You may take the player out of baseball, but you can’t take baseball out of the player.
I mean, it’s something we’ve seen repeatedly throughout the years. The grind of an 162-game season is engrained in a player’s DNA. But it’s a sport that so many pick up from Age 5, so it’s sometimes a little bit harder to walk away for some than others.
Exhibit A: Manny Ramirez, who is mulling a comeback to play professional ball overseas in the CPBL in Taiwan. Ramirez’s career ended with myriad attempts to crack back into the majors with the A’s, Rangers and Cubs, but he last played in the bigs in 2011.
Unfortunately for a lot of players like Ramirez, the end doesn’t usually come gracefully. It’s more like a brick to the face in a lot of cases, with storybook finale seasons few and far between. Given Ramirez’s age, 48, and that he last swung at a pro-ball pitch five years ago, it seems that his comeback attempt, even in his desired role as a player-coach, is a longshot.
So with the news of Ramirez wanting another shot at swinging the bat, here are a few other longshots that we’d love to see give it the ol’ college try.
Ken Griffey Jr.
This one, to me, is the most obvious answer. The end of Griffey’s career was marred with some weird stories: In 2010, he was allegedly asleep in the Mariners clubhouse during a game, which was refuted by players though Griffey never outwardly denied it.
Griffey’s return to Seattle resulted in two pretty bad years. He retired abruptly in the middle of the 2010 season to avoid being a “distraction” to his team after Napgate.
Griffey is fondly remembered among baseball fans for being electric, dynamic, classic and any other -ic words you think of, but the end of his career deserves a bit more pomp and circumstance than the fizzling out we got. Griffey was officially enshrined in the Hall of Fame with a then-record 99.32 percent of the vote in 2016. The end of his career deserves a do-over.
Who doesn’t want to see Big Papi back on the field?
Ortiz retired at the height of his game, after all. In his Age 40 season in 2016, Ortiz put together a 5.2 bWAR campaign, his highest WAR total since the 2007 season, one in which the Red Sox won the World Series. He also led the league in doubles his final year.
While there were World Series aspirations for Boston in 2016, it didn’t come to pass, and the Red Sox would win the World Series again just two years after his retirement.
Given that Ortiz warded off death after an attempt on his life, a return to the diamond, to the city and sport that embraced him, would be Hollywood-type stuff. Hey, on another note, if baseball is played again this season, Boston fans could sure use the sight of Ortiz, especially after remembering the Red Sox traded Mookie Betts in the offseason.
In his last season, 42-year-old Barry Bonds drew 132 walks, hit 28 home runs and had a 169 OPS+ for the Giants. He entered that 2007 offseason a free agent and didn’t get any offers from MLB teams.
Bonds is a complicated baseball figure in many aspects, as his attitude toward media and his alleged PED use turned many fans against him. But with his recent resurgence in the public as a man who seems to be remorseful for his actions, it’d be neat to see Bonds take up a few more at-bats and get a more proper and appropriate send-off. He is, after all, one of the greatest to ever swing a bat
Injuries really suck, man, and unfortunately for Tulowitzki, he was the posterboy for the Injured List for a long, long time. He unceremoniously retired in 2019 after a very brief stint with the Yankees, ending a small opportunity for him to live out a lifelong dream.
But people forget just how good Tulowitzki was at the height of his game. In 1,291 career games, he was worth 34.1 bWAR, was a tremendous defender and had a complete approach at the plate between eye and power. He truly was a complete player, and he should have been afforded one last chance for a healthy year and to make an impact somewhere.
Greg Maddux is 54 years young and there’s approximately a zero percent chance he would be able to pick up a ball and strike out at least five batters in any lineup today.
“The Professor” was known for manipulating the strike zone, bending it to his will like Thanos with the Infinity Gauntlet. For someone who never relied on velocity, Maddux would be something of an antithesis to today’s velocity-laden league. Of course, there are guys who are crafty — “Savage” Kyle Hendricks is at the top of that list — but likely none as nifty with a ball as Maddux was.