After his final game of the season on Sunday, Pittsburgh Pirates utility man John Jaso said that the Pirates 11-8 win over the Washington Nationals might have been his final game ever.
In the clubhouse after the game was over, Jaso told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (and the rest of the assembled press) that he was leaning toward retirement.
“Honestly, this is probably it for me, as far as baseball goes,” he said in the clubhouse after the Pirates’ 11-8 victory over the Washington Nationals. “I don’t know, I’ve played this game for a while, it’s done a lot of great things for me, and I got to meet a lot of really cool people along the way. But I don’t know, my mind is going elsewhere and everything like that. We’ll see. I mean I can’t say anything for sure. I can’t really tell you what the future holds or whatever. But if I left now, it would be a really good feeling to leave right now, if I did. These last couple of years with the Pirates were good.”
He wasn’t definite about retirement, leaving the door open to a possible return, but he made it clear that baseball wasn’t the first thing on his mind right now. And when someone says that leaving now would be a good feeling, you know they’re serious about it.
As far as what’s foremost on Jaso’s mind right now, it’s Puerto Rico. The Post-Gazette said that he’s planning to help the island recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria, using his past experience working construction with his uncle. Beyond that, he just wants to live simply and privately.
“Traveling, living simply, being anonymous, that sort of stuff,” Jaso said of his post-baseball plans. “Really I just want to live a simple life. I have a sailboat, so I just want to sail away. If you live on a sailboat, it’s really hard to live complicated. You have to keep things simple, so that’s kind of my catalyst and everything, and my ride and my home.”
Jaso, 34, has spent nine years in the majors with four different teams, racking up a career .258/.356/.407 triple slash. He began his career as a catcher with the Tampa Bay Rays — then the Tampa Bay Devil Rays — when they drafted him in 2003. He made his major league debut with the Rays in 2008, but retained his rookie stats through 2010, when he caught more than half of the Rays’ games. He came in fifth in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
The most well-known of Jaso’s career highlights happened after he was traded to the Mariners before the 2012 season. Jaso caught Felix Hernandez’s perfect game in 2012, and after stints with the Oakland Athletics and a return to the Rays, he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates after the 2015 season and hit for the cycle in September 2016. It was the first cycle ever at PNC Park. Despite that great end to the 2016 season, he had a down 2017, spending time at first base and the outfield and ending the year hitting just .211.
Sometimes, it can feel disappointing that a player is cutting his career short. But not every player is meant to play for 15-20 years. Being a journeyman, as Jaso was (he’d reached the end of his two-year contract with the Pirates and was heading into free agency again), is taxing. And for some players, baseball isn’t life — it’s just a job. Jaso seems to know which way his wind is blowing, and wants to set sail to see where it takes him. Wherever he ends up, we wish him the best of luck.
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