Ted Lilly Retires From Baseball

Jonathan Daniel

So, let's salute the former Cub for his fine years on the North Side.

It's been more than three years since Ted Lilly left the Cubs in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers (and this isn't the time to revisit that trade, which turned out to be awful for the Cubs). It was announced via this Spanish-language article by Andreina Salas Guzmán which has helpfully been translated by MLB Trade Rumors:

"My body in general is telling me that I can't take any more," Lilly told Guzman. "I feel like I don't have the ability to continue at the Major League level."

Lilly, 37, recently had nerve endings in the right side of his neck cauterized in an attempt to alleviate neck pain that had been hampering his ability to pitch. That procedure seems to have been effective, as he told Guzman his neck feels ok, but he's far from pain free: "It's principally the pain in my back and shoulder. I'm having problems there. I feel like I can't return to being the pitcher I was a few years ago."

Lilly told Guzman that he's disappointed and feels "awful," as he never expected to be forced into retirement when initially traveling to Venezuela for winter ball. He looks back on his first two years with the Cubs fondly, noting that he pitched well and was on a good team in a "great city," calling those seasons the best of his career.

Given Lilly's statement about his first two years with the Cubs (the 2007 and 2008 division title years), let's celebrate Ted's 3½ seasons with the team.

Coming over from the Blue Jays in the famous four-year, $40 million deal that Jim Hendry signed him to from a hospital bed, Ted seemed not much more than a journeyman through his stops in Toronto, Oakland, New York and Montreal (and note, that's one fewer Expo who is still active, with this retirement). But in 2007, Ted went 15-8 with a 3.83 ERA and 1.14 WHIP, one of his best years, helping anchor a starting rotation that had been pretty shaky after the trade of Greg Maddux and loss of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior to injury.

In this game in Atlanta June 10 (I was in Atlanta and saw this in person), Lilly had hit Edgar Renteria with a pitch and was ejected -- even though Michael Barrett told Renteria that Lilly wasn't throwing at him. Later, Renteria retaliated:

He smacked Cubs second baseman Mike Fontenot in the face with his right hand while stealing second. The teams stayed calm after the play, and it was peaceful the rest of the night.

The Cubs lost the game, but Lilly was starting to cement his reputation as a leader and tough guy.

In 2008, he posted a slightly higher ERA and WHIP, but went 17-9 for the 97-win Cubs, and will forever be remembered by Cubs fans for bowling over Yadier Molina at the plate September 10 in St. Louis in a game the Cubs hung on to win 4-3:

On June 13, 2010, just four days after the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, the Cup was paraded around Wrigley by the entire Blackhawks team, and Ted rose to the occasion. He took a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the White Sox, only to have it broken up by a single from former Cub Juan Pierre. Back when Carlos Marmol was still good, he came in and saved the 1-0 win over the White Sox.

Ted's post-Cubs career consisted of a year and a half of good pitching for the Dodgers, and then two years ruined by injury; as Ted noted in that quote, his body just broke down.

During his Cubs years he lived at 1305 W. Waveland, just three blocks from Wrigley Field, and walked to work. It's something that you can really only do in Chicago and it seems a lot of Cubs players really enjoy that. Ted said those years were the best of his career, and I'm sure that wasn't just the baseball, either.

Best of luck to Ted Lilly in his post-baseball career; he retires with 130 career wins, a 4.14 ERA (106 ERA+), two All-Star selections and two postseason appearances, and that hit on Molina. I'll always remember him fondly for his time with the Cubs.

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