jeter with a pitch – but it’s that he ended his regular season career in Cleveland of all places. Chamberlain is the first on our list to technically end a career with one team (Milwakuee this past spring) but play his final regular season game with another, and it’s the Indians that make it here. In 20 games for the Tribe two seasons ago,
Chamberlain actually seemed to resemble his younger self with Cleveland, pitching to a 2.25 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 20 innings. 11 walks in 20 innings and the Indians heading for their first American League pennant in nearly 20 seasons had Chamberlain a free agent by midseason and retiring earlier this year.
13. Chuck Knoblauch – Kansas City Royals (2002)
Contrary to popular belief, Chuck Knoblauch not only didn’t retire when his throwing problems began – remember, the former Rookie of the Year played in 137 games for the 2001 New York Yankees and stole 38 bases in 47 tries – but actually spent 80 games with the Royals in 2002. Could Knoblauch regain the play of his old self? After hitting .210/.284/.300 in 80 games and posting a -0.7 WAR, the answer was definitely a resounding no.
At least Knoblauch was able to steal 19 bases in 22 attempts before being released. Now, Knoblauch is out getting into Twitter fights, finding himself locked up, and making people forget about a very solid playing career that once looked like it could end with a Hall of Fame plaque.
12. Mike Stanton – Cincinnati Reds (2007)
Mike Stanton played for a lot of teams. So many in fact that we’re going to name each one!
– 1989-1995 with the Atlanta Braves.
– 1995-1996 with the Boston Red Sox.
– 1996 with the Texas Rangers.
– 1997-2002 with the New York Yankees (this is obviously where he’s most remembered).
– 2003-2004 with the New York Mets.
– 2005 with the New York Yankees.
– 2005 with the Washington Nationals.
– 2005 with the Boston Red Sox (for a single game!).
– 2006 with the Washington Nationals.
– 2006 with the San Francisco Giants.
– 2007 with the Cincinnati Reds – and in that 2007 season, he pitched to a 5.93 ERA in 69 games while only walking 18 in 57.2 innings at 40 years old. Somehow, that is both bad and somewhat not bad!. Who’s next?
11. Randy Johnson – San Francisco Giants (2009)
Unlike most of the other players on this list, Randy Johnson actually has a fairly memorable moment with the team he retired with: winning his 300th game while pitching for the San Francisco Giants in 2009 on a blustery, June day in Washington. Johnson was better than most people seem to remember in 2009, winning eight games and pitching to a 4.88 ERA – far from the best, but things could have been worse at 45 years old while striking out 86 and only walking 31 in 96 innings.
Granted, Johnson was one of the best pitchers of his time and deserved his first ballot Hall of Fame induction in 2015, but to pitch that much at 45? It almost makes us wonder what Johnson, now a freelance photographer could have done as a 46-year-old in 2010…
10. Shane Spencer – New York Mets (2004)
The first player on our list to officially end their career overseas (Spencer spent 2005 and 2006 in Japan with the Hanshin Tigers), Spencer makes this list for a 74 game stint with the New York Mets in 2004. Two years removed from his final year with the Yankees and coming off a career-high 12 home run season with Cleveland and Texas, Spencer actually put up respectable numbers with the Mets, slashing .281/.332/.411 with four home runs and a career-high six stolen bases.
At 32 years old and with Carlos Beltran soon arriving, there wasn’t much of a place left for Spencer in a Mets uniform. Now managing the Hwaseong Heroes in South Korea, perhaps Spencer can find the next Shoehei Ohtani and convince him to wear the pinstripes.
9. Bobby Abreu – New York Mets (2014)
Seeing as the New York Mets made the World Series a year after Bobby Abreu spent 78 games with them, maybe he was the key to a culture change? Stranger things have happened in the sport, even if the two-time All-Star only hit .248/.342/.338 with one home run and 14 RBIs with the Mets. The advanced stats weren’t much kinder to the potential future Hall of Famer (unlikely, but he has a 94 on Baseball-Reference’s Hall of Fame monitor when the likely HOFer has 100) with Abreu registering a career-worst -0.7 WAR.
Abreu may not have had the power of years past in the Bronx, but he was among the league’s more underrated players from 2006-08 with the Yankees. It’s only fitting, then, he ended his career as a rival of both the Yankees and his first team, the Philadelphia Phillies.
8. Johnny Damon – Cleveland Indians (2012)
Now we’re getting to the good stuff. After a solid 2011 season with the Tampa Bay Ray where Damon slashed .261/.326/.418 with 16 home runs, 73 RBI, and 19 stolen bases, the Cleveland Indians were optimistic the potential future Hall of Famer (seriously, Damon could very well wind up elected in the coming years…unless he falls off the ballot this year) could provide a jolt at 38 years old. Instead, Damon hit .222/.281/.329 with four home runs, 19 RBI, and four stolen bases in 64 games before being released midseason.
7. David Wells – Los Angeles Dodgers (2007)
While Wells did spend 22 starts with the San Diego Padres in 2007, it’s fairly easy to remember him in the camo uniforms in large part because Boomer hails from California. But the Los Angeles Dodgers? After being released midseason (what’s with all of these midyear cuts?), Wells linked up with the Los Angeles Dodgers, starting seven games and pitching to a 5.12 ERA in 38 innings. The ERA wasn’t pretty, but Wells did at least win four games for a team deep in the playoff hunt most of the year and only walk nine hitters in those 38 innings.
6. Xavier Nady – San Diego Padres (2014)
What’s tougher to remember: Nady’s 66 game stint with the Yankees from 2008-09 or a 22 game stint with the Padres in 2014? While we did say no one season in the Bronx players count, Nady played parts of two seasons and was given a World Series ring despite missing nearly all of 2009 following an elbow injury, so he’s indeed eligible for our list. In 22 games with the Padres, 35-year-old Nady slashed a measly .135/.238/.405 with three home runs and four runs batted in for a -0.2 WAR.
Given that Nady hadn’t played more than 100 games since 2010 and, like Abreu, sat out all of 2013, him even making it back is worth some respect. As for the stats? It’s San Diego, what did you expect?
5. Jose Molina – Tampa Bay Rays (2012-14)
Even nearing his 40s, Jose Molina was still going strong! Because Molina was primarily a backup with the Rays – although he did play in 102 games in 2012, only the second time in his career he hit that mark (100 in 2008 with the Yankees) – it’s easy to forget about what happened to the final home run hitter in Yankee Stadium history. Over those three years, Molina slashed .213/.271/.286 with eight (!!!) of his ten home runs coming in 2012.
As always, Molina was strong behind the plate, having his pitchers maintain an ERA under 3.80 each year and even a 3.22 mark in 2012. Not bad for seemingly the most forgotten of the Molina brothers! And hey, Molina will always have that final home run in the old Yankee Stadium to his name.
4. Marcus Thames – Los Angeles Dodgers (2011)
If any of you remember Marcus Thames’ 36 game stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011, good on you. Most Yankees fans would think Thames, who has been on the team’s staff the past few seasons as an assistant hitting coach, would have gone overseas or just stopped playing after his 2010 stint in the Bronx, but nope. Thamaes had 66 at-bats for the Dodgers in 2011, only hitting two home runs while slashing .197/.243/.333.
“When I was on the bench as a player, I was listening and watching my (Tigers) manager, Jim Leyland,” Thames said in 2016. “He would be making moves like two or three innings prior to the situation that was going to come up. I was like, ‘Wow, this man is smart.’ I started trying to put some of that stuff in the back of my mind, so if I did want to be a coach, I could use it.”
3. José Contreras – Pittsburgh Pirates
Yes, this happened. This legitimately happened. At 41 years old after three years with the Philadelphia Phillies – the last of which saw him record a 5.27 ERA over 17 games in 2012 – Contreras spent part of the 2013 season across the state in Pittsburgh. Pitching in seven games for the Pirates, including one start, Contreras allowed five runs and six walks in five innings before being….released midseason.
There’s not much to say about a season where a guy only pitches five innings in seven games, but at least Contreras was able to make it to Major League Baseball at all coming from Cuba. Even if he never lived up to the hype that came with a Yankees-Red Sox bidding war, Jose saw the route and was able to make it out.
2. Tom Gordon – Arizona Diamondbacks (2009)
Tom Gordon? Tom Gordon. At 41 years old and after two straight disappointing seasons in Philadelphia – although, maybe they weren’t so much disappointing as it was simply a guy getting old – Gordon saw action in three games for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009 before going under the knife with a back injury. Those three games? Four runs and three walks allowed over five outs.
Since his retirement, Gordon has seen one son, Dee, make it to the Major Leagues and become an All-Star second baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami Marlins. Another son, Nick Gordon, is a top prospect with the Minnesota Twins who could see big league time in 2018 if all goes well. Flash may be retired, but he’s living vicariously through his sons!
1. Eric Chavez – Arizona Diamondbacks (2013-14)
Eric Chavez played more games his first season in Arizona (80 in 2013) than he played total in Oakland from 2008-10 (64). If that doesn’t say all you need to know about Chavez’s time in Arizona at 35 years old, we’ll add more: the Gold Glove third baseman wasn’t bad out west. Chavez’s first season, a nine home run outing where he slashed .281/.332/.478, was a productive outing that raised high expectations for 2014…where Chavez slashed .246/.346/.449 in 44 games before getting hurt and released.
Chavez may have been on an expensive contract with the Athletics, but the guy kept trying to battle back and wound up making it back to the majors as a productive role player with the Yankees and Diamondbacks. Not bad at all.
Which of these players’ final landing spots surprised you the most? Make sure to let us know!
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