Ronnie Belliard to retire after one final game tonight

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Veteran infielder Ronnie Belliard said Tuesday that tonight’s game for the Phillies’ Triple-A Lehigh Valley affiliate will be his last and that he’s going to retire.

Belliard signed a minor league deal with the Phillies after failing to make the Yankees out of spring training this year.  He played in 82 games with the Dodgers last season, hitting .216/.295/.327 in 162 at-bats.

Belliard was quite an underrated player at his peak.  He was viewed as a disappointment after coming up with the Brewers, in part because he never really improved after his strong rookie season.  Also, he often got dinged because he always carried some extra weight.  No one likes a middle infielder with a gut.

Still, he was a rock-solid second baseman for several years and even an All-Star in 2004.  He had his best Triple Crown season in 2005, hitting .284 with 17 homers and 78 RBI.  Later, he proved to be a very useful role player with the Nationals in 2008, hitting .287/.372/.473 in 296 at-bats, and in 2009, when he was a great pickup for the Dodgers down the stretch.

In all, Belliard hit .273/.338/.415 with 114 homers and 601 RBI in 1,481 games.  His career OPS+ of 96 bests that of fellow second basemen Brandon Phillips (.268/.318/.427, 94) and Aaron Hill (.268/.322/.420, 95).

Odds are that he would have had a longer and more productive career had he focused more on his conditioning. Maybe he’d still be going strong as a regular at age 36 right now. Teams certainly would have been more interested in taking a chance on him if he just once made a point of showing up in the best shape of his life.

But so what?  It was his career, and it was a darn good one that allowed him to make about $16 million in the process. Outside of the horrible 2002 season that caused the Brewers to kick him to the curb, he was pretty much always a useful player when healthy. And now he has a glorious second career in the world of competitive eating to look forward to.

The Cubs will try to clinch the NL Central on Tuesday

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The Cubs soundly defeated the Cardinals on Monday night, 10-2, sending their magic number down to one. They will try to clinch the NL Central on Tuesday with another win against the Cardinals. Alternatively, if they lose, they can still clinch if the Brewers also lose on Tuesday.

The Cubs, of course, won the Central last year en route to winning their first World Series since 1908. It wasn’t nearly as easy this year as the club was below .500 entering June and was exactly at .500 entering July. A 16-8 July, 17-12 August, and 15-8 September have helped put the Cubs back in position to return to the postseason.

Not to be forgotten, the Cardinals were eliminated from NL Central contention with Monday’s loss. Now they have their sights set on the second NL Wild Card slot and currently trail the Rockies in that race.

The matchups for Tuesday’s action:

Carter Capps to undergo surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome

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Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune reports that Padres pitcher Carter Capps will undergo surgery this offseason to address thoracic outlet syndrome, which doctors believe caused the right-hander’s blood clots. The Padres hope to have him ready by spring training next year.

Capps, 27, underwent Tommy John surgery last year and didn’t debut this season until August 7. He made 11 relief appearances, yielding nine runs on 12 hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings. He went back on the DL on September 12 due to the blood clot issue.

The Padres acquired Capps from the Marlins last July in the Andrew Cashner trade which ended up having a lot of moving parts. Capps will enter his third and final year of arbitration eligibility this offseason. It’s quite possible the Padres choose to non-tender him.