Grote’s Gripes: Never Gonna Say Goodbye; When Athletes Hang On Too Long

When Athletes Hang On Too Long

BRONX, NY – Man it was such a great site to see.  I caught some of the highlights of yesterday’s YankeesRays game and I was overcome with joy.  Though I enjoyed the Yankees losing to the Rays and having their lead trimmed to one game in the AL East, I got my greatest joy watching Alex Rodriguez run the bases.  Seeing him going from first to home on a triple had me positively giddy.  The Yankees owe this guy $25 million per year through 2017.  Yes.  This is FANTASTIC.  It is abundantly clear that his bat speed is almost gone.  He’ll be lucky to hit 20 homers and drive 60 runs this season.  But that is not really the issue.  The issue is that the guy can’t run.  I thought I was watching highlights of Joe Pepitone running the bases during this year’s Old Timers Game.  All the off-season trips in the world to the Dominican aren’t going to bring back those legs.  His power may return for stretches but he is toast as an upper echelon player.

Let’s fast forward 2 years now.  A-Rod will be a .250 hitter with some power and zero speed making $25 million per year doing so.  It will be clear to everyone that he should retire but he won’t because he will still make $75 million more dollars by sticking around 3 more years in the Bronx.  Yankee fans will HATE him and I will LOVE every second of it.  By that time Alex will top the list of When Athletes Hang On Too Long.  A-Rod aside, here’s my list of guys who did irreparable harm to their legacies by not hanging them up when they should have:

Say Hey I’ve Fallen And Can’t Get Up

Willie Mays: The Say Hey Kid was maybe the best all around player to ever wear a baseball uniform.  He was the NL leader in hits, batting, stolen bases, runs, walks, triples and homers in various seasons.  As a Met at age 42 he couldn’t walk, let alone run, embarrassing himself more during the 1973 Series than Short Matt does every time he dons that blue blazer and orange pants in public.

Brett Favre: We all remember the dick pick don’t we?

O.J. Simpson: Before he became a felon for stealing back his memorabilia from some guys in Vegas (that was all he was ever convicted of), he made his way the San Fran to ungracefully end his career with two forgettable seasons as a 49er.  But hey, he was always good for ratings.

Definitely Lost His Edge

Emmitt Smith: Before his Just For Men spokesman days, he had a few Just For Laughs seasons in Arizona.

Joe Namath: Broadway Joe really should’ve hung up his panty hose in the early 70’s but went on to rack up 71 interceptions in his last 43 games.  Those are going to be tough numbers for even Mark Sanchez to match.

Dale Murphy: Once considered a shoe-in for the Hall Of Fame, his skills dropped faster than you can say Jason Bay.  After the Braves let him go, he hung on for three and a half disastrous seasons with the Phillies and (gasp) RockiesVince Young scored a higher percentage on his Wonderlic test than Murphy did on the latest Hall Of Fame ballot.

Muhammad Ali: After avenging a loss to Leon Spinks, he was savagely beaten by Larry Holmes and still decided to enter the ring against Trevor Burbick.  Now he doesn’t talk so tough anymore. He just talks slowly. Very slowly.

Stay tuned tomorrow for another tough talker whose hands have been known to shake (delicious tremblings if you will), Angry Ward.

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