Gonzales: Reaching 'Holy Grail' of 10 years' MLB time not lost on Rizzo, Quintana

  • The New York Yankees' Anthony Rizzo reached 10 years of service time in April.

    The New York Yankees' Anthony Rizzo reached 10 years of service time in April. Associated Press

  • Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jose Quintana hit the 10-year mark for service time last week.

    Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jose Quintana hit the 10-year mark for service time last week. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 5/23/2022 4:07 PM

Anthony Rizzo knew there was one individual goal left to achieve in 2013 even after agreeing to a contract that maxed out to nine years and $74 million with the Cubs.

That mission -- earning 10 years of service time -- has been tougher to achieve since Rizzo signed his first multiyear contract.

 

More teams have opted to carry younger players than experienced veterans, and experienced finesse pitchers have been bypassed in favor of younger, raw hard throwers.

Fewer than 10% of players have reached the "Holy Grail" of service time, according to the Major League Baseball Players Association website.

In 2011, 135 players reached the 10-year milestone for service time (with 172 days on a major league roster or injured list constituting a full year of service), according to Baseball Prospectus. That number dipped to 32 last season, according to a source.

That's why reaching the 10-year mark has been a bigger source of satisfaction to players, more so than the extremely lucrative benefits should they wait until they turn 62 -- including a pension currently worth around $230,000 annually, according to a source.

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"Playing this game and being healthy throughout most of it means the most to me," Rizzo said during the Yankees' visit to Guaranteed Rate Field earlier this month. "It goes by fast. Everyone says that, but I've enjoyed it and will continue to enjoy it for as long as I play."

Sox infielder Josh Harrison and Rizzo were two of 11 players who reached the 10-year milestone in April. They're grateful to be financially set to the point they don't need to draw their pension as soon as they're eligible at 45.

In recent decades, more veteran-laden teams have shared the wealth by expanding their playoff shares to include numerous staff members to help them financially as well as display their appreciation. The playoff shares for World Series winners and losers are easily in the six-figure range.

"The 10-year threshold has been set up (by the union) for years, and it's nice to know you have that years down the road," Rizzo said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

That didn't cross the mind of Jose Quintana when he signed his first professional contract with the Mets in 2006 and was merely looking to survive when he joined the Yankees organization two years later.

"The first day I came to the States, I had one dream -- to make it to the big leagues," Quintana said last week during the Pirates' visit to Wrigley Field.

After 5½ dependable seasons with the White Sox (2012-17), the goal of 10 years of service time zoomed into focus and became a mission last year when he witnessed former Angels teammates Steve Cishek and Tony Watson honored for reaching their milestone.

"One day, I'm going to be like them," Quintana told himself.

Quintana experienced the ultimate two-day celebration. The Pirates threw him a clubhouse celebration -- compete with a cake, cigar, balloons -- with his wife and two daughters in attendance.

The ceremony occurred one day before his actual 10-year anniversary because he was scheduled to pitch on his anniversary.

Despite his teammates getting no-hit by Hunter Greene and Art Warren, Quintana pitched seven innings of three-hit ball that helped enable his teammates to seize a 1-0 win on May 15.

"It can't get any better," Quintana said the next day at Wrigley.

Signing with the Pirates two days before MLB's lockout gave Quintana, 33, some peace of mind that he would reach the 10-year mark this season.

At the same time, Quintana looked at the big picture and hoped his achievement would impact younger players in the same way his former teammates did for him.

"First, you have to be healthy and do well," Quintana said. "A lot of things happen in this game, good and bad. But the opportunity to get 10 years is huge and special for me.

"I hope all the guys around me who watched (the celebration) will know how special it is and have the push to get there one day."

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