The last few weeks we’ve taken a look at players who are franchise icons, and have ended their careers with different teams. Sometimes these players end up in cities where their careers began, sometimes they didn’t change cities at all.
First we looked at Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker, who ended their careers elsewhere due to gambling and game-fixing implications. We then discussed several players who ended their careers with the Mets. We then looked at a number of Hall of Famers who peaked in the 60s and 70s and ended their careers elsewhere.
In our final installment, we look at one player who finished his career in the 90s, another who made a name for himself in the 90s and 2000s, and a present day pitcher who is synonymous with the Seattle Mariners, but is now trying to mount a late-career comeback with the Braves.
Dwight Evans, ‘Dewey’, to Red Sox fans of a certain age, spent nearly two successful decades in Boston, where he amassed a total 66.5 wins. Evans sits sixth all-time on the Red Sox franchise list, ahead of Boston icons like Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz, and well ahead of fellow outfielder and contemporary Jim Rice (we could write an entire article about how if anyone in that Boston outfield should be in the Hall of Fame it should be Evans over Rice, but I digress).
Evans is a three-time all star, eight time Gold Glove winner, and he led the American League in home runs in a strike-shortened 1981, and led the league in walks three times. He served as the Red Sox everyday outfielder from 1973 through 1987, and ended up suiting up for Boston in more games than any other Red Sox player other than Carl Yastrzemski.
In his age-35 season, Evans managed a career-high slash line, posting his best batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage: .305/.417/.569. He then stayed with the Red Sox until the end of the 1990 season, in the latter years, mostly serving as a designated hitter.
Evans’ Red Sox made it to four ALCS and two World Series during his tenure. Always known for his superb outfield defensive prowess, Evans made a spectacular catch in the 11th inning of a 6-6 Game 6. Boston ultimately lost the series in seven games. Similarly, Evans saw another World Series, this time in 1986, and was yet again a witness to more Red Sox misery (as was the style at the time).
Dewey signed with the Orioles for the 1991 season at age 39. In his one season in Baltimore, Evans predominantly played DH, and managed a 119 OPS+. His power was virtually gone, though he still hit for average, and posted a near-.400 OBP.
Evans will always be known as a Red Sox player, He served as Boston’s hitting coach in 2002, and was named a Player Development Consultant the following year, a position which he still holds. He’s a member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame.
Trevor Hoffman’s Hall of Fame career spanned over nearly two decades, most of which was spent in southern California, with the up-and-down San Diego Padres. Although he started his career with the Marlins, Miami (nee Florida) traded the reliever to San Diego in his rookie 1993 season.
Hoffman would go on to post one of the best reliever careers in the history of baseball, at a time when relievers became a regular part of the game. He and Mariano Rivera (who is considered the greatest closer of all time) will go down as the pioneers who set the stage and the bar for lights-out relief pitching at the end of a game.
Hoffman played in San Diego for 16 seasons, a career that spanned a pathetic 61-win season in 1993, but also included a World Series appearance just five years later. Over the course of his Padres career, Hoffman threw 952 innings, finishing 761 games for San Diego. Despite a modest WAR, which never benefits relievers, he sits fourth all-time on the Padres franchise leaderboard. While this may be more indicative of the Padres lackluster history than of Hoffman’s dominance, he is still credited as the best National League closer in the history of baseball.
Hoffman wasn’t the typical flame-throwing reliever we think of today, as he primarily relied on a changeup, complemented by a mid-90s fastball. Still, his nearly flawless mechanics led to a flat fastball that generated a ton of backspin, complimented by a changeup that has been described by opposing hitters as “having a parachute on it”.
Hoffman made his Hall of Fame case as the go-to reliever for the Padres for a decade-and-a-half. His entrance song, “Hells Bells” by AC/DC [you forgot the lightning bolt] will be etched in San Diego lore for the rest of the franchise’s history.
After a stellar career with the Padres, at the age of 41, he signed a one-year deal with the Brewers. He made his seventh All Star team as a late replacement, and he ended up throwing a solid 54 innings for the Brewers. Milwaukee signed him for the 2010 season, but at the age of 42, command of his changeup suffered.
Though he wanted to pitch again in 2011, his performance did not merit a closer role, and he subsequently retired. Hoffman’s number has been retired by the Padres, and whenever any San Diego fan hears ‘Hells Bells’ they’ll be reminded of Hoffman, despite the fact he finished his career ina Brewers uniform.
We end with fan-favorite Félix Hernández to round-out our series. Once known as King Felix, Hernández dazzled the pacific northwest (among others) with his fastall and league-best changeup that stymied hitters for over a decade-and-a-half in Seattle.
A rarity in today’s game, fans in Seattle go to see Félix called-up at the age of 19, and develop into a perennial Cy Young candidate. He earned the award in 2010, a year he threw nearly 250 innings for the Ms, leading the league innings, batters faced, and earned run average.
Félix earned Cy Young votes until his age 29-season, and he made six All Star teams (but managed to not make it to the ASG his Cy Young year, go figure).
The story of Félix Hernández is tragic (in a baseball sense) for two reasons. His career and utter dominance seemed to fall so sharply in his 30s, and the fact that he’s never pitched in a playoff game thanks to the frustration, futility, and failure of two decades of Seattle baseball.
His 50.1 WAR is good for fourth-best in Mariners’ history, behind icons Ken Griffey Jr, Edward Martinez, and Ichiro Suzuki.
Going into the 2020 season, the former king took his lumps, and signed a minor league deal with the NL East reigning champion Atlanta Braves. In the perfect world, he’d have made the team, provided some value, and made a playoff appearance this October. Unfortunately, Félix may be a casualty of a shortened or canceled 2020 season, where another year older is not another year better.
Hernández will always be remembered as a Mariner, despite finishing his career elsewhere, and for better-or-for-worse, it’s not implausible that he ends up retiring before he plays a game in another uniform.