Stars that faded away...

Pitt the Elder

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I was going down a rabbit hole earlier today and I stumbled across the fact that Felix Hernandez never actually retired. I thought he retired after the 2019 season (his last with the Mariners) but he signed a minor league contract in January 2020 and opted out of the season in July citing pandemic concerns. He signed another minor league contract with the Orioles in February 2021 but opted out before the season, presumably because he didn't make the team.

This guy was one of the best in the game and he was out of baseball by age 33 because nobody wanted him. What other great players faded away without any fanfare because they simply couldn't make a MLB team anymore?
 
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DeadlySplitter

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King Felix probably pitched too many innings because the Mariners could never score enough, burning him out earlier in his career than smarter management would have.

Not the same but Andrew McCutchen looked like a long term superstar in 2013, and has just been another guy since then.
 

E5 Yaz

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Chris Davis and Ryan Howard were the first two I thought of
Davis's struggles were pretty well documented to say he "faded away"
Howard, though, is a good one. I didn't realize until just looking at his BRef page that after he'd left Philly he tried to hook on without success with Atlanta and Colorado
 

Yelling At Clouds

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One of the most inexplicable “good player who suddenly turns useless” examples I can think of: Jason Heyward once he went to the Cubs.
 

worm0082

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Tim Lincecum flamed out pretty fast.

About the not retiring thing: I don’t think Rickey Henderson ever officially retired. About maybe 15 years ago the A’s wanted to bring him back for a last home series of the season in a year they were eliminated from the playoffs, but he turned it down saying he wanted a spring training invite the next year to make the team instead.
 

changer591

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Justin Morneau came to mind. He even had a great year the 3rd year before he retired in Colorado and then the injuries finally caught up to him.
 

bosox188

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Madison Bumgarner is only 33 and he's been buried on the Diamondbacks for three seasons. Hasn't really been relevant since his age 29 season.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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King Felix probably pitched too many innings because the Mariners could never score enough, burning him out earlier in his career than smarter management would have.

Not the same but Andrew McCutchen looked like a long term superstar in 2013, and has just been another guy since then.
I thought the same about McCutchen but it’s not really true. He’s closing in on 2000 career hits and 300 homers, has over 200 steals and a 129 career OPS+. It’s weird that he’s kind of faded into anonymity despite playing on more high profile teams though.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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Justin Upton?
Yoenes Cespedes?
Manny Ramirez?
Ian Desmond want exactly a star but I think he sat out two years for covid and then returned, forgoing a lot of $$$.
David Price feels like he’s on his way.
 

CaptainLaddie

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Andruw Jones. Jose Rijo and Brandon Webb had major injuries.
Andruw Jones also played 2200 games and retired at age 35 after a .197 average season. He had a great career, probably borderline HOF (on the ballot 5 times so far, increased each time, up to 41.4%), all time elite defender for a while. He started playing in the bigs at 19! Finishing at 35 after 17 seasons is a great career!

Rijo also made a comeback after five years away and threw 94 innings over two seasons with a 4.60 ERA (95 ERA+). It was honestly pretty heroic.
 

E5 Yaz

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Here are a couple of names, both MVPs, to track over the next few years ... Cody Bellinger and Christian Yellich
 

nattysez

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Here are a couple of names, both MVPs, to track over the next few years ... Cody Bellinger and Christian Yellich
Never an MVP, but I think Robbie Cano might fit this bill.

If I may go in a brief tangent: what Bochy did to those Giants' starters was pretty rough.

Lincecum was dominant from ages 23-27, then was never the same.

Matt Cain was dominant from ages 21-27, then was never the same.

MadBum was dominant from ages 21-26, spent two years fighting injury, had one last solid season a 29 and has never been the same.

Bochy let those guys pitch their way through a ton of high-leverage innings and they paid the price.

But flags fly forever...
 
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How about Steve Carlton? He bounced around to five different teams in '86 and '87, pitching terribly with every one, before getting a ring with the '88 Twins despite a 16.77 ERA in four games. I believe he even tried to latch on somewhere in '89 and no one was interested.
 

Sandwich Pick

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Davis's struggles were pretty well documented to say he "faded away"
Howard, though, is a good one. I didn't realize until just looking at his BRef page that after he'd left Philly he tried to hook on without success with Atlanta and Colorado
The torn Achilles to end the 2011 NLDS turned a steady decline into a straight-up nosedive. He looked off in 2012 but it felt like the Phillies rushed him back because they were trying to squeeze one more run out of the core (plus they added Papelbon that off-season). Utley was already hurt to start the year and Halladay was starting to fall apart.
 
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worm0082

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How about Steve Carlton? He bounced around to five different teams in '86 and '87, pitching terribly with every one, before getting a ring with the '88 Twins despite a 16.77 ERA in four games. I believe he even tried to latch on somewhere in '89 and no one was interested.
The Yankees let him work out with them in spring training (I think) but never signed him.

Some other spring training honorable mentions: Tom Seaver 87 Mets, Jim Palmer 90 or 91? Orioles, Mike Greenwell late 90s Reds.
 
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E5 Yaz

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How about Steve Carlton? He bounced around to five different teams in '86 and '87, pitching terribly with every one, before getting a ring with the '88 Twins despite a 16.77 ERA in four games. I believe he even tried to latch on somewhere in '89 and no one was interested.
The ring he would have gotten with the Twins was in 87
 

Bob Montgomerys Helmet Hat

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The torn Achilles to end the 2011 NLCS turned a steady decline into a straight-up nosedive. He looked off in 2012 but it felt like the Phillies rushed him back because they were trying to squeeze one more run out of the core (plus they added Papelbon that off-season). Utley was already hurt to start the year and Halladay was starting to fall apart.
How about Papelbon?
 

Sandwich Pick

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How about Papelbon?
His post-Boston resume includes pitching well for a fading team, making an obscene gesture toward their fan base, and fighting Bryce Harper in the dugout after being traded.

He started to fade, then went out kicking and screaming. I think it would have been different if he hadn't joined a sinking ship.
 

bob burda

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How about Steve Carlton? He bounced around to five different teams in '86 and '87, pitching terribly with every one, before getting a ring with the '88 Twins despite a 16.77 ERA in four games. I believe he even tried to latch on somewhere in '89 and no one was interested.
Carlton was just old. I don't know what was more foolish, him trying to pitch after he couldn't get anybody out, or multiple teams giving him the opportunity to demonstrate that. He was finally "out of the league" when no one else wanted to see it.

My nominee is Black Jack McDowell - had about 5 straight 115 or better ERA+ seasons, and then never was better than a 95 ERA+ for another 2 yrs after that, and then out of the league at age 33.

My second nominee, how soon we forget, is Eric Gagne. It is hard to believe the Brewers put up with a full season of him sucking about as bad as he did in Boston, but they did. Out of the league by age 32. He was good until the moment he was traded to the Sox and then >>>poof<<<

Also - the thread is maybe more "Shooting Stars who Burned Bright and then Flamed/Faded Out" (to the point where they were completely out of the league).
 

Pitt the Elder

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I don't think he counts. He remained pretty damn good till his last season (age 35).
It kind of felt like Paps could have gotten another year or two with someone if not for his antics. He had a era+ of 98 in his final season, seems like a guy that someone would have kicked the tires on at the right price.

By the way, it's wild that Papelbon's career was over at 35 yet *somehow* Bard is still pitching in the majors at 37.
 

Sad Sam Jones

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Starlin Castro was always overrated, but was a 3-time All-Star by age 24. He did still manage a weak All-Star bid again with the Yankees at 27, but became completely inconsequential. I couldn't remember where he was or if he was even still in the league… nope, he washed out in Washington last year and played 28 games in the Mexican League this year.
 

Gdiguy

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Never an MVP, but I think Robbie Cano might fit this bill.

If I may go in a brief tangent: what Bochy did to those Giants' starters was pretty rough.

Lincecum was dominant from ages 23-27, then was never the same.

Matt Cain was dominant from ages 21-27, then was never the same.

MadBum was dominant from ages 21-26, spent two years fighting injury, had one last solid season a 29 and has never been the same.

Bochy let those guys pitch their way through a ton of high-leverage innings and they paid the price.

But flags fly forever...
Meanwhile, Scherzer has put up 4.1 WAR so far this year at 38

This thread should really be titled 'why contracts should be higher $ per year instead of way too long'
 
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Chien-Ming Wang

Not a superstar by any means, but his 2006-2007 seasons were very good and he looked like a solid young pitcher. In 2006, his age 26 season, he finished second in CY Young voting (218 IP, 3.63 ERA, 6.0 bWAR). His age 27 season was slighty worse, but still good (199 IP, 3.70 ERA, 5.0 bWAR). He was a sinkerballer, who didn't strike anybody out (3.1 and 4.7 k/9 in those seasons). After his 2007 season he had injury problems, pitching not-very-effectively in 2008 and 2009 for the Yankees. He missed the 2010 season. He came back and pitched not-very-effectively for parts of three season with the Nationals from 2011-2013. He spent 2014-2015 in the minor leagues. In 2016, at the age of 36, he pitched 53.1 league average relief innings for the Royals.
 

iddoc

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Andruw Jones also played 2200 games and retired at age 35 after a .197 average season. He had a great career, probably borderline HOF (on the ballot 5 times so far, increased each time, up to 41.4%), all time elite defender for a while. He started playing in the bigs at 19! Finishing at 35 after 17 seasons is a great career!

Rijo also made a comeback after five years away and threw 94 innings over two seasons with a 4.60 ERA (95 ERA+). It was honestly pretty heroic.
Jones’s last season as a full time CF was at age 30 (if he really was 30), which seems awfully young for a borderline HOF-Er. He did have a bit of a bounce back as a lefty-mashing corner outfielder/DH at 33/34, but even then it seemed strange that he was not considered playable in CF anymore.
 

Archer1979

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I wanted to say Ron Guidry. Unstoppable in '78. But he had a couple of 20 win seasons after that (the last being in '85). After that, he faded into his mid-30's which was about right for a steep drop-off.
 

Philip Jeff Frye

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Dale Murphy? He was a back-to-back MVP in 1982 and 1983, was in the top ten in 1984 and 1985, and 11th in 1987. Pretty consistently put up 140-150 OPS+ numbers while playing center field and winning five straight gold gloves. Seemed like a certain Hall of Famer at that point. From 1988 onwards, he was basically +/- 100 OPS+ until he finally broke down for good in 1992/93.

Closer to home, Dave Stapleton. He was never a "star" but he was runner up as Rookie of the Year in 1980 when he hit .321. His career was straight downwards after that. Of course, the guy who won the award that year, Joe Charboneau, had an even quicker descent.
 
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Yelling At Clouds

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Daniel Bard. But then . . .
On that note, Albert Pujols!

Really, though, I feel like most good players “fade” in some sense. The outliers to me are stars who keep playing well and stay prominent up until the end. David Ortiz, Buster Posey, Mike Mussina all come to mind, surely many others.