Unfortunately, Nick Markakis has decided to opt-out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19. And while that’s gloomy news for the Braves, it could be even worse for Markakis, who may have played his last professional baseball game ever without even knowing it.
When the 2018 season came to an end, Markakis knew he would play at least one more season; he just didn’t know where. The 35-year-old veteran mulled over his offers, but his kids decided for him when it came down to it.
Nick Markakis: "I think the sticking point was my kids. I asked them where they wanted Dad to be, and they all said Braves. How could I say no to that?" pic.twitter.com/hcrCV5SC2D
— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) January 23, 2019
I assume a similar conversation took place after this past season. And while it took a while for Markakis to make a decision, he finally decided to stay in Atlanta on another one-year pact. But this time, he didn’t know if it would be his final ride.
Despite collecting well over 2,000 hits in his MLB career, you would never know it by the way Markakis carries himself. He lets his work do the talking, which is why his consistency in a game where it is nearly impossible to be consistent is unmatched, and why he has the utmost respect from every person in the Braves clubhouse — both young and old.
So was it surprising to hear the Markakis decided to opt-out of the 2020 season amid a global pandemic? Both no and yes. He has been an ironman for the entirety of his career, unphased by the sores and bruises that come from playing any professional sport — even baseball. In his entire 14-year career, Markakis only missed more than 15 games twice — one of those being last season when he broke his wrist after being hit by a pitch. But then again, this decision wasn’t about the game or even the risk to himself; this was about his family, the same people who helped him choose Atlanta the past two offseasons as a free agent.
— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) July 6, 2020
However, Markakis didn’t forget about us (the fans), either, when announcing his decision to forgo the 2020 season. He talked about how baseball with no fans isn’t baseball to him, which was the cherry on top to why spending time with his kids, who he’s been away from for the better part of 11 years to play this beautiful game, was more important than competing this season. And there’s not a player or coach in the clubhouse that blames him for coming to that conclusion, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be dearly missed.
So is this the last we’ve seen of Nick Markakis?
According to himself, potentially.
“Hopefully this isn’t the end of my road,” Markakis said. He’ll watch how season unfolds and evaluate his future later.
— Gabe Burns (@GabeBurnsAJC) July 6, 2020
By the start of next year, Markakis will be 37, and he will likely have to decide whether he wants to start a new journey in a different city. The Braves have a loaded outfield when looking at their organizational depth, and Markakis was already slated to play a substantially reduced role this season compared to his last five years in Atlanta. Next year, Cristian Pache should be ready to take the reins, and it’s unlikely there will be a spot left for Markakis unless he wants to be a full-time bench bat, which I highly doubt he would be interested in.
Markakis prides himself on being a guy who trains his body to play every day. I’m just not sure that will be available for him next year unless he wants to be a clubhouse guy on a rebuilding franchise like the Orioles. That might be something he’s interested in, especially since he spent the first nine years of his career in Baltimore, but it would be quite the change of pace.
Above all, this is disheartening because Markakis is the type of professional that deserves to retire on his terms. However, this coronavirus pandemic seems to have a way of throwing a wrench in everybody’s life plans. Hopefully, this isn’t the end of the road for Markakis, but we’ve likely seen the last of him in a Braves jersey. So either way, he deserves a tip of the cap for what he’s done for this organization.