Last Sunday, the Baltimore Orioles -- a team so profoundly in need of pitching that it's possible there are scouts standing behind you right now, seeing if you're a potential fit for the rotation -- released veteran right-hander Edwin Jackson. It was a short, uneventful Orioles trip for Jackson, who threw five innings over three games, giving up seven runs, four earned. He was called up from Triple-A Norfolk last Wednesday, and they released him Sunday. That's four days in The Show for a guy who has spent a ton of time there in a ton of different places.
Jackson's now a free agent and he's looking to get back in the Majors. If he can do it -- and he's only 33 years old, so it's not that crazy of an idea -- he will likely tie Octavio Dotel's record of playing with 13 teams. That's a particularly wild stat, considering he has only been in the Majors for 15 years and, again, is only 33 years old. Dotel was 39 years old when he played for his 13th team, the Tigers. Jackson is on pace to fly past Dotel's mark!
When someone has played for so many teams, for so long, they are, in a way, a living monument to a whole generation of baseball itself. Thus, while Jackson looks for that record-tying 13th team, let's take a look at each stop of Jackson's career. I refuse to believe this story is over.
2003-05: Los Angeles Dodgers.
Jackson made his MLB debut on Sept. 9, 2003, on his 20th birthday. It was just two years after he was drafted out of Shaw High School in Columbus, Ga., as an outfielder. (Jackson was an Army brat who was in fact born in Germany.) Jackson earned himself a win in that first start, giving up just one run and four hits in six innings in a 4-1 win over the Diamondbacks, against Randy Johnson, no less. He'd start two more games that year and grab another win, but in 2004 he'd only pitch in eight games (five starts) with a 7.30 ERA. He was still listed among the top 30 prospects in baseball in 2005 (just ahead of Felix Pie). His struggles in 2004-05, hurt his prospect status, and the Dodgers traded him for relief help.
Notable Dodgers teammates: Rickey Henderson, Hideo Nomo, Kevin Brown, Fred McGriff, Adrian Beltre, Dave Roberts, Brian Jordan, Robin Ventura, Milton Bradley, Steve Finley, Brad Penny.
2006-08: Tampa Bay Rays (traded with Chuck Tiffany for Danys Baez and Lance Carter)
Jackson began in middle relief but was a starter by 2007, losing nine of his first 10 decisions, with a 7.23 ERA. He ended up with a 5-15 record and a 5.76 ERA. Still, this was the start of Edwin Jackson, innings eater, beginning a stretch of eight seasons in which he'd throw 140 innings or more, getting over 180 five times. That paid off in 2008, when he went 14-11 with a 4.42 ERA for a Rays team that would shock everyone and reach the World Series. Jackson would end up pitching in Game 4 of that World Series, a 10-2 loss to the Phillies, giving up a home run to Joe Blanton, of all people. It was the one home run Blanton would hit his entire career.
Notable Rays teammates: Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, Cliff Floyd, David Price, Troy Percival, Carlos Pena, Delmon Young, Elijah Dukes, Ben Zobrist, Russell Branyan, James Shields, Scott Kazmir,
2009: Detroit Tigers (traded for Matt Joyce)
Jackson was never better than he was for the Tigers, at the age of 25, putting up a 3.62 ERA with 13 wins in 214 innings for a team that just missed the playoffs. This led to a highlight of Jackson's career: His lone All-Star Game selection. He pitched one inning for the American League at Busch Stadium, retiring Yadier Molina, Ryan Zimmerman and Hanley Ramirez in 1-2-3 fashion.
Notable Tigers teammates: Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, Magglio Ordonez, Rick Porcello, Fernando Rodney, Dontrelle Willis, Joel Zumaya, Armando Galarraga
2010: Arizona Diamondbacks (part of three-team trade, with Curtis Granderson going to the Yankees, Austin Jackson, Max Scherzer, Daniel Schlereth and Phil Coke going to the Tigers and Jackson and Ian Kennedy going to the Diamonbacks).
This was a wild trade that didn't ultimately turn out that well for the Diamondbacks, but it sure was worthwhile in Jackson's career, because it led to his lone no-hitter … one of the most amazing no-hitters in baseball history. Jackson no-hit the Rays, 1-0, on June 25, 2010, even though he walked eight batters and threw a shocking 149 pitches. The bases were actually loaded in the third inning. He became the first African-American pitcher to throw a no-hitter since Dwight Gooden in 1996.
Notable Diamondbacks teammates: Justin Upton, Miguel Montero, Dan Haren, Dontrelle Willis, Kris Benson, Ian Kennedy
2010-11: Chicago White Sox (traded for David Holmberg and Daniel Hudson)
Jackson's no-hitter didn't stop him from getting traded at the Deadline to a White Sox team trying to make the playoffs. (They'd fall short.) Jackson made 11 starts for the White Sox in 2010, posted a 3.24 ERA, and made 19 starts in '11 for a less successful White Sox team that would finally mark the end of Ozzie Guillen's run as White Sox manager.
Notable White Sox teammates: Paul Konerko, Alexei Ramirez, Omar Vizquel, Lastings Milledge, Gavin Floyd, Mark Beuhrle, Addison Reed, A.J. Pierzynski, Chris Sale, Andruw Jones, Juan Pierre, Manny Ramirez, Jake Peavy
2011: Toronto Blue Jays (traded with Mark Teahan for Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart)
Jackson was an employee of the Toronto Blue Jays, but only for an hour or so, and he never even got a uniform. (The Blue Jays do not in fact count as one of Jackson's teams.) Jackson became Trade Deadline capital, and he was moved on the market quickly.
Notable Blue Jays teammates: None.
2011: St. Louis Cardinals (traded with Octavio Dotel, Corey Patterson and Marc Rzepczynski for Colby Rasmus, Trever Miller, Brian Tallet and P.J. Walters)
Jackson finally was connected to his cosmic soulmate Dotel in a trade that Cardinals fans were furious about when it happened -- they traded away Rasmus, their center fielder of the future, for bullpen help for a struggling team -- and ended up winning them a World Series. Jackson was a stabilizing force for the Cards' rotation right when the team was about to go on one of the wildest comeback runs in baseball history, culminating in a World Series title, the one ring Jackson won. He started a World Series game too, as well as two National League Championship Series games. And he was even called on to be a pinch-hitter in the 10th inning of that magnificent Game 6, but he was pulled back at the last second so Kyle Loshe could bunt. It was quite a year.
Notable Cardinals teammates: Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, David Freese, Lance Berkman, Allen Craig, Rafael Furcal, Matt Carpenter, Chris Carpenter, Jason Motte, Lance Lynn, Miguel Batista, Octavio Dotel, Arthur Rhodes
2012: Washington Nationals (signed as a free agent)
At last Jackson was able to get some money on the free-agent market, though he settled for a one-year deal with the Nationals for about $10 million when other teams were offering more years. He wasn't great for the Nats, but he did throw his usual 189 innings, making him a valuable commodity the next season on the market. Jackson also pitched in his final postseason game, the infamous Game 5 loss to St. Louis in which the Cardinals came back against Drew Storen in the ninth inning. (The Pete Kozma game.)
Notable Nationals teammates: Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Rick Ankiel, Mark DeRosa, Stephen Strasburg, Zach Duke, Brad Lidge, Chien-Ming Wang
2013-15: Chicago Cubs (signed as a free agent)
The Cubs were the payday Jackson had really been waiting for, just days after he got married, in fact, a four-year, $52 million deal. Unfortunately for Jackson and the Cubs, this was when he began to struggle. The Cubs were bad, he was bad and that led to a 16-34 record over two-plus seasons, including an ugly 5.37 ERA. He actually lost 18 games, leading the Majors, in 2013. The Cubs finally released him in July 2015, when they were good and he still wasn't, with one year left on his contract.
Notable Cubs teammates: Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Dexter Fowler, Jon Lester, Dan Haren, Jason Motte, Miguel Montero, Starlin Castro, Alfonso Soriano, Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Matt Garza, Jake Arrieta, Carlos Marmol, Javier Baez,
2015: Atlanta Braves (signed as a free agent)
Now the truly nomadic period begins. Jackson pitched in 24 games for the Braves in 2015, all in relief, and he wasn't half bad, notching a 2.92 ERA in 24 2/3 innings. He pitched well on the last day of the season, and many thought this would be the end, pitching back in his home state of Georgia. It was in fact Jackson's first career save, that final game. But he was not done.
Notable Braves teammates: Freddie Freeman, A.J. Pierzynski, Andrelton Simmons, Jonny Gomes, Cameron Maybin, Shelby Miller, Julio Teheran, Jason Grilli
2016: Miami Marlins (signed as a free agent)
After the mess with the Cubs, Jackson wasn't much in demand anymore, so the Marlins got him for the minimum salary. They thought he might be a back-end-of-rotation starter, but he never started, showing up in just eight games, pitching 10 2/3 innings and being designated for assignment just after Memorial Day.
Notable Marlins teammates: Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Ichiro Suzuki, Dee Gordon, Jose Fernandez
2016: San Diego Padres (signed as a free agent)
For the last time in his career, it seems, Jackson got the chance to be an MLB starter. The Padres were pretty terrible and Jackson was no help, putting up a 5.89 ERA in 13 starts. He was not asked back for the 2017 season.
Notable Padres teammates: Wil Myers, Matt Kemp, Jon Jay, Manuel Margot, Fernando Rodney
2017: Baltimore Orioles (signed as a free agent)
The Orioles didn't necessarily want to bring up Jackson, but he had an opt-out clause in his contract if they didn't promote him from Norfolk (where he'd been pitching well), so they did. "I would think we all play to have that expectation to being the big leagues," Jackson said. "Once you've been here and once you've had a taste of it, if you don't expect to be here, then there's pretty much no reason to play the game." And yes: He lasted four days.
Notable Orioles teammates: Manny Machado, Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo.
So Jackson only needs one more team to tie Dotel's record. Is he going to get another chance? The team with maybe the biggest need for pitching in the sport just released him. It's going to be tough. But here's hoping he gets one last shot. Jackson's career is baseball, a walk through the past 15 years of the game. He has thrown a no-hitter. He has made an All-Star Game. He was won a World Series. If Jackson is not ready to say goodbye, then hey, who can blame him for hanging on as long as he can? We're all rooting for him.
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