tampabay.com

Flaherty exits on his terms

By MARC TOPKIN
Published March 12, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG - John Flaherty retired last week, it turns out, for the best reason of all - because he wanted to.

Flaherty's decision to end his 14-year career caught people in and around the game, including friends and former teammates with the Devil Rays, by surprise.

Flaherty, who spent five years catching for the Rays, said it was something he had been thinking about since last season with the Yankees, and spending three weeks in camp with the Red Sox, with whom he started his career, did nothing to change his mind.

"I felt good physically, but I think I knew last year I was done mentally," he said in his first public comments since Tuesday's announcement. "I didn't want to do it anymore. And when you lose that desire, it's time to go.

"My wife kept pushing me to keep going to see if something would change. I thought that when I got down here maybe things would kick in, but I never got there. I just realized I didn't want to make the commitment to go through a full season. I would have been totally miserable."

Instead, Flaherty, 38, decided to walk away.

"It was time to go out, and I went out on my own terms, which was important to me," he said. "At the end of the day, you can say you don't want to do it. I didn't want to have a team tell me I couldn't do it anymore."

Flaherty was one of the longest tenured Rays in between stints with the Red Sox, Tigers, Padres and, most recently, Yankees, but considered his time in Tampa Bay to be mostly a disappointment.

"There was a lot of optimism at the beginning that turned into excitement, but we were going in the opposite direction," he said. "We never got it done there. I take pride in some of the young players we developed, and I made some great friendships. But we never got over the hump. And that's disappointing."

He plans to spend time with his wife and kids around their New York home for now but might not be away from the game for long. The Sox have expressed interest in keeping him in their organization, and other teams (perhaps the Rays?) might too. Broadcasting is another possibility.

EX-RAY REPORT: Dewon Brazelton said a key to his impressive start with the Padres five scoreless innings has been getting away from the Rays. "Here I get to be Dewon again," he told San Diego reporters. "This is almost an escape. My life is good right now. I don't have to worry about things off the field. And the Padres want me to do well. My new teammates want me to do well. I really enjoy being at the ballpark now." ... John Rocker has been reduced to cheap gimmicks, pitching against amateurs in a New York park as a promotion for the new Spike TV reality show Pros vs. Joes. ... Aaron Ledesma, living in Tampa, is co-founder of a sports agent business and is starting work as a real estate investor/agent (contact aledesma@vestorgroup.com) ... Terrell Wade, 33, who hasn't pitched in the majors since '98 with the Rays, signed with the independent Nashua team.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: Was players' union chief Don Fehr talking about the Rays when he said last week: "There's an issue as to whether or not clubs are using revenue-sharing receipts in an appropriate way." ... The Gerald Williams grievance hearing was postponed to the end of the month because of scheduling problems. ... The Marlins continue their (almost daily) scouting of Joey Gathright. ... The New York Times' Murray Chass said Canada's world classic win over the U.S. team was so big that if the Rays won the World Series this year "it would not be as stunning." ... GM Stan Javier said the Dominican Republic team was seriously interested in Julio Lugo but just didn't have room on its roster. "He's a true professional," Javier said. ... The kickoff party for Waechter's Warriors, the Doug Waechter charity fan club, is 8 p.m. Saturday at Ferg's Sports Bar & Grill (1320 Central Ave.). Waechter also will be there at 8 Monday as a guest on the Rays' weekly hot stove radio show. ... Dominican manager Manny Acta, rumored to be a candidate for the Rays job, said the hiring of Latin American super-scout Andres Reiner was a huge move: "He's a legend."

MISCELLANY: It might be that the only way for Barry Bonds to salvage his reputation and temper the public contempt is to retire without breaking Hank Aaron's record. ... San Antonio, Texas, officials are stepping up their courtship of the Marlins, offering up to $200-million to help build a stadium. ... Dan Futterman, screenwriter of Capote, is the brother-in-law of Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. ... Braves GM John Schuerholz has written what's described as a surprisingly candid book, Built to Win, that, in his words, takes readers "behind the closed doors of the general manager's office."

Information from other news organizations was used in the report.