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Former Pirate Adam LaRoche 'stepping away' from baseball, could retire

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Former Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche appears likely to retire. LaRoche is still under contract with the White Sox, but he will "step away from baseball," according to the Chicago Tribune's Colleen Kane. LaRoche is now 36 and coming off a miserable .207/.293/.340 season in Chicago.

LaRoche, of course, was the Pirates' principal first baseman from the start of the 2007 season through July 2009, when the Bucs traded him to Boston. He mostly was reviled in Pittsburgh, generally for reasons that weren't fair to him. He arrived with high expectations after a .285/.354/.561 season in Atlanta that turned out to be one of the best seasons of his career.

It was, in a way, strange that LaRoche was even available to the Bucs, since he was only 27 and clearly in the midst of his prime, and his acquisition was a breath of fresh air after years of Jeromy Burnitz-type free agent signings. LaRoche was supposed to be exactly the sort of lefty power hitter who would thrive in PNC Park.

It didn't exactly turn out that way, but it wasn't as bad as many fans thought, either. It didn't help that LaRoche was batting a mere .133 through his first month in Pittsburgh in 2007, and his slow start represented a trend throughout his time in Pittsburgh -- he'd vanish for long stretches early in the season when fans were paying attention, then crush the ball for months at a time after the Pirates had fallen out of contention and fans had fallen away. LaRoche wouldn't have seemed like such a frustrating player if he'd had a better supporting cast. Fans' frustration with LaRoche probably deepened when the Bucs made his brother the centerpiece of their unsuccessful trade of Jason Bay.

In fact, Adam LaRoche was a perfectly useful, if unspectacular, player in Pittsburgh overall, posting OPS+ figures of 109, 122 and 103 in his three years with the team. He wasn't anything special, but like many competent players to come through Pittsburgh during the losing streak, he deserved better than he got. Here's wishing him the best in retirement, if in fact he chooses to retire.