Future Hall of Fame ballplayers get to decide when they want to retire. They announce it ahead of time and are feted on the occasion of their final game.
Mere star ballplayers often experience a decline and, ultimately, failure, but they get often get several shots with various teams even after they’re unable to contribute. Their careers end gradually in that way. They’ve earned those extra shots other players may not get.
Ordinary ballplayers either call it a career after the end of a season, having made a personal decision not to play anymore. Or, if not then, after a season begins and they remain unsigned for an extended period. It’s not a notable thing to the general public and, often, the general public just says “oh, Shlabotnik isn’t playing anymore?”
With all due respect to Jeremy Guthrie, he’s probably in the “ordinary player” category. He had double digit wins a few times and pitched in a World Series, but he’s the sort of guy who we’d expect to simply fade away after failing to latch on. Most of us would not necessarily notice when his major league career ended unless we were super big fans of his or one of the teams he played for.
Except we do know that Guthrie’s career ended. And when. And how. It ended ignominiously, on April 8 of this season, when, while pitching for the Washington Nationals, he allowed ten runs on six hits and four walks in only two-thirds of an inning against the Phillies. He went home after that, asked for his release from the Nats and, at age 38, is almost certainly never going to pitch again.
Today Mark Zuckerman has a story about Guthrie and how he’s been doing since that start. How he feels about it and how odd a role it has proven to play in his life and career. It’s a pretty fascinating story because we don’t usually hear about when guys burn out — or when they fade away — unless there’s some other element to it like an improbable comeback or a dramatic injury or something. Here it’s just about Guthrie taking one more shot at at the bigs and missing. And moving on.
It’s not a depressing read or anything — Guthrie sounds like he’s in a good place with all of it — and I think it’s cool to hear about an aspect of a big league career that we don’t often know much about.