Saturday, April 23, 2005

 

April 23rd, 1988

Steve Carlton Plays Last Game

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For me, there’s nothing more depressing than a player, especially one who was great, even if only briefly, hanging around long after his ability to play at the major level has left him. The last three years of Steve Carlton’s career, “Lefty” posted ERAs of 5.10, 5.74 and 16.76 in a desperate five year effort to prove he could still be an effective pitcher. He couldn’t; he mercifully retired when he was released five days after his last appearance. Carlton is not the only one guilty of this, in an ultimately futile attempt to reach 500 home runs, Fred McGriff spent part of the 2004 season with Tampa Bay, striking out in nearly a quarter of his at-bats and batting just .181.

Pat Hentgen wasn’t the player McGriff or
Carlton were. He did win the 1996 Cy Young Award, and probably deserved it (20-10, 3.22) although he has the dubious distinction of holding the highest career ERA of any Cy Young Winner (4.32). His last year, 2004, Hentgen was terrible but realized it. After a brutal start against the Yankees in July (2 2/3 IP, 8 runs, 7 hits, 4 walks, 0 strikeouts) Hentgen called it a career, walking away from the remaining portion of a two and a quarter million dollar contract. Hentgen will obviously live comfortably without the money, but I admire him for taking his dignity above someone’s cash. In the world of Fear Factor, that’s an all too rare occurrence.




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