Jeff Suppan, last member of 1998 Diamondbacks to play in majors, retires

Jamie Squire

A final tie with our debut season has been severed, after Jeff Suppan, the last member of the inaugural Diamondbacks roster to play in the major leagues, formally announced his retirement.

Suppan was originally a second-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 1995, but was selected by the Diamondbacks with the third pick in the 1997 expansion draft. He was a member of the Arizona rotation which opened play for the franchise in 1998, pitching the fourth game in team history [trivia: can you name the other four men who were the D-backs first rotation? Answer at the end]. He took the loss against the Giants in that contest, allowing five runs, all earned, in 5.1 innings on eight hits and a walk.

He did not have a great season, managing only one win in 11 starts, before being lifted from the rotation at the end of May - at that point, he had a 1-6 record, and a 7.04 ERA. He spent most of the remainder of 1998 with Triple-A Tucson, but was recalled for a couple of spot starts at the end of June, though failed to win either of those. He was sold to the Kansas City Royals in September, finishing his time as a Diamondback with an underwhelming record of 1-7 and a 6.68 ERA. That ranks him second in ERA, to Russ Ortiz (7.00), among all Arizona pitchers with at least ten starts for the team.

However, Suppan went on to have a long, productive career - albeit as a journeyman who was never chosen for an All-Star game or received any Cy Young consideration. He started 417 games, good enough for fifth among all active players at the time of his retirement [those with more: Andy Pettitte (521), Mark Buerhle (429), Tim Hudson (426) and Barry Zito (419)]. He won ten or more games in a season nine times, culminating with a 16-win campaign for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2005. He won a World Series ring with them the following season,, and was the NLCS MVP against the Mets, allowing one earned run over 15 innings, on five hits.

He final record was 140-146, with a 97 ERA+, making his last major-league appearances in 2012 for the San Diego Padres, starting six games. Suppan made the announcement at 2pm Pacific time yesterday, as a way of honoring his late mother, who passed away at that time in 2008 [curiously, it was also Suppan's 39th birthday] He said, "After 17 Major League seasons, I’ve squeezed everything out of my ability. I am both honored and blessed to have played the game with some of the greatest teammates and coaches. Baseball will always hold a special place in my heart and I am looking forward to the next chapter of my life."

The same article also quotes Suppan as saying "availability is the best ability," and in some ways, his career was the embodiment of that. Still, with career earnings of over $58 million, he did pretty well for himself. He and wife Dana currently run a restaurant, Soup's Sports Grill, in the San Fernando Valley, which is where he was working before the Padres let him come back for a last hurrah. Worth noting, he is not the final member of our 1998 roster still to be playing professional baseball. Karim Garcia - most famous for being what we gave up to get Luis Gonzalez - appeared in 63 games for Quintana Roo of the Mexican League last season.

[The five members of our inaugural rotation were Andy Benes, Willie Blair, Brian Anderson, Suppan and Joel Adamson. Man, how did we not win the World Series that year?]

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