Jay Bruce said he prides himself on being able to look in the mirror and assess himself honestly. When he did so about a week ago, he saw someone no longer up to the task of succeeding in Major League Baseball.
So on Friday, Bruce informed Yankees manager Aaron Boone that he planned to retire after the weekend series against the Rays, and he went public with the news before Sunday’s finale.
"Over 13 years of playing pretty much every single day, I set a standard of what I expected out of myself from a performance standpoint, or at least feeling like I’m able to perform at that level," he said.
"I know there are ups and downs and ebbs and flows throughout a season and throughout a career, but ultimately I just felt like I couldn’t perform at the level that I expected out of myself. For me to do what I needed to do, it just wasn’t in the cards."
Bruce, 34, entered Sunday with one home run, three RBIs and a .118 batting average in 39 plate appearances this season, which began with him making the team as the starting first baseman in place of the injured Luke Voit.
But Bruce was 1-for-19 in his final five games and had not played since Wednesday.
Boone said he would not go out of his way to get Bruce into Sunday’s game for a farewell bow, and he did not play in the Yankees’ 4-2 loss to the Rays.
"It’s been a great run for him and he’s been a real pro with us and I’ve been grateful to be around him here these last several weeks," Boone said. "Today’s a proud day and should be a proud day for him of what’s been a really special career."
Bruce played 14 seasons, three with the Mets from 2016-18, with a detour to Cleveland late in the 2017 season.
A three-time All-Star, he finished with 319 home runs — the last coming three days after his 34th birthday earlier this month — and 951 RBIs.
Asked to name his favorite career memory, he said his walk-off home run to clinch the 2010 NL Central title for the Reds.
Even though he spent only two regular-season weeks as a Yankee, he said he will cherish the experience and added that he does not "take for granted for one second putting the pinstripes on."
But in the end, what he called his "consistent underperformance" made the decision for him. He considered not telling Boone until Sunday but decided as a courtesy that he should give his manager a heads-up on Friday.
"It’s tough, but I feel at peace with it and I feel so great about the game," said Bruce, who added that he would like to remain involved in the sport.
"I love the game of baseball. I don’t feel jaded by it. I don’t feel mad at it. I don’t feel like anything was taken from me. I feel like it gave me so much. I hope that I leave it better than I found it."