It has often been said that baseball is a young man’s game.
And truth be told, major league baseball is in a transition period now, with many of the game’s stars of the ’90’s and the early part of this century giving way to a whole new crop of young and talented players.
Over the past couple of years or so, we have witnessed the retirements (or the virtual retirements) of Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Randy Johnson, NOMAR!, Jeff Kent, Gary Sheffield, and Pedro Martinez, to name a few.
Meanwhile, other former stars, such as Ken Griffey, Jr., David Ortiz, and Manny Ramirez are clearly close to the end of the line.
In their place we have seen an enormous influx of exciting new players who are still just 27-years old or younger. This group represents the vanguard of a new, (hopefully) post-steroids generation. This list includes several young players who will some day end up in the Hall of Fame.
Most of these names are already very familiar to you: Joe Mauer, Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Braun, Justin Verlander, Tim Lincecum, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Zach Greinke, Prince Fielder, Dustin Pedroia, Evan Longoria, Felix Hernandez, Ryan Zimmerman, and David Wright.
Even younger players such as Stephen Strasburg, Jason Heyward, Brian Matusz, Matt Wieters, and Ike Davis are also on the way, or have arrived within the past year.
Yet there is a group of graying players for whom Father Time seems to have given a free pass, at least as of this writing. These players, all at least 36-years old (which is like 65, in baseball years), show no signs of slowing down.
Actually, in some cases, they did show signs of slowing down, but appear to have caught a second wind. Several of them are either obvious future Hall of Famers, or should, at the very least, merit some consideration regarding their Hall worthiness.
So here they are:
1) Jorge Posada: Through tonight’s game against Baltimore, Jorge has produced some impressive numbers. He is hitting .316 with five homers and 12 RBI, while slugging over .600. At age 38, he keeps himself in excellent shape, and the Yankees are committed to giving him extra rest throughout the season. For these reasons, I believe Posada will continue to produce at a high level throughout this season.
Posada has played in parts of 15 seasons, and, aside from a few World Series rings, he has put up some nice numbers in his career. He has hit 248 career homers, driven in 976 runs, hit 346 doubles, has a career batting average of just under .280, with a .380 on base average.
He is 7th all-time on the Yankees career doubles list, ahead of Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey. He is also 8th on the Yankees career home run list, just three behind Graig Nettles for 7th place.
Posada also has five Silver Sluggers to his credit, has played in five All-Star games (with a sixth all but assured this year), and he has finished in the top ten in MVP voting twice.
A serious argument could be made that Posada just might belong in the Hall of Fame.
For now, he will have to remain content hitting the stitching off of baseballs.
2) Mariano Rivera: “Mo” has not allowed an earned run so far this season. He is a perfect 6 for 6 in save opportunities. His WHIP is 0.57. He is now 40 years old, pitching just like he did back when he was 30. An obvious Hall-of-Famer, there really isn’t any reason to spend time rehashing his career numbers. The only question is, will his greatness ever end?
3) Andy Pettitte: (No, I didn’t intend this to be Yankee night, but here we are.)
Believe it or not, he is off to the best start of his 16-year career. Through his first four starts, he is 3-0, with 22 strikeouts in 28 innings. His ERA is 1.29, and his WHIP is 1.07. Clearly, the soon-to-be 38 year old Pettitte isn’t just hanging around waiting for the playoffs to begin.
That’s when he really excels.
Pettitte now has a career record of 232-135, a .632 win-loss percentage. He has finished in the top 10 in Cy Young award voting five times. And he has 18 career post-season victories. At this point, his resume probably isn’t quite that of a Hall-of-Famer. But if he continues to pitch this well for another 2-3 years, we’ll have to take another look.
4) Jim Edmonds: Now playing for the Brewers, Edmonds was actually out of major league baseball last season. But he earned his way onto the team this spring, and I’m sure the Brewers are happy he did.
So far this season, Edmonds (now approaching 40 years old), has hit better than .300, including a .340 batting average against right-handed pitching. He has slugged almost .500, and he has scored 10 runs. As part of a platoon, he gets most of the playing time, and he has made the most of it.
Edmonds would get my vote for the Hall of Fame as well. His defense in center field alone would merit some consideration (eight Gold Gloves and several circus catches.) But he also has 383 career home runs, 421 doubles, over 1200 runs scored, and nearly 1200 RBI’s. Only a few center-fielders in history have combined his defensive prowess with his offensive statistics.
5) Ivan (Pudge) Rodriguez: Although recently side-lined with a back problem, when Pudge has played this season, he has been excellent. In 56 at bats for the Washington Nationals, he is hitting a mere .410 with 23 hits, including 7 doubles and 10 runs scored.
Not bad for a 38-year old catcher who happens to be a life-time .300 hitter with over 300 home runs, 13 Gold Gloves, and 14 All-Star game appearances. A first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, to be sure.
6) Jamie Moyer: Pitching for the Phillies, the 47-year old (!) Moyer is off to a 2-1 start, with a respectable 1.278 WHIP. He has fanned 11 in 18 innings.
Although Moyer now has 260 career wins, he is in the Tommy John-Jim Kaat class of pitchers. That is to say, he has put together a fine career, but falls just short of belonging in The Hall.
7) Ichiro Suzuki: Perhaps because of his physique and his unique style of play, it’s easy to forget that Ichiro, now at age 36, is not that young anymore. But he is off to his usual start this season, hitting around .310 with six stolen bases and 13 runs scored. Ichiro is in such great physical condition that, although he is slowing down a bit, he should remain a productive, above-average player for another couple of years.
Although I listed Ichiro as an overrated player in a prior blog-post, I still believe he will, and should be, elected to the Hall of Fame someday.
Each of these seven players not only continues to be highly productive, but they provide an invaluable link between the younger players, and all those who came before. It’s how baseball’s greatness is continually perpetuated from one generation to the next.
If there are other worthy performers who you believe should be included on my list, please let me know.
And, as always, thanks for reading.