NEW YORK — Mark Teixeira plans to retire at the end of the season, announcing his decision during a tear-filled news conference Friday at Yankee Stadium.
“I gave you everything I had,” he said to Yankees fans during the televised announcement, his voice cracking before he took 15 seconds to regain his composure. “It wasn’t always enough.”
Slowed by injuries, the 36-year-old switch-hitting first baseman is batting .198 with 10 homers and 27 RBIs. A three-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner, he is in the final season of a $180 million, eight-year contract. His 404 home runs are fifth among switch-hitters, trailing only Mickey Mantle (536), Eddie Murray (504), Chipper Jones (468) and Carlos Beltran (415).
“As the season went on, I just kind realized that my body can’t do it anymore,” Teixeira said during a news conference as many of his teammates looked on. “If I’m going to grind through seasons not being healthy, I’d rather be home with my family. I’d rather do something else. And I miss my kids way too much to be in a training room in Detroit rather than being at their dance recital or their school play.”
When he arrived at spring training in February, Teixeira said “I’d love to play five more years. My body feels so good. Why not play until 40?”
But he was slowed early this season by a bulging disk in his neck and was on the disabled list from June 4-25 with a right knee cartilage tear, an injury that has caused manager Joe Girardi to schedule repeated off days since his return.
“My neck hurts almost every day. The knee thing popped up,” he said. “It’s been a struggle for me to stay on the field consistently the last three, four years now. And so it just all kind of dawned on me that that’s not in the cards.”
Teixeira first thought about retiring after he spoke to his father in San Diego at the time of his 400th home run on July 3. He finalized his decision when talking with his family during the All-Star break, deciding he didn’t want to play next year after knee surgery.
“My body can’t do it anymore,” he said.
At the start of the news conference, Teixeira anticipated breaking down as he spoke about the end of his career.
“Teixeiras are criers by the way, so if you don’t know that yet,” he said.
He was taken by Texas with the fifth overall pick in the 2001 amateur draft and made his big league debut with the Rangers two years later. He was traded to Atlanta in July 2007, dealt to the Los Angeles Angels the following year and signed with the Yankees in January 2009.
Succeeding Don Mattingly and Tino Martinez at first, Teixeira helped New York win a World Series title in his first season. He hit .292 with 39 homers and 122 RBIs and finishing second behind Minnesota’s Joe Mauer in AL MVP voting.
At the time, Teixeira didn’t appreciate the accomplishment.
“I was like, oh, Yankees win the World Series all the time. We’ll probably win three or four more,” he thought to himself. “But you realize how difficult it is. It’s so hard.”
Teixeira was limited to 15 games and a .151 average in 2013 after tearing the tendon sheath in his right hand while with the U.S. team at the World Baseball Classic. He had surgery that July 1 and missed the remainder of the season, then hit .216 with 22 homers and 62 RBIs the following year, when the hand was still regaining strength and he was slowed by a hamstring injury.
Fully recovered, he made the All-Star team again in 2015 but fouled a pitch off his right leg Aug. 17, played two more games in pain and then found out he had fractured his shin. He finished the season with a .255 average, 31 homers and 79 RBIs.
Greg Bird, a 23-year-old who missed this season following shoulder surgery, is expected back for the Arizona Fall League and is projected by the Yankees as Teixeira’s successor. Girardi anticipates Tyler Austin can challenge for the job during spring training.