I’m way behind on retirement tributes. But coming soon, Tim Wakefield will get the post he deserves for the 186 regular season plunks he threw, and the 9 in the postseason. It might take me a while to put everything together for that. But for the moment, I just want to recap what’s been lost in the world of Major League Baseball in the past 5 years, and as always I look at that through the lens of HBP leaders.
First, the batters:
After the 2007 season, the greatest modern example of the art of being hit by a ton of pitches left the game, Craig Biggio. He got hit 285 times, and was 2nd only to Hughie Jennings on the all time list. Also, Barry Bonds left the game that year, and whatever else there is to say about him, he got hit by 106, which ranks 64th all time.
Then in 2008, Damion Easley took his 132 career HBPs and went home, tied for 36th place all time. Jeff Kent (125 HBP – tied for 42nd) and Luis Gonzalez (111 HBP – tied for 53rd) also left the game.
After 2009, Carlos Delgado hasn’t been seen in the majors, leaving with 172 HBPs, which is currently 14th on the all time list, and at the time it was the 2nd most by any left handed batter. Gary Sheffield also exited, with 135 HBPs. He’s currently 32nds on the all time list.
2010 marked the last time we saw Jason Kendall, Jose Guillen, David Eckstein, Jason LaRue, and Mark Grudzielanek – a combined total of 754 HBPS. 254 of those were Jason Kendall’s. He hasn’t officially retired but he’s spending this year as a special assistant coach with the Royals – which sounds an awful lot like retiring. He’s 5th on the all time list. Jose Guillen is the most plunked Dominican player ever, with 145 – 22nd all time. David Eckstein holds the AL record for plunks in a rookie season, and finished with 143 – tied for 23rd all time. Jason LaRue had 107 plunks, tied for 61st all time, and Mark Grudzielanek is tied for 65th with 105.
Then, after last year Melvin Mora retired (117 HBPs, 47th all time), and Miguel Tejada doesn’t have a job (121 HBPs, 45th all time). Aaron Rowand (126 HBPs, 41st all time) and Manny Ramirez (109 HBPs) are coming to spring training on minor league contracts, so we’ll have to wait and see on them. And that leaves 7 active players with 100 HBPs if we don’t count Rowand and Ramirez.
So we’ve got 7 active batters with over 100 HBPs, two more that might or might not be active, and 14 who retired over the past 5 years. Prior to 2007, the previous 14 batters to retire with over 100 plunks stretch back to Minnie Minoso in 1980.
On the pitching side, here are the 100 plunk club pitchers since 2007:
Randy Johnson – 190 HBP – tied for 5th all time, last pitched in 2009
Tim Wakefield – 186 HBP – tied for 7th all time, retired after 2011
Roger Clemens – 159 HBP – 14th all time, left after 2007
Jamie Moyer – 144 HBP – tied for 22nd all time, left 2010 – still planning a comeback*
Jamey Wright – 142 HBP – 24th all time – signed with the Dodgers for 2012
Pedro Martinez – 141 HBP – tied for 26th all time, last pitched in 2009
Chan Ho Park – 138 HBP – 30th all time, left the US majors in 2010
Greg Maddux – 137 HBP – tied for 31st all time, retired after 2008
Kenny Rogers – 127 HBP – 40th all time, retired after 2008
Jeff Weaver – 124 HBP – 44th all time, last pitched in 2010
Aaron Sele – 112 HBP – tied for 61st all time, retired after 2007
Vicente Padilla – 106 HBP – tied for 67th all time, and has a minor league deal with the Red Sox 2012
John Lackey – 101 HBP – 82nd all time, expected to pitch for the Red Sox in 2012
There are 3 active pitchers in that group, and 10 who have retired in the last 5 years. The prior ten 100-plunk pitchers to retire took 13 years, going back to Charlie Hough in 1994.
The point of all this, of course, is that if all these guys who have been hit by a ton of pitches or have thrown a lot of plunks all retire, I have less stuff to write about. But also, it leaves the impression that the 2nd Golden Age of Plunks is in decline. Fortunately, there are still a good crop of players capable of getting hit by a lot of pitches, and a few pitchers who can throw a some plunks. So if those of you among that group of players who are still in the league, and get hit by a good number of pitches, could please step up, instead of stepping out of the way, that would help me out.
*-Update – Apparently I missed the news that he’s in camp with the Rockies and competing for a potential starting job. Still, he’s not unretired until he plays a regular season game.