A gleaming Mercedes in the spring has turned into a used Studebaker this summer.
At age 28, Yermín Mercedes has quit baseball – just three months after a historic start to his baseball career.
A third-string catcher who surprised the baseball world by winning the job of designated hitter with the Chicago White Sox, Mercedes not only went 8-for-8 to start the year but hit .368 over the first 38 games. But it was all downhill thereafter for the little engine that could.
After batting .150 with a .220 on-base percentage over his next 118 trips to the plate, the 5-11, 235-pound righthanded hitter received a one-way ticket to AAA Charlotte, the top White Sox farm team. He hit .309 with four homers, five doubles, and a triple in 14 games (61 trips) but decided not to continue.
He announced on Instagram last night that he was stepping away from baseball “indefinitely.”
Mercedes thanked his agent, his teammates, and his family but was rather definitive in his statement, which ended with the words “it’s over.”
The American League Rookie of the Month in April, he was the first man to start a season with eight straight hits. He also authored the longest home run hit outside the Home Run Derby: a 485-footer against Kansas City on April 8. He had a .271 average and seven home runs with Chicago.
But he got into hot water with White Sox pilot Tony La Russa after hitting another home run. The manager was miffed that Mercedes homered on a 3-0 pitch – ignoring a “take” sign – in a lopsided win over the Minnesota Twins.
La Russa says that issue had nothing to do with the rookie’s decision to retire.
“Several times he said how close we are,” said La Russa, who learned of the Mercedes decision after Wednesday night’s game with the Twins. “He knows I’m a supporter of his. So I’ll reach out to him and see what’s going on. It could be he’s just feeling frustrated. … I’ll try to explain to him he’s got a big league future.”
Neither La Russa nor the team have received formal papers from Mercedes.
In a statement to the media, the team said, “The White Sox are aware of tonight’s Instagram post by Yermín Mercedes, who is currently on the active roster of our Class AAA team in Charlotte. At this point in time, the White Sox have not received any official notification from Yermín concerning his future plans.”
A Dominican who was popular with fans and teammates, Mercedes even had a hamburger named for him in a Chicago restaurant.
Though qualified as a rookie, he technically made his major-league debut last year, when he had one at-bat. He had spent a decade in minor league and independent baseball, playing in the farm systems of the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles before joining the White Sox via the Rule 5 draft in 2017.
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