Placido Polanco should call it a career with no regrets

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Placido Polanco
Placido Polanco’s playing days may be behind him. (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

I think it’s sad when successful players in the twilight of their careers prefer to struggle instead of hanging up the cleats. It happens a lot with Latino athletes who turn pro at an early age and enjoy the money and celebrity status. Baseball is their life and the only thing they know.

Placido Polanco is one of those guys facing the crossroads after a rewarding 16 years in the big leagues. And I believe he’s smart enough to accept reality and proudly ride off into the sunset.The name kind of rolls off your tongue : PLAH-see-dough poh-LAHN-coh. In his heyday, the 38-year-old Dominican-American was one of the top infielders in baseball.

Placido Polanco never had much pop in his bat, going yard only 104 times. But the 5′-10″, 190 pound warrior always put the ball in play, and is a member of the 2,000-hit club. That’s why fans in St. Louis, Detroit and Philadelphia, the major league cities where “Polly” was employed, became accustomed to his clutch plate appearances with the game on the line.

Polanco didn’t possess great speed or range either. Instead, he relied on instincts, intelligence and soft hands. As a result, Placido won three Rawlings Gold Gloves, one as recently as 2011 with the Phillies. A second baseman by trade, he was also versatile enough to play shortstop and, later in his career, he would set up shop at third base and even the outfield.

When looking at his overall numbers, Placido Polonco wasn’t exactly astonishing. His slash line of .297/.343/.397 and a decent fielding percentage of .990 are probably not worthy of Cooperstown. Instead, the two-time All-Star made his bacon as an iconic field general who was highly respected in both the dugout and clubhouse. And the game has been kind to Polonco, with career earnings of over $52 million.

It was during the 2012 season in Philadelphia when Father Time seemed to take its toll on Polonco. A lower back strain put the veteran on the shelf in late July, and a slow recovery led the Phillies to buy out their option for 2013 and release him. Polonco was able to hook on with the Miami Marlins last season on a one-year, $2.75 million deal, but although he appeared in 118 games, the superior skills seemed to be slipping away. In addition, Polonco suffered a concussion last August after getting beaned by a pitch from Santiago Casilla of the San Francisco Giants. It was last November when Polonco began hinting that retirement was near.

“I’ll have to see what’s out there and think about it,” said the Miami resident when asked about his future. “My time with the Marlins went by fast because I was at home so much.”

Clearly, Polonco enjoyed being around his wife, Lily, and their two children during the regular season. As a result, he has ruled out any potential offers that would take him too far away from the roost.

As you have probably discovered by now, I think a lot of Placido Polonco. He’s a standup guy who played the game the right way, and he has been a tremendous role model for kids. While the Santo Domingo native loves his country of birth, Placido became a United States citizen in 2008 while playing for the Tigers. Like Omar Vizquel and Joey Cora, the guy has a brilliant baseball mind. That’s why I think Polonco would be an excellent coach or instructor, and why not for the Marlins, who have some gifted but inexperienced young players?

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria seldom listens to me. But if he really considers members of his organization as “family,” he should hire Placido Polanco in some capacity. It would be money well spent to have a respected professional continue to contribute, beyond his playing days, toward a sport that has been part of his soul.

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