Buster Posey's decision to walk away after one of his best seasons was a shock to the sport, but it really shouldn't have seemed too out of place for longtime Giants fans.
Posey retired at the age of 34 after batting .304 with 18 homers and leading the Giants back to the postseason. His main reason for walking away was to spend more time with his family, and that's the same path another Giants legend took two decades earlier.
Will Clark retired at 36 after batting .319 and hitting 21 homers for the Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals, who reached the National League Championship Series that season. Like Posey, Clark was still at the top of his game, but he wanted to spend more time with his family, primarily a son who has autism. It's a decision Clark has never regretted.
"It's a tough decision at the time, but then when you get retired and you start looking back on it you're like, 'That was probably the best decision ever.'" Clark said on this week's Giants Talk Podcast.
Not surprisingly, the ever-prepared Posey picked Clark's brain as he contemplated his own decision. Clark, now a special assistant for the front office, said he first realized Posey was thinking about potentially walking away during the shortened season, when he opted out to spend time with his two sets of young twins. They spoke about Posey's future and Clark gave him simple advice: "Go with your gut."
Clark was in town a few times last season while working for the Giants and said the two had the same kinds of talks.
"When he sat out the year I was like, 'whoa' -- that sort of caught me off-guard," Clark said. "And then last year he had a fabulous year, he did what he wanted to do, but then he kept bringing the subject up so it's like, alright, he's thinking pretty seriously about this."
San Francisco Giants
Posey announced his retirement after the season, although he'll be back at Oracle Park at least once this summer. The Giants announced Wednesday that they will honor Posey on May 7, about seven weeks before Clark's number is retired during a pregame ceremony. Like with Posey this past season, Clark said he went into his final year thinking it could be his swan song.
Clark was traded to the Cardinals in the middle of the 2000 season and hit .345 for them with a 1.081 OPS. After the season, the Cardinals offered to bring Clark back as a utility player or outfielder. The Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates showed interest in free agency, but neither team was a contender. Clark opted instead to call it a career.
"It's not like I couldn't do it anymore. It was, your priorities change, and my priority right then and there was (that) my son needed me and I was going to do whatever it took to make sure that he was okay," Clark said. "I put my career off on the side to make sure that he's okay and looking back on it, that is the best decision I ever made. He's 26 years old right now and he's doing great."
Two decades later, Clark can look back and know he went out at the top of his game.
"I had 15 years in, I had done pretty much a lot of things that you could do in Major League Baseball," he said. "The only thing I didn't do as a player that I really wish I could have is gotten a ring, but eventually Mr. Posey, he got me three rings, so I'm kind of happy now."