Retirement 101 – Don’t cheat your fans…
The only thing I think my mother loved more than Chi Sox baseball was the Heroes of Lambeau Field â€“ yes, my mother is a Green Bay Packers fan.Â My mother is a wonderful mother and she didnâ€™t believe in child abuse.Â This is why she raised all seven of her children to be Packers fans rather than fans of the ever-losing home state team of the Lions.Â To forever root for the Lions is to set one’s self up for years and years of constant anger, frustration and disappointment. Â Raising your child to be a Lions fan was the equivalent of mentally abusing your child.Â My mom realized this and lead all of her children down a safer, more stable path. Â Did I mention my mother is a very smart mother too?
So naturally, having known Packers football my whole life, I cried along with Brett Favre the first time he retired.Â I didnâ€™t know what Packers football was without him. Brett Favre was my Sunday friend.Â We won together, we cried together, but now he was leaving me.Â A little part of my childhood died watching him cry at his retirement announcement press conference. Then when he came back to play for the Eagles I was in shock.Â How could he be a traitor to his team!!!Â I was content in knowing that he had a terrible season and was happy to hear of the re-retirement of Brett Favre this past spring.Â To my shock and horror Brett Favre decided to make his re-re unretirement this past week.Â Now, I find myself disgusted.Â Not only did he decide to dance around the retirement bush again, he decided to come back and play for a team in his old division â€“ BLASPHEMY!Â Extreme anger and frustration was all I could feel.Â I went from him wanting to have a bad season to hoping that not only the Packers kick his aging butt all over the field, but I wish the Lions a happy beating of the Favre as well.
I couldnâ€™t help but parlay these feelings into baseball (my true love).Â As I watch my Tigers play, day in and day out, I canâ€™t help but think â€“ what do you do with an aging player slightly past peak?Â How would I feel watching my favorite baseball player play the retire/ un-retire dance?Â What would I want to feel once itâ€™s over.Â Basically, what has Brett Favre robbed from me as a fan?
I make it no secret in my life that my favorite baseball player is Magglio Ordonez.Â From the jerseys to the signed photos, I live in a little shrine to my boys of summer.Â But Magglio is the emphasis of the collection.Â I saw him play for the first time on Sunday September 3, 2000 for the Chi Sox vs. the Angels at the then New Comiskey Park in Chicago with my Aunt.Â From that day on I was hooked.Â When he went down in 2004 with his rare knee injury, I cried.Â When he was signed to the Tigers in February of 2005 I did a happy dance and smiled for a week.Â For me, Maggs was the man and now the man was out of enemy territory and into Tigerland.Â Donâ€™t get me started about the feelings that are conjured up inside me when I see the replay of the series ending 3 run homer off Houston Street that sent the Tigers to the World Series in 2006. To this day I get all choked up and it brings tears to my eyes. I was there at the CoPa on Tuesday April 22, 2008 when he hit his career 250 home run and 1,000 RBI all in the same pitch.Â Not many people in the park knew what happened with that home run, but I did.Â In a way, I felt like he did it for me.Â It was a small thank you of my unwavering support of him thru the years.Â Maggs is my Tiger â€“ for now and for always.
However, Maggs is not having a stellar year this year.Â A career .312 hitter and 2007 batting champion with a .363 BAâ€“ he has let himself slip into a season long slump that has many in Detroit calling for his head.Â Currently as I type this, he is hitting .275, home runs are down, slugging percentage is way down and letâ€™s face it â€“ with age a player looses agility in the field and Maggs has had better years in right field (aka Magglio country).Â We are now more than 2/3 of the way thru the season and he has slowly started to show signs of recovery.Â But perhaps this is the beginning of the end for Magglio.Â Perhaps this is the point in a playerâ€™s career when they have to face the inevitable.Â When is it time to hang it up?Â When have you crossed the threshold of being a detriment to your team?Â When have you gone from being a hero to an unproductive payroll hog?
Donâ€™t get me wrong, I think my boy Magglio still has a few decent years left in him.Â He still gets hits but those hits are not homers and extra base hits, they are singles and walks.Â Problem for Magglio is that the Tigers are paying him to swing a bat and drive in some runs.Â The Tigers have their hands bound by a very achievable set of contract stipulations for Mr. Ordonez that guarantees him $18 million if he reaches certain milestones in his contract.Â As of tonight, Maggs is only 68 plate appearances away from automatically kicking in that contract â€“ a very achievable goal.Â However, Â Maggs (as much as I love him) is not the same player he was back in 2006 or 2007.Â His production has waned and he is starting to slow down, his glory years are behind himâ€¦ Magglio is not worth $18 million anymore.
So what is a team to do with an aging player?Â The Tigers have tried many things, from benching to platooning to straight â€œdonâ€™t come to the park todayâ€ days off.Â Some of it seems to have helped due to the fact that his average has picked up in August and for the first time all year heâ€™s seeing pitches and not hacking away at balls.Â The time to release him is long gone.Â Heâ€™s hitting and taking his walks now and the Tigers need hitters.Â To bench him at this point in the season is suspect to career sabotage.Â Magglio is represented by the evil Scott Boras and this is a fight that Mr. Boras has already hinted that he is willing to take on if it comes to that.Â Itâ€™s almost (and I stress almost) a given that he will achieve his contract extension and play another season, if not 2 more for the Tigers.Â Iâ€™m cool with that.
I canâ€™t help but think about how I would feel if Magglio â€“ post contract expiration â€“ went to play for another team in the American League Central.Â Iâ€™m sure it would be a rehashing of the feelings and anger I went thru with Brett Favre over the last 2 seasons.Â But unlike Mr. Favre, I feel as if I have a sort of personal connection with Magglio.Â I have been there for all his ups and downs as a Tiger.Â I cheered during the good times, I cried during the bad ones.Â To me he is part of my baseball family. Magglio is my Tiger and he always will be.Â I hope he can work out his current contract situation with the Tigers and in the future resign another (smaller) contract and retire a Tiger.Â He has done fabulous things for the Tigers organization and the local community.Â I think it will be tougher to see him retire than any other player I have ever witnessed retire (my week long Cal Ripken Jr. retirement depression story is another post â€“ some other time).Â I can only hope that when itâ€™s time to hang up his cleats and put the bats away, Magglio stays gone.Â Not because I would have to start questioning his motives and not liking him, but because the act of un-retirement to me is cheating fans out of their right to say goodbye.Â Brett Favre robbed me and other fans of our right to say goodbye not only to him and his career, but to a chapter of our own lives.Â Un-retirement turns a once prestigious player into a bad houseguest that has overstayed their welcome.Â Play until you know for sure you are done, then let your fans say goodbye gracefully and with finality.Â Closure is a good thing for all parties involved.Â I hope that someday, whenever the day comes, Magglio will grant me that justice and give me something that Mr. Favre would not.
PS â€“ Ironically, as I sit here and write this at 1 am,Â Magglio is again playing the Angels.Â He went 1-2 with 2BB and a runâ€¦ productive?Â I think soâ€¦