It has become a new tradition, legends felled by time and the deterioration of skills and athleticism that comes with it, finding themselves forced into retirement by a game that has passed them by the instinct to leave the game on top, now rarer then ever before. Last year it was Mike Piazza, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Kenny Lofton-this years crop may be larger, Frank Thomas, Ivan Rodriguez, Garret Anderson, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, and maybe, MAYBE even Manny Ramirez-could anyone have imagined at the end of the Red Sox miracle title run in 2004 that those three names would still be hanging out there waiting for someone to sign them as spring training began a mere five years later? Could anyone imagine that Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz barely escaped a fate on this list as well?
But here we are, baseballs new day, ushered in by the young and cheap success of the Colorado Rockies and Tampa Bay Rays in the last two years, who made it okay to ignore a first ballot hall of famer in favor of a AAA prospect making the league minimum. Now it is true some of the players on this list have been shunned for issues beyond performance. Was their any doubt that Barry Bonds or Sammy Sosa could contribute after productive seasons in 2007? Probably not, but at what cost to a teams image and chemistry? This season though seems crueler, more about just not wanting to take the risk of adding a Frank Thomas or a Curt Schilling and seeing even the slightest of incentive laden, low base wage contracts blow up in the teams face because of injury or accelerated slide. Whatever the cause giants of the game are seeing their epic careers end with a limp rather then a gallop and though in five or six years these last waning days of these legendary careers will be looked upon as footnotes it still serves as a sobering reminder to anyone who had been distracted by the first sights of fresh cut green grass in Florida and Arizona, and the first pop of ball hitting glove, that baseball is just a business inhabited by men hoping to play a kids game for just one more year.