Mets' Boone retires before 2B competition begins

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

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.