Mike Sweeney retires

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Mike Sweeney is announcing his retirement today.  Given that this word is coming via Royals writers and the announcement is happening in Surprise, Arizona, he is apparently retiring as a Royal, if not in a formal contractual sense, then at least in a cosmic sense.

Which is appropriate, as Mike Sweeney was the Kansas City Royals for many, many years. He played thirteen of his sixteen major league seasons in Kansas City, excelling in a Royals uniform. His career line in Kansas City was .299/.369/.492.  He played 1,282 games and smacked 197 homers there.

He was also one of the few bright spots during his tenure on that team. He became a full time player in 1999. Between then and 2007 the Royals lost 100 games four times, 97 games twice and 93 games once. The only bright spot from a team perspective came in 2003, when the Royals surprised everyone, holding on to first place in the AL Central for a long, long time before fading but, ultimately, finishing above .500.  It was that year, however, when Sweeney began to suffer an increasing number of injuries, playing in only 108 games.  After 2005 he never played in 100 games again.

Upon leaving the Royals, Sweeney bounced from Oakland to Seattle to Philadelphia where he played some first base, did some designated hitting and served as a pinch hitter/hugging/inspirational guy.  That inspirational part was always a bit complicated, however, as it is with most players.  When things were going well — like they did during his time with the Phillies — Mike Sweeney was a living, breathing, hugging pep-squad.  When things turned sour — like his time in Seattle last year — things got ugly.

The ups and downs of life in a major league clubhouse aside, Sweeney has long been a good baseball citizen. He’s extremely active in the community. He’s a man of faith and family. With the exception of Jeff Weaver, he’s generally been a well-liked fellow.

Nice career. Too bad he never got to be part of a winning team when he was in his prime. Good travels, Mike Sweeney.

Tigers sign Josh Thole to minors deal

Josh Thole
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The Tigers signed catcher Josh Thole to a minor league deal, per an announcement from the Double-A Erie SeaWolves on Friday. Thole is expected to report to Double-A Erie, where he’ll split time with starting catcher Jake Rogers.

Thole, 31, has not appeared in a major or minor league game since 2016. He signed a minors deal with the Diamondbacks back in 2017, but was sidelined through most of the season after undergoing hamstring surgery in April. He was released by the team during spring training and failed to catch on with another major league club through the first two months of the 2018 season.

While the veteran backstop hasn’t tested his skills in pro ball for several years now, he held his own during a short-lived run with the independent New Britain Bees of the Atlantic League. Over 17 games in 2018, Thole batted .317/.425/.367 with three extra-base hits and a .791 OPS in 75 plate appearances. He’s expected to serve as catching depth within the Tigers’ organization, but may yet work his way back to the majors if he can get his average back over the Mendoza Line again — a feat he hasn’t managed since 2015.