Sammy Sosa to Retire

Sammy Sosa is retiring from baseball, barring a dramatic offer from a desperate team, just a dozen homers shy of 600.

Sammy Sosa probably will retire after rejecting an offer from the Washington Nationals. “It’s more than likely we have seen him in a uniform for the last time,” Sosa’s agent, Adam Katz, said Wednesday. The 37-year-old outfielder ranks fifth on the career home run list with 588 but batted .221 with 14 homers and 45 RBIs last year in his only season with the Baltimore Orioles.

Washington offered Sosa a non-guaranteed contract that would have included performance bonus opportunities.

“It wasn’t about the money and it wasn’t about No. 600,” Katz said. “It was a function of Sammy’s expectation of his own performance. He didn’t want to go out there and underperform like he did last year because it was just too painful for him, and it’s just something he doesn’t want to go through again.”

While many will point to steroids use, without any proof in Sosa’s case, at some point, athletes get old. It tends to happen suddenly for them, rather than creeping up slowly as it does with the rest of us.

Update: ESPN’s Jayson Stark writes,

There was no teary press conference. No wave goodbye. Not even a word or a sighting of the man himself. But barring something shocking, Wednesday marked the final chapter in the historic, controversial, always-riveting career of Sammy Sosa.

Sosa didn’t formally announce his retirement Wednesday. He merely notified the Washington Nationals that he was respectfully passing on their much-publicized one-year, $500,000, non-guaranteed contract offer. But even Sosa’s agent, Adam Katz, didn’t attempt to pretend there’s some stunning comeback on Sosa’s horizon. Not with the Nationals. Not with the Yomiuri Giants. Not even for a few weeks, with that WBC dream team from the Dominican Republic. Nope. This, Katz said, was clearly it. “We’re not going to put him on the retirement list,” Katz told ESPN.com. “We decided that [not putting him on that list] was the best thing to do. But I can say, with reasonable certainty, that we’ve seen Sammy in a baseball uniform for the last time.”

Assuming that’s true, Sosa will head for the golf course just 12 home runs away from the 600 Homer Club — a club with only four ridiculously famous members (Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds and Willie Mays). At the moment, no one stands between Sosa (at 588 homers) and Mays (660). So Sosa will rank No. 5 on the all-time list for the foreseeable future — at least until Junior Griffey (536) or A-Rod (429) or someone else passes him by.

Those 12 home runs were dangling out there, as incentive for Sosa to play. But apparently, they weren’t enough incentive for him to risk embarrassing himself on his way down the exit ramp. “Sammy spent a lot of time ruminating on this,” Katz said. “And it basically came down to this: He has such high expectations for himself, and last year was absolute misery for him, the way he under-performed. Sammy just didn’t want to put himself through the possibility of going through something like that again. He still thinks he can do it. But there’s some doubt there.”

It is the right call. Sosa’s year with the Orioles was rather embarrassing by his standards. After twelve straight seasons with 25 or more homers–and that includes a strike shortened season–he hit only 14 last year. It was by no means guaranteed that he would hit another 12 if he returned.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. ICallMasICM says:

    Since Roger Maris hit 61 homers in 1961 3 players have hit more in a single season. All 3 players had 2 things in common.

    1. They were National Leaguers

    2. They all……….?