Just less than a month before the Yankees and the Red Sox open the 2010 baseball season, and like we did with the NBA about four months ago, we looked up the oldest players in Baseball, fossils from the early 70’s and even guys born in the 1960’s, when the Beatles were still together. Yes, they are that old.
Number 10 – Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees, 40
Greatest Closer ever? Rivera actually started his MLB career as a starting pitcher (1995) after five years in the minors. In his second season he became a setup man for John Wetteland, and this duo was responsible for the Yankees going 70-3 in games they led after the sixth inning. The Yankees late 90’s dynasty began with Rivera performing brilliantly in the post season, allowing only one run in 14 innings, moving to the closer role, which he has dominated ever since, with the Yankees.
Rivera, who actually uses only fastballs with his notorious “buzzsaw” cutter, has been to seven World Series’, winning five of them, winning the 1999 World Series MVP, getting two saves and one win in the Yankees triumph over the Braves. He has 526 saves, second most all-time, and has the lowest career ERA for relievers and the lowest career ERA in the postseason. Rivera will be starting his 16th season in 2010, all of them as a Yankee.
Number 9 – Ken Griffey, Jr. , Seattle Mariners, 40
After ten seasons, playing for Cincinnati and a short stint with the White Sox, Griffey has finally come back to the team he played for throughout the 90’s, when he was maybe the best in the game and of the most popular athletes in America. The number one pick in the 1987 amateur draft, Griffey began his career with the Mariners in 1989, playing there for 11 seasons, leading the AL in home runs four times, winning the MVP in 1997 and winning the Gold Glove for ten consecutive seasons. Teaming up with Ichiro Suzuki (arrived at Seattle in 2001), Griffey has challenged the player to reach 300 hits this season in a recent interview. There’s a feeling in Seattle that with the AL West much more open this year and an 85 win season to build on from 2009, the franchise might return to the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
Number 8 – Arthur Rhodes, Cincinnati Reds, 40
After two big guns like Griffey and Rivera, we’re moving on to a much less prolific player, the lefty reliever who is the all-time major league leader in holds who has been around with eight teams, with the Baltimore Orioles being his longest stay (1991-1999). Rhodes began his career as a starter but in the 1995 season was relegated to the bullpen after some unimpressive numbers and performances. He was used a closer from time to time in his career but never really impressed enough to get the most illustrious of relieving jobs. In 2007 he missed the entire season but has bounced back, starting his second season with the Cincinnati Reds in 2010.
Number 7 – Brad Ausmus, Los Angeles Dodgers, 40
The 41 year old catcher has been around since July 1993, when he started his career with the Padres and although he isn’t a superstar or a hall of fame inductee in the future but is widely considered in the league to be one of the smarter guys out there, or at least baseball-smarts-wise, touted by almost anyone asked on the subject to be a manager in the future. Joe Torre even let him manage the Dodgers final regular season game in 2009. A backup catcher today, Ausmus is known for his defense and pitch calling rather than his offense, which isn’t very impressive. He’s also a pretty good base-stealer for a catcher, with 102 in his career. He made the World Series with the Astros in 2005, appeared in one all-star game (1999) and was a Gold Glove winner three times (2001-2002, 2006).
Number 6 – Brian Shouse, Boston Red Sox, 41
The veteran relief man made his Major League debut in the summer of 1993, but has spent more time in the minors ever since than in the Majors, playing in 467 games since his career began, although he has played in every season since 2002, a year after he made a drastic change to his pitching style and finally getting playing time in the majors. He returned to the Red Sox this off-season for the first time since 1998 and from the looks of things right now he’ll be part of their bullpen despite agreeing to a minor league deal two months ago when he signed on.
Number 5 – Matt Stairs, San Diego Padres, 42
Yes, a Canadian baseball player, making it this long in the league. The San Diego Padres are his 12th stop (not including his season in Japan). He’s also known to be one of the better pinch hitters in baseball, a fact that may of cost him some better numbers and maybe even a HOF consideration according to some analysts. He won a World Series ring with the Phillies in 2008, despite making only one plate appearance in the WS and four in the entire post season. He did hit a crucial homer against the Rockies in the NLCS. Right now he’s contending for a spot on the Padres bench.
Number 4 – Trevor Hoffman, Milwaukee Brewers, 42
The all-time leader in saves (591) with Mariano Rivera trailing him by 65, Hoffman will be starting his 18th season in the Majors, all in the NL, mostly with the Padres, with whom he played from 1994 to 2008. He has led the league in saves twice and has been to the all-star game seven times, including last year. He hold many MLB records in the saves category, including most game finished (820), most consecutive seasons with 30+ saves (8, 1995-2002), which could have been continued till today if it wasn’t for the injury that made his sit out for almost the entire 2003 season, and most 20+ (15), 30+ (14) and 40+ (9) saves in seasons. It’ll be very likely that Hoffman will make it into the Hall of Fame one day, with only 5 closers achieving that feat until now.
Number 3 – Omar Vizquel, Chicago White Sox, 42
Another player who’ll make the hall of fame when it’s all said and done, Vizquel will be starting his 22nd MLB season in about a month, playing for the White Sox, his fifth stop in the Majors. Vizquel has won 11 Gold Gloves, more than any other shortstop in history and has been to three all-star games. He reached the world series once while playing for the Indians in 1997 but lost to the Florida Marlins. Vizquel partially blamed the loss on teammate and pitcher Jose Mesa (now retired), which made Mesa try and hit him while pitching every time they faced each other. He is the all-time leader in games played as a shortstop and has played more games than any other active player right now in the Majors.
Number 2 – Tim Wakefield, Boston Red Sox, 43
The 43 year old knuckleballer has been in the league since 1992 and with the Red Sox since 1995, the longest serving member in the team. Yes, the knuckle-ball is hard to control and may cause some trouble at times (10th all-time in hitting batters, led the AL twice) but Wakefield is still a valuable asset, going 11-5 last season. Yes, he usually needs a special catcher (Victor Martinez this season), but he’s a special weapon. Wakefield has been part of the two World Series wins (2004, 2007) although he didn’t play at all in the 2007 WS and didn’t make it through four innings in 2004. He made the all-star for the first time in his career in 2009 and who knows how long he’ll keep going, with the relative low wear&tear on his arm due to his technique.
Number 1, The Oldest Players in the MLB Going into 2010 – Jamie Moyer, Philadelphia Phillies, 47
Being a finesse pitcher helps you when you want to play a long long time. Moyer, who was born on November 18, 1962, which is also the birth date of Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, made his debut with the Chicago Cubs on June 16, 1986(!!!). He has since than played for the Rangers (1989-199), Cardinals (1991), Orioles (1993-1995), Mariners (1996-2006) and the Phillies for the last three and a half seasons, winning the World Series in 2008. His best season was in 2003, going 21-7 with a career best 3.27 ERA, making his first and only all-star game to date.