AJ Burnett to Retire

Hanging the Mit Up

Have you ever wondered what motivates professional athletes? A lot of the time, we assume it’s the money, and that can be a valid assumption considering how much many players make. However, at a certain point, you would assume that enough is enough. Sometimes players go well past their prime just because they don’t know anything else. Mickey Mantle is probably the most famous athlete that falls into this category, but there are others that are active today that also are past their prime.

AJ Burnett, starting pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, is not someone that will ever be considered in this category. He’s made over $144 million in his career, he’s 38 years old, and is currently having one of his best seasons ever. Yet, he’s decided to retire at the end of this season, even though there is probably a ton of potential for a contract raise. Over 18 starts, he has had 7 wins and currently has a 2.11 ERA. He’s racked up 100 strikeouts, too, which puts him at #18 in the National League. This is his 17th pro season, and finally will be pitching in the All-Star game for the first time.

He’s retiring even though he says that he probably has a few great years left in him. For Burnett, family is far more important that his career in the Majors. It shows a different side of an athlete, and it is quite refreshing. For all the stories we hear about players going out and partying, getting arrested for domestic violence, or drug abuse, it’s nice to see a player that values his loved ones more than he values a sport. Sports are an important part of our society, but in the end, they are a game at least, and a job at best.

Burnett has said that he wants to coach his kids’ basketball team, and just spend quality time with them while he’s still able to physically enjoy it. 38 isn’t that old for an adult, but for a ball player, it’s getting up there. Burnett has made his money, he’s left his mark on the game, and now he has realized that it’s time to go on to more important things.

Unfortunately, we see star players play way past their prime often, and it happens in other sports besides baseball. In the NFL, John Elway and Brett Favre come immediately to mind. Elway did go out a champion, but that was more because of his team than because of his performance. The good news is that when a player like Elway or Burnett pops up later in their career, fantasy managers can often acquire them with more ease. For those that are better at analyzing stats and trends, and for those that are lucky enough to have an opportunity to spot what other leagues are doing later in the season, picking up a top level, yet older, player can give you a good advantage in your league without forcing you to spend a lot of money to acquire that player.

Baseball has established a bad reputation because a lot of people think that it is a slow paced game that doesn’t require a lot of athleticism. Think of bigger players like David Ortiz or Pablo Sandoval and try to picture them as great athletes. Still, it’s a long season at 162 games each year, and this only takes place over the course of 180 days, plus the postseason. Even for an “unathletic” player, it’s a grueling and exhausting season. It’s a wonder that some players last as long as they do.