Sean Casey never had exceptional talent, never carried a team to the World Series, and never finished higher than 14th in MVP voting, a feat he accomplished just once. Still, for 12 seasons, he averaged a tidy .302/.367/.447 line, good for an .353 wOBA. Nicknamed “The Mayor” for his affable personality and spirit, Casey seemed to take over the face of the franchise tag when Barry Larkin‘s career ended. At 35 years old, and coming off of a ~200 PA season with the Boston Red Sox, Casey has decided to retire.
Drafted by the Indians in 1995, Casey would debut as a 22 yr old in 1997. He amassed just 10 PA for the Tribe that season, and found himself traded for Dave Burba prior to 1998’s opening day. His tenure in Cincinnati did not begin as he would have hoped, as Casey missed virtually the entire month of April. He also missed the equivalent of a month from May 20-June 21. Overall, as a rookie, Casey hit .272/.365/.417 in 96 games with a .345 wOBA.
In 1999, he experienced the opposite of a sophomore slump, when he made the all-star team and finished 14th in MVP voting. Casey hit a gaudy .332/.399/.539, a .938 OPS and .398 wOBA. The Mayor knocked 25 balls out of the park, fell three hits shy of 200, and produced 33 runs above average with the bat alone. His UZR is not available prior to 2002, but given the positive marks from 2002-04, it is safe to assume his reputation as a solid fielder was not ill-derived.
The following season his BABIP regressed a bit but Casey still posted a .315/.385/.517 line. His wOBA of .388 did not portend a true sense of falling off, but it would take Casey three more seasons before again matching this offensive output. In 2004, Casey hit 24 HR with a .389 wOBA in 146 games. Again, he earned a spot on the all-star roster.
His wOBA dropped to .349 in 2005, and in a cost-cutting mode, the Reds sent Casey to the Pirates in exchange for Dave Williams. Casey immediately became the face of Pittsburgh’s marketing campaigns, as he discussed the future of the team in commercials with Bill Mazeroski. His time in Pittsburgh was short-lived, though, and halfway through the season the Tigers acquired his services. In 53 Games for the World Series bound Tigers, Casey posted a putrid .272 wOBA. Coupled with league average fielding at first base, Casey fell below replacement level for the first time in his career.
The Tigers trotted him out as their first baseman in 2007, and in 143 games The Mayor produced +0.1 wins. It seemed clear that his years of effectiveness were far behind the former all-star, but he was not a defensive liability and there are far worse players a team can carry on the bench. Theo Epstein and the Red Sox recognized this and signed him prior to the 2008 season. In limited action, Casey put together a relatively nice season with a .344 wOBA. In half the playing time he matched his 2007 win value of +0.1.
He walks away from the game with a .353 wOBA, 130 HR, over 1,500 hits, and over 100 offensive runs above average. The personable Casey immediately joined the MLB Network team in an undetermined analyst role. For 12 seasons, Casey combined some talent with a surplus of humility and fun, proving to be one of baseball’s most colorful characters in the process.