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We’re down to five players who debuted before the year 2000

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Calendar years are an artificial construct, as are decades and centuries and the base-ten system that makes years with 0s and 5s on the end of them seem significant for that matter.

But they’re significant to enough people that it will be interesting, and maybe even a little sad, when the last player who appeared in a major league game before the year 2000* retires. With A.J. Pierzynski kinda sorta probably retiring over the weekend, we lost another pre-2K guy. He debuted on September 9, 1998. With him gone, only five players who debuted before the temporal odometer flipped still roam the big leagues:

  • David Ortiz (debuted September 2, 1997): You may have heard that he’s retiring after the season and that, if people think of it, they may hold some sort of farewell festivities for him. Working to confirm.
  • Joe Nathan (debuted April 21, 1999): He just made it in under the wire this year, missing most of it while recovering from even more surgery. He’s pitched in six games — three each for the Cubs and Giants — and hasn’t allowed any earned runs, even if he hasn’t impressed anyone all that much. He hasn’t talked about his plans for 2017, but it’d be easy to see him either hanging it up or latching on someplace next spring.
  • Adrian Beltre (debuted June 24, 1998): All he’s doing is chugging along with fantastic numbers — .299/.358/.516 29 HR, 96 RBI — while remaining healthy and reliable at third base and serving as the unquestioned team leader of the club with the best record in the American League. He may play forever. The most hilarious thing about this is that if you ask casual baseball fans if Beltre is a Hall of Famer they’ll probably say no because there ain’t no one more overlooked and underrated than Beltre.
  • Carlos Beltran (debuted September 14, 1998): Unless of course Beltran is the most underrated. Hard to say. He should be a Hall of Famer too. He’s hitting about the same as Beltre on the year — .298/.340/.520, 27 HR, 86 RBI — so he’ll almost certainly be back in 2017 as well.
  • Bartolo Colon (debuted April 4, 1997): When you’re built like someone’s 50-something-year-old uncle by the time you hit your 30s you become the butt of a lot of jokes. But I also wonder if you likewise level out to some more sustainable level of “fitness” that guys who get bigger in their late 30s can’t. Like you can handle it better if you get big while you’re still young. I dunno. All I know is that as long as Colon keeps pumping strikes like he has for the Mets this year — he’s 13-7 with a 3.27 ERA while walking only 30 guys in 30 appearances — he’ll always have a job. He’ll be back next year and the world will be better for it.

Buddy Carlyle (debuted August 29, 1999) has not appeared in the bigs or the minors this year but I could not find a formal retirement announcement for him. He was hemming and hawing about it when the Mets released him back in March. I presume he’s done, but you never know with relievers. Everyone else on the list that friend-of-HBT Jason Lukehart complied to this effect last year has bid baseball adieu.

Who do you think the last one will be? My head says Beltre, but my heart says Bartolo. Maybe those two and Beltran should all leave the game together, holding hands in a little circle or something.

Note: yes, I realize no one says “the year 2000” anymore, but I did for the first 25 years or so of my life and that Conan bit was always fantastic. Also: given how often people get pedantically crucified every time they use “the 20th century” to refer to years beginning with “19–” rather than noting that, technically, 2000 was the last year of the 20th century, I feel like I deserve some kudos for not calling this post “We’re down to five players who debuted in the 20th century.”

Angels’ Andrelton Simmons opts out of final 5 games

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shortstop Andrelton Simmons has opted out of the remainder of the Los Angeles Angels’ season.

The Angels announced the four-time Gold Glove-winning shortstop’s decision Tuesday before they faced the San Diego Padres.

Los Angeles (24-31) is still technically in the playoff race with five games left in the regular season, and Simmons clearly caught the Angels by surprise, although the club said it respected his decision.

The 31-year-old Simmons, who can be a free agent this winter, is finishing his fifth year with the Angels. After spraining his ankle in late July and missing 22 games, Simmons is currently batting .297 with 10 RBIs while playing his usual stellar defense, albeit with four errors in 30 games.

“At this time, I feel this is the best decision for me and my family,” Simmons said in a statement. “We don’t know what the future holds, but we would like to sincerely thank the Angels organization and Angels fans for welcoming and making us feel at home.”

Manager Joe Maddon acknowledged he was caught by surprise when general manager Billy Eppler told him about Simmons’ decision Monday night after Simmons went 1 for 4 with an RBI single in the Angels’ home finale. Maddon texted Simmons, but hadn’t heard back by Tuesday afternoon.

“I’ve really enjoyed this guy a lot,” Maddon said. “I’m a big fan. This guy is a good baseball player, and I’ve enjoyed the conversations, too. It’s just unfortunate. He’s really a big part of what we’re doing right now.”

Simmons is a favorite of Angels fans for his defensive wizardry, and owner Arte Moreno has described Simmons as perhaps his favorite player to watch on the roster. Simmons has batted .281 with 36 homers and 281 RBIs during his five seasons with Los Angeles, and he won the Gold Glove in 2017 and 2018.

“He’s a thinking kind of a player, and I’ve enjoyed him a lot,” Maddon said.

Simmons will be a free agent this winter, and the Angels have an obvious replacement for him in David Fletcher, who has a .374 on-base percentage while regularly hitting leadoff for the Angels during his breakout major league season. Fletcher has been playing second base since Simmons’ return from injury.

But the Angels haven’t publicly closed the door on Simmons’ return, and he could be given a qualifying offer. Maddon has repeatedly said he would like Simmons to return in 2021 if possible.

The Angels haven’t had a winning season during Simmons’ five years in Anaheim, although Simmons said last week he wasn’t discouraged by the lack of team success. Simmons played his first four major league seasons in Atlanta, and he hasn’t appeared in the postseason since 2013.

Simmons also said he hadn’t been involved in any recent contract talks with the Angels, but he had enjoyed playing for the club. When asked if he wanted to return to the Halos, Simmons said he would have to “plead the fifth.”