MLB pitcher who has made $144 million and is having his best season ever explains why he is retiring

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AJ Burnett Finally Makes an All-Star Team - in His Last Possible Chance


Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett is having the best season of his career and yet when it is over, he will walk away from the sport and forgo what would certainly be another lucrative contract as a free agent this winter.

The 38-year-old Burnett — who has a 2.11 ERA in 18 starts this season and will pitch in his first All-Star game on Tuesday — spoke with ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" crew and explained why his 17th season will be his last despite pitching better than he ever has before. Burnett cites his health, his wife, and his children.

(Photo credit: Getty)

The full quote:

"It's that time. My wife has done a lot of things. She hasn't had a summer to herself in a long, long time. My boys are at an age now where I started coaching their basketball team in the winter time and they want me to start coaching others things too. And like I mentioned, the body tells you. I believe I could still pitch for a couple more years but I want to be able to walk away and be active around my kids for couple of years before I start hobbling."

AJ Burnett

(Photo credit: Getty)

Burnett will have made $144.3 million in his career, with his biggest payday coming before the 2009 season when the New York Yankees gave him a huge five-year, $82.5 million contract. So money is probably no longer an issue.

Still, it is surprising to see a player retire from a sport at their peak. It is one thing to go out on top as a champion who is past their prime, à la John Elway. But it is something else to see a player go out just as they are reaching a potential that has only previously been seen in glimpses.

But at the same time, it is a reminder of just how grueling the sport of baseball can be, not just on the player, but on the families. It is 162 games in 180 days, with half of those on the road and that is not counting six weeks of spring training and any postseason play if the player is lucky and good enough to get there.

After a while it takes its toll and as Burnett said, it is just time.

See photos from Burnett's career:

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MLB pitcher who has made $144 million and is having his best season ever explains why he is retiring
14 April 2002: A.J. Burnett # 34 of the Florida Marlins on the mound in the fourth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Pro Player Stadium in Miami Florida. DIGITAL IMAGE Mandatory Credit: Eliot Schechter/Getty Images
MIAMI - APRIL 10: A.J. Burnett 34 of the Florida Marlins acknowledges the fans prior to the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Pro Player Stadium on April 10, 2004 in Miami, Florida. The Marlins won 5-3. (Photo by Victor Baldizon/Getty Images)
JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 26: A.J. Burnett #34 of the Florida Marlins poses during the Florida Marlins Portrait Day on February 26, 2005 at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 01: A.J. Burnett #34 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angels Stadium on June 1, 2008 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - DECEMBER 18: A.J. Burnett talks to the media during a press conference to announce his signing to the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on December 18, 2008 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - MAY 27: Pitcher A.J. Burnett #34 of the New York Yankees falls while trying to make the throw on a bunt single by Elvis Andrus #1 of the Texas Rangers on May 27, 2009 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 07: A.J. Burnett #34 of the New York Yankees delivers a pitch to the Boston Red Sox in the first inning on August 7, 2009 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JULY 22: A.J. Burnett #34 of the New York Yankees celebrates a catch by teammate Nick Swisher (not pictured) to end the fourth inning against the Baltimore Orioles on July 22, 2009 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 04: A.J. Burnett #34 (R) of the New York Yankees celebrates in the locker room after their 7-3 win against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Six of the 2009 MLB World Series at Yankee Stadium on November 4, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 02: A.J. Burnett #34 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium on April 2, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 13: A.J. Burnett #34 of the New York Yankees salutes the crowd as he leaves the game in the eighth inning against the Cleveland Indians on June 13, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 21: A.J. Burnett #34 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in his first game for the Pirates against the St Louis Cardinals during the game on April 21, 2012 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 03: A.J. Burnett #34 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the Atlanta Braves during the game on October 3, 2012 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 11: A.J. Burnett #34 of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws against the Texas Rangers in the second inning at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on September 11, 2013 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 01: A.J. Burnett #34 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches against the Texas Rangers in the bottom of the first inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington on April 1, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 20: Starter A.J. Burnett #34 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the third inning at Busch Stadium on June 20, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 12: Pitcher A.J. Burnett #34 of the Philadelphia Phillies gives third baseman Cody Asche #25 a towel of shaving cream after Asche hit a walk off two run home run in the bottom of the tenth inning against the Miami Marlins on September 12, 2014 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies defeated the Marlins 3-1 in 10 innings (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 9: A.J. Burnett #34 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the third inning of the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on April 9, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 11: A.J. Burnett #34 of the Pittsburgh Pirates salutes the crowd from the dugout while receiving a standing ovation following his solo home run in the 5th inning against the St Louis Cardinals during the game at PNC Park on July 11, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, left, holds the jersey for Gerrit Cole alongside the other Pirates All Starsf, Gerrit Cole, Andrew McCutchen, and A.J. Burnett as they show their jersey before a baseball game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday, July 12, 2015, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
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