Edgar Renteria’s Underrated Career

Although he didn’t play a single game in 2012, it wasn’t until yesterday that Edgar Renteria officially announced his retirement from baseball. The long-time big leaguer told RCN Television in his native Colombia that “I’m definitely retired from baseball and it will soon be announced in the majors … I decided to retire from baseball and try to spend all my time with my family.”

Renteria, 37, had a very long and productive career, racking up 39.6 WAR in 2,152 games across parts of 16 seasons. He retires as a .286/.343/.398 (95 wRC+) career hitter with some dynamite individual seasons to his credit — specifically his 128 wRC+ and 6.9 WAR in 2003. If you want to cherry-pick some end-points, Renteria was the fourth best shortstop in baseball from 2002-2007 at 23.7 WAR. Only Derek Jeter (29.8), Miguel Tejada (27.2), and Jimmy Rollins were better (26.4)*.

* Alex Rodriguez piled up 49.2 WAR from 2002-2007, but only 19.3 came as a shortstop. That’s only two years at the position, which is nuts.

Despite the steady production, I think Renteria really stands out for two specific moments. The first is obvious — the walk-off single against Charles Nagy and the Indians in the 11th inning of Game Seven of the 1997 World Series:

WPA measures that hit at +0.34, but c’mon. There should be some kind of “extra innings of Game Seven of the World Series with a franchise that had never been to the postseason before” multiplier worth a couple million WPA points or so. Seriously, hits don’t get any bigger than that. At age 21 with fewer than 300 big league games to his credit, Renteria had already had his career-defining moment.

The second memorable moment of his career came more recently — the three-run homer off Cliff Lee in the seventh inning of Game Five of the 2010 World Series. This one wasn’t as dramatic as the 1997 walk-off hit, but it served the same purpose. It was a World Series-winning hit:

That homer checks in at +0.36 WPA, but again, WPA’s lack of context doesn’t do the hit justice. It turned a scoreless game into a three-run San Francisco lead and eventually gave them their first World Championship since leaving New York in 1958. That’s two historic, World Series-winning hits that basically bookend Renteria’s career, and in my opinion they raise career accomplishes beyond his WAR total, so to speak. They’re iconic moments, especially to the Marlins and Giants and their fans.

There’s also this: Renteria is the greatest Colombian-born player in baseball history and it’s not even close. That isn’t as impressive as being the best Dominican-born player or anything — there have only been 13 Colombian-born players in MLB history — but I think anytime you’re the best player to come out of your home country, it’s significant. Orlando Cabrera is the only other player even in this conversation at 29.1 WAR. Being the best anything from your country is a pretty awesome accomplishment.

Since MLB first expanded in 1961, only seven players — Cal Ripken Jr., Omar Vizquel, Dave Concepcion, Ozzie Smith, Alan Trammell, Larry Bowa, and Jeter — have played more games at shortstop than Renteria (2,114). He was a two-time World Series MVP and had a good five- or six-year run as one of the best players at his position in the game. He’s no Hall of Famer or anything, but Renteria had a very significant and memorable big league career that seems to have gone underappreciated since his last game in September 2011.




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Mike writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues and baseball in general at CBS Sports.


38 Responses to “Edgar Renteria’s Underrated Career”

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  1. A year after Orlando Cabrera retired. I looked at the comparison between the two a year ago. Unfortunately, Edgar and Orlando have feuded in recent years, a shame since they’re far and away their country’s best.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/orlando-cabrera-once-traded-for-nomar-says-no-mas/

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  2. Bert says:

    Renteria was a great player.
    The Cardinals have had a hole at SS ever since he left. And he left for what, like a million bucks in a 36 million deal…

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    • Antonio bananas says:

      Pujols left for a relatively small amount more too. It’s almost like there actually are factors for players leaving. Almost like Missouri is a col, rainy, racist state. I live here, I know. I also want to get out and if you paid me more, I’d also leave.

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      • ? says:

        Yes, because people who actually live in St. Louis would describe their baseball seasons as “cold” and “rainy.” Since you’re so far off on those first two, I don’t even care where you get the idea about the third.

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        • YanksFanInBeantown says:

          St. Louis is also just not a great city. I’d take Anaheim or San Fran over it any day.

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        • Ben says:

          Renteria didn’t leave for San Fran.

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        • Richard Malcolm says:

          …and so Edgar left for Boston, which is notorious for being cold, rainy and, er, racist. Only in a chowderhead way, not a hick way.

          But I grant that Boston has a better nightlife. You just have to put up with a lot more media and fan scrutiny for it.

          I think Edgar left for the money, and the respect that extra money brings.

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      • That Guy says:

        Funny. I bet in whatever industry you work in, you could be paid more elsewhere, than Missouri.

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      • Todd says:

        Nothing describes “Missouri summer” quite like “cold and rainy.”

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      • MonkeyEpoxy says:

        Missouri has cold summers? u wot m8?

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  3. Mr Punch says:

    Renteria had some great moments, for which he deserves full credit, but overall he’s the Bill Freehan of shortstops – looks better than he should because there was nobody else in his league who was much good at the position. He was just awful in Boston; and meanwhile Eckstein (!) took over as the NL’s All-Star SS.

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    • gnomez says:

      Except for the fact that Freehan was actually really damn good.

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      • Sabertooth says:

        Let’s see: best player at your unique position in your league, by far, year in and year out, for a decade…

        Yeah, meh.

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  4. Jaack says:

    Ehh I’m not sure that being the best at something in your respective country is necessarily impressive. It probably doesn’t take much to be the best lover in Vatican City…

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  5. KCDaveInLA says:

    These are the kind of players I love – no HOFer, but I hope he carries over on the ballot for a few years.

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    • BVHeck says:

      No. This is how Jim Rice happens.

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    • Jon L. says:

      Jim Rices will stop happening when we stop using HOF credentials as a measuring stick for every career. The average player, or even the average very good player, should never sniff the HOF. Edgar Renteria belongs somewhere in that latter group, and this article strikes a nice balance in appreciating his fine career.

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      • That Guy says:

        Exactly. Fans of the Marlins, Cardinals, and Giants can all love this guy without having to dig deep into rose tinted glasses rationalization. That covers the bulk of his career and covers a couple of world series. We should all get to stick in our careers the way Renteria did his.

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  6. Willy Wonka says:

    Is Edgar Renteria that pitcher who blew out his arm playing Guitar Hero? Or was he that second baseman who was always the worst teammate on his respective team even when he got traded to the same team that Barry Bond was on?

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    • DagGummit says:

      Not just when he was teammates with Bonds, but also with Milton Bradley.

      While I don’t actually know anything about Jeff Kent’s story, he sure seemed like a passive-aggressive racist.

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    • Sabertooth says:

      Bonds. Barry (son of Bobby) Bonds.

      ps. Love Edgar. Who else in baseball history earned $18 mil with one swing?

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  7. Basmati says:

    He also passed 2000 hits before his 32nd birthday and figured to have a shot at 3000…

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  8. abarnold2 says:

    One other player had more games at short: Ozzie Smith.

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    • Mike Axisa says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      I knew that. I actually wrote “…only seven players…” but listed just six.

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  9. DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy says:

    Only the 2nd postseason HR given up by Cliff Lee, man things have a funny way of working out, all those trades and Cliffy never got one. Then this lineup of re-treads get the hits at the right time to win it all in 2010.

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    • Sabertooth says:

      Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Posey:

      Two-time, defending World Champion, San Francisco Giants retreads!

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      • Mike Axisa says:
        FanGraphs Supporting Member

        They aren’t the two-time defending champs.

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        • Sabertooth says:

          I stand corrected: Reigning Camps.

          Please note the (possibly deliberate) omission of “consecutive” and then count the rings on the fingers of those retreads. Retreads!

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        • MrMan says:

          With the exception of Posey that 2010 lineup DOES read like a bunch of retreads:

          1. Aubrey Huff (13 MLB seasons, 17 WAR)
          2. Pablo Sandoval(5 seasons, 14.3 WAR)
          3. Juan Uribe (12 seasons, 12.3 WAR)
          4. Andres Torres (8 MLB seasons, 7.0 total WAR)
          5. Freddy Sanchez (10 MLB seasons, 14.4 WAR)
          6. Buster Posey (exception)
          7. Aaron Rowand (11 MLB seasons, 18.9 WAR)
          8. Pat Burrell (12 MLB seasons, 16.4 WAR)
          9. Edgar Renteria (16 seasons, 28.9 WAR)
          10. Nate Schierholz (6 seasons, 3.3 WAR)

          That’s 93 with 132.5 WAR for an average of 1.42 career WAR per season. With the exceptions of Posey only Sandoval couldn’t be considered a scrub. Huff had a career year. Renteria was a replacement level player by 2010.

          So, yeah….great pitching….but basically a bunch of scrubs everywhere else.

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  10. Tim says:

    Edgar Renteria had a great career, but I will always have one advantage over him: the two defining moments of my life have no association with Bob Costas and Joe Buck.

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  11. andy says:

    Livan hernandez was the 1997 ws mvp, not renteria.i think the only people to be named twice were gibson, koufax, and reggie. Though i do reqmember renteria having a good series. Just a nitpick, but great article mike, a guy who i always felt was under appreciated.

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  12. James d. says:

    Renteria is probably also forgotten a bit because of the AL glut of shortstops in the late-1990s, and also because the two times he went over to the American League, he had weak seasons and had to run back to the NL. Not saying it’s fair, but he could be labeled a “National League-quality” player pretty easily in casual conversation.

    But, of course, where are our World Series-winning hits? Glad he’s at least getting some FanGraphs love.

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  13. tz says:

    I’d love to see where Renteria ranks on the all-time World Championship Probability-Added leaderboard.

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  14. Todd says:

    For a hole in your infield, or a whole new infield, Edgar’s Renteria!

    http://www.tubechop.com/watch/1055034

    Providing high-quality shortstops and other infield solutions since 1997!

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  15. bomalley19 says:

    One more moment and most important moment missing….tapper back to Foulke to seal the 04 Red Sox championship!

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