Mets' Boone retires before 2B competition begins

Updated: March 1, 2006, 3:50 PM ET
Associated Press

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Bret Boone retired Wednesday at New York Mets camp, the culmination of a swift decline for a player who was one of baseball's best second basemen only a few years ago.

Boone's production had plummeted dramatically since the 2003 season. The three-time All-Star was cut by the Seattle Mariners last July 3, dealt to Minnesota eight days later, then released by the Twins on Aug 1. He batted .221 with seven homers and 37 RBI in 326 plate appearances last season.

The 36-year-old Boone agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mets in January and came to spring training with an opportunity to win the starting second base job. The four-time Gold Glove winner was at least expected to push incumbent Kaz Matsui, a two-year bust since arriving from Japan.

But Boone cut the competition short and called it quits before the Mets even played their first exhibition game.

"At the end of the day, this really gives me some closure," Boone said, his eyes moist at a morning news conference. "I went out this winter and worked as hard as I could, and it would have been easy to walk away after last year."

Boone said he discussed his decision with family, friends and former teammates. He missed New York's first intrasquad game Tuesday because of personal reasons, and said he woke up Wednesday morning with a decision that was "crystal clear."

"Physically, I think I can still do it. It wasn't as easy as even three or four years ago, but I had lost the edge. I couldn't look in the mirror and think that I would get that edge back," Boone said.

Boone batted .266 with 252 homers and 1,021 RBI in 14 major league seasons. He also played for Cincinnati, Atlanta and San Diego.

His best years came in Seattle, where he was a big reason the Mariners won an AL-record 116 games in 2001. He finished third in MVP voting that year after hitting .331 with 37 homers and a league-leading 141 RBI.

Boone made the All-Star team again in 2003, when he batted .294 with 35 homers and 117 RBI. He followed that up with 24 homers and 83 RBI the next season, but dropped to .251.

By last year, he was struggling mightily at the plate.

As for Matsui, he will now try to hold off youngsters Anderson Hernandez and Jeff Keppinger at second base.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press