Mark Teixeira said an emotional goodbye to the dream career that has brought him more than 400 home runs, five Gold Glove awards and “more success than I could ever imagine.” Then, as he tried to say goodbye to Yankees fans, tears stopped him right in his tracks as soon as he said, “I gave you everything I had.”
That proved to be plenty, highlighted by the 2009 World Series title he helped bring to the team in the year he joined it. He will cherish that forever, he said Friday afternoon as he made the surprise announcement that he will retire at the end of the season.
“I want to leave it all out there,” the 36-year-old first baseman said during a pregame news conference attended by manager Joe Girardi, Yankees coaches and the entire team. “I know we’re a team in transition and I don’t want to be a distraction. This is it for me.”
He acknowledged that during spring training, he said he wanted to play for five more seasons. “But this year, my neck started bothering me, I hurt my knee. As the season went on, I realized my body can’t do it anymore,” he said. “If I’m going to grind through seasons not being healthy, I’d rather be home with my family. I miss my kids way too much to be in a training room in Detroit rather than being at their dance recital or their school play.”
So he will pour everything he has into the final two months of the season for a club that has traded three of its best players for prospects and has regularly benched Teixeira’s fellow veteran, Alex Rodriguez.
Teixeira leaves behind a series of impressive statistics and achievements as a slugger and a fielder. He is one of only nine players in baseball history to have collected at least 400 homers and at least five Gold Gloves. He is one of only five switch hitters in the 400-home run club, along with Mickey Mantle, Eddie Murray, Chipper Jones and Carlos Beltran. He and Mantle are the only ones to have nine 30-homer seasons.
Girardi said it was no coincidence that the Yankees won the championship the year Teixeira arrived. He added, “I don’t think there’s any coincidence that when Mark’s injuries started to affect how much he played during the course of a season, runs became a lot more difficult to score around here.”
Rob Refsnyder, one of the young players who has benefited from Teixeira’s advice and examples in altruism, said, “All stats aside, you just look at the kind of person he is.”
The decision to retire came about two weeks ago, Teixeira said, adding “I didn’t want to beat around the bush, I didn’t want to talk in code.”
The announcement had been planned for Friday before an eventful week in which he hit a big home run against the Mets, challenged pitcher Steven Matz after getting hit on the shin and openly laughed at Mets pitcher Hansel Robles as the latter accused him of stealing signs. Afterward, Texeira repeatedly said how much fun it was. “I want to enjoy every last at-bat, every last game,” he said.
He thanked God for the gift to play ball, his dad for making him a switch hitter (like Murray, his idol), his late mom for her influence, and his managers, coaches and teammates. He expressed thanks to his wife and their three children, whom he called “my three little cheerleaders.”
And he was grateful for eight years in the Bronx. “There’s something about the Yankees,” he said, “and once I put on the pinstripes, I just felt it.”
He promised to always be a Yankees fan, like those to whom he said he had given everything. “It wasn’t always enough,” he said, “but I tried my best and I’m proud to have a World Series ring with the Yankees. Something I’ll never forget.”
Mark Teixeira’s Yankees career
2009: .292, 39 HR, 122 RBI, 156 games
2010: .256, 33 HR, 108 RBI, 158 games
2011: .248, 39 HR, 111 RBI, 156 games
2012: .251, 24 HR, 84 RBI, 123 games
2013: .151, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 15 games
2014: .216, 22 HR, 62 RBI, 123 games
2015: .255, 31 HR, 79 RBI, 111 games
2016: .198, 10 HR, 27 RBI, 77 games*
* through Aug. 4, 2016