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Retired Sox slugger Jermaine Dye positive he played the game right

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



Jermaine Dye would like to tell you about his last major-league at-bat.

He would like to remember that cool early October day in 2009. How he was down in the count 0-2, took two pitches on the outside corner, before pulling the baseball into left field for another RBI single. He would like to hold that moment fresh in his mind.

Problem is he can’t.

“If I would have known that final game in ’09 was going to be my last big-league at-bat, maybe I would have remembered it more,’’ Dye said with a laugh in a phone interview on Monday. “Why, what did I do?’’

It’s probably better to start off with what Dye didn’t do.

He didn’t complain to the media. He never cared if the spotlight was on him. His numbers were an afterthought if the team won. And what makes him sleep even sounder each night? He didn’t cheat the game.

Like former White Sox great Frank Thomas, Dye has always been adamant that throughout his 14-year career in the bigs, through 325 home runs and 1,072 RBI to go along with a career .274 average, no performance-enhancing drugs entered his mind, let alone his body.

“I’m happy to be able to put up numbers the right way, the clean way,’’ Dye said. “It’s crazy that the teams I was on had players test positive and I had no idea they were doing anything. Frank and I talk about it all the time, how all these players tested positive and we put up the numbers we put up the right way.’’

Dye didn’t get into naming names, and he didn’t have to. After all, he spent part of 2001 all the way through 2004 playing in Oakland with the Giambi brothers. It’s kind of a ’nuff-said moment right there.

Dirty little secrets

What he did shed some details on was the idea that players know what their teammates are doing. Steroids, HGH or whatever erectile-dysfunction drug Manny being Manny is taking, are dirty little secrets that rarely anyone in the clubhouse talks about.

Players will tell each other about infidelity, family problems or an issue with the franchise openly, but PEDs? Not a chance. The needles and pills stay in the dark.

“They do it at their house before they even come to the field or something I guess,’’ Dye said. “A lot of stuff happens in the clubhouse, but nothing like that.’’

The idea that Dye will freely talk about a sensitive topic like PEDs these days is a story in itself. Then again, retirement will do that to a man. Especially a retirement that came before it should have.

Entering the ’09 season in a walk year, Dye hit .302 with 20 homers and 55 RBI by the All-Star break. The kind of numbers that would earn a veteran a two-year, $14 million deal at the time without blinking. After the All-Star break, however, Dye had what he still refers to as “the worst three months of my career,’’ hitting .179 with seven homers and 26 RBI.

A victim of moneyball

Just like that, baseball stat geeks started breaking down his game, coming up with Ultimate Zone Ratings [UZR] in between trying to figure out the amount of energy Captain Kirk’s phaser emitted when set on stun. Moneyball, as well as a changing economy in the game, trumped what Dye brought to a lineup and to a clubhouse.

“If you’re not able to see a person play on a daily basis, you don’t know what he brings to the club,’’ Dye said. “People don’t understand we never played hitters straight up [with the Sox]. We’re taught to play pull or opposite field. Computers can only give you so much.

“I had the worst second half of my career and still ended up with numbers that were better than a lot of guys. To base my value on stats and UZR, write me off like that, it was pretty unfair.’’

But Dye wasn’t innocent in that 2010 free-agent offseason. He came with very specific demands for possible suitors, starting with a good situation for his family and a winning team right after that. Milwaukee and Toronto made offers, but no thanks.

This winter, the Dodgers called Dye and spoke to him about working out for them right after Christmas. Once Dye saw they had signed Marcus Thames before that workout even happened, he knew it was over. So last month, the MVP of the ’05 World Series run for the Sox called it a career.

What’s next for Dye? He’s watching his kids grow up and has his hands in some social media businesses. Doing postgame for the Sox or in the Bay Area was talked about, but nothing concrete.

“I wouldn’t change anything, to be honest,’’ Dye said. “I did things on my terms.’’

And as for that last at-bat, an RBI single really would have been nice, but it was in fact a fifth-inning strikeout in Detroit.

Can you blame him for not remembering?



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