Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Despite letdown in '07, Finley not ready to retire
By Jerry Crasnick
After 19 major league seasons, 2,548 hits and a four-month forced sabbatical last summer, Steve Finley reached a decision: He's not ready to give up on playing just yet.
Finley, one of only six players in history with more than 300 career home runs and 300 stolen bases, wants to return for a 20th season in 2008. So he's asked his agent, Casey Close, to look for openings -- even though the best he'll get is probably a minor league invite with a chance to compete for a job in spring training.
"I've still got that bug," said Finley, who turns 43 in March. "I'm still in great shape and doing my workouts. The bottom line is, I want to play."
Finley, a two-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner in center field, joined Willie Mays, Barry and Bobby Bonds, Andre Dawson and Reggie Sanders in the 300-300 club with San Francisco two years ago. Last spring, he won a job with Colorado out of training camp to become the first player ever to appear for all five National League West clubs.
Pitcher Matt Herges shared that distinction when the Rockies called him up from Triple-A Colorado Springs in mid-April. But while Herges went on to play a pivotal role for Colorado's National League championship team, Finley failed to adapt to his role off the bench. He hit .181 with only four extra-base hits in 94 at-bats, and the Rockies designated him for assignment in early June.
Enough teams were convinced that Finley's skills had disappeared that he waited in vain for a phone call the rest of the season. But the experience hasn't deterred him from giving it one more shot.
"Obviously, a person views himself differently than other people do," Finley said. "I didn't settle into my role very well and I was batting a buck-eighty, and I guess people were going, 'He's 42, and maybe it's just too late.' But I know if given the opportunity, I can go out there and perform at a high level. Physically, if I didn't feel I could do this, I wouldn't try."
Finley, who lives in San Diego and spent four years with the Padres in the late 1990s, expressed an interest in making a second tour with the club. At the moment, San Diego is set in right field with Brian Giles and leaning toward Scott Hairston to play left. The Padres are also interested in bringing back center fielder Mike Cameron, who will miss the first 25 games next season while serving a suspension for amphetamine use.
Although general manager Kevin Towers views Finley as a long-shot candidate to be with the Padres in 2008, he declined to close the door entirely on the possibility.
"It's probably doubtful," Towers said in an email. "But I wouldn't completely rule it out depending on what we are able to accomplish in the outfield this winter."
Senior writer Jerry Crasnick covers Major League Baseball for ESPN.com.