Yesterday, in a post at the Players Tribune, the website started by Derek Jeter, Jeremy Guthrie has announced his retirement from baseball. After a career that spanned fourteen years in the majors and six years in the minors, the 2002 first round draft pick decided to hang up his spikes.
So why an article about Jeremy Guthrie? Was he that special as a pitcher? Perhaps. Perhaps not. In only four seasons he managed to get his ERA below 4.00. His career ERA stands at 4.42, not a number that makes him HOF worthy I guess.
But the reason why I write about him is that I had the honor to meet him in person. It was during one of the European Big League Tours, organized by former Dutch major league pitcher Rick van den Hurk.
With a lot of other players, Guthrie gave a clinic to kids and at one point he answered questions of children and their parents at a “press conference”. At the time, I still had this romantic view of minor league baseball, not knowing about the miserable pay the players get. He made me clear that minor league baseball sucks when I asked him what the nicest minor league club was he played for. Eventually, he answered my question, telling that the Akron Aeros (now the RubberDucks) were the nicest club he had played for.
After his contract with the Kansas City Royals expired, Guthrie split the 2016 season with the Padres’ and Marlins’ AAA franchises. At the end of the regular 2016 season, he tried to pitch himself back into the picture in the Australian Baseball League. With the Melbourne Aces, he played three games before heading back to the United States due to contract issues. With the Aces, he had a shaky start in his first game as he gave up two earned runs on six hits in four innings pitched. He got a no-decision in his second start as he limited the opponent to four hits and did not allow a run. His third start was a win, even though he allowed four runs on eleven hits in six innings.
The aforementioned post at the Players Tribune got emotional at one point as he pointed out the disappointment of his last (poor) outing, a start for the Washington Nationals at the start of the 2017 season. He described it like this:
“Taking the ball for the Nats on April 8 in Philadelphia, on my 38th birthday, was in my mind the perfect comeback story. The string of successes I had experienced throughout spring training had my confidence at an all-time high. What if I get another win? What if I throw a shutout? What if I throw a no-hitter?
That was the level of confidence I had as I prepared and warmed up for the game.
As I jogged to the mound, I took it all in — back in a major league stadium, pitching for a World Series contender.
My first pitch that night was a strike. All systems go.
Here’s what happened next:
Writing all that out now, and seeing it on the screen, it seems ridiculous — and almost unbelievable.
Notice the little asterisk by that one walk up there. I added that in for a reason. That was the backbreaker. Down 4–0 with two outs … I walked the pitcher to load the bases.
Already aware of the struggles I was having finding the zone and executing pitches, feelings of embarrassment began to overwhelm me. What was it going to take to end this inning?
I’ll never know.
I proceeded to give up six more runs and never did get that third out.
As I handed the ball to Dusty Baker, a man I had come to love and respect in a very short amount of time, I knew my major league career was over.”
That final outing with the Nationals was not one you want to end a decent career with.
During that “press conference” at Rick van den Hurk’s European Big League Tour, Guthrie told he was crazy about shoes, sneakers to be exact. He told he had a huge collection of sneakers. If my memory serves me well, he also said he had a contract with a sneaker brand to design shoes for them if his MLB career would be over.
But two years ago, he announced he would retire from the shoe collecting business, so it seems he will not design any shoes at all.
Earlier this year, there were rumors Guthrie would join a team in the Taiwanese professional baseball league (CPBL), but those rumors appeared to be bogus.
Anyhow, after the clinics of the Big League Tour were over, people had the chance to get autographs. I took my chance and had a little chat with him (and got his autograph of course). In my humble opinion, he is a very nice guy, friendly and always ready for a chat, at least, that is the impression he gave me at the time. Because of that, I had a soft spot for him and always followed him more than any other non-Yankee pitcher.
It is time for him to rest on his laurels after a thirteen-year MLB career and spend time with and enjoy his family. I will always remember him as one of the few major leaguers I had the chance to meet in person.