"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Getting Late Early



Here’s Joe Posnanski from his latest column about the Hall of Fame:

One knock you hear all the time about certain Hall of Fame candidates is that they were just good players who assembled impressive career numbers simply by sticking around for a long time. I have always thought that undersells longevity, the ability to stay healthy, the ability to grow old gracefully, which is probably the most underrated talent in the business.

…Baseball is an unforgiving game — you can’t live off your name for very long. You have to perform or you will be discarded, and those players who perform long enough to put up the huge numbers, well, while most people think they are overrated, I tend to believe the opposite is probably true — they are probably underrated, under-appreciated for being successful after their youth has faded, and their bodies ache, and their stuff has gone, and their bats have slowed.

If there is one thing that I think we as fans generally overlook is how difficult it is to play the game, and play it well, once you get older.  Jamie Moyer, are you kidding me?  This guy is a marvel.  More than ever, we seem geared to asking, What have you done for me lately? And each slump is greeting with impatient proclamations of, That’s it, he’s Done.

Pos mentions a few great players who were ineffective by their early-to-mid Thirties: Foxx, Koufax, Mantle, Drysdale, Sandburg. Makes you wonder what Jeter’s career will look like from here on out, Alex Rodriguez too for that matter.  It ain’t easy growing old, no matter how great you once were.  Will any team sign Frank Thomas next year? What about Ken Griffey, Jr? Mike Piazza went quietly into the night and he was one of the great hitters of our time.

Once again, reading this story reinforces my appreciation for Mariano Rivera’s brilliant career. Man, are we ever lucky. It won’t last. And as is the case with most great players, it probably won’t end gracefully.

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1 OldYanksFan   ~  Jan 4, 2009 11:06 am

Speaking of Jamie Moyer... what do you do with a 46 year old pitcher? Well, Philly just re-signed him for 2 years/$13M (2009-10). I guess with a 3.71 ERA in 2008, that may not be a bad move.

2 OldYanksFan   ~  Jan 4, 2009 11:12 am

And speaking of youngsters and great deals....
Josh Hamilton signed for 1 year/$396,830 (2008).
He only has 1 year of MLB experience. Is he becoming a FA anytime in the near future?

3 seattleyank   ~  Jan 4, 2009 11:41 am

This does make me nervous about Arod's contract. And the one the Yanks will inevitably give to Captain Jetes in a couple years. Mo seems likely to live up to his deal (and them some). Posada, not so much.

4 monkeypants   ~  Jan 4, 2009 1:39 pm

[0] Mantle was Ineffective by his mid- to late-thirties? By ineffective, I guess we mean 170, 150, 142 OPS+ at age 34, 35, 36.

[3] Mo will not live up to his deal because closers are so vastly overrated in general. Still, I agree with your main point that Mo will come the closest to meeting *expectations* throughout the length of his contract.

5 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 4, 2009 10:23 pm

[4] Overrated or not, an ERA+ of 317 in 71 innings goes a long way toward living up to the contract.

6 monkeypants   ~  Jan 4, 2009 11:59 pm

[5] Oh I agree with you. My real point was twofold:

1. Big money closers are rarely worth the money they are paid, Mo or otherwise. Thus it would be very difficult for anyone to live up to Mo's four year, 40 million contract.

2. More generally, it is unlikely that any of the Yankees' big-money contracts will be worth it. But this, I think, misses the point to a degree. I have been fully convinced that, for example, Posada would never be "worth" his four year contract, but I still think that it was a good signing at the time. Indeed, I think of it a s a very expensive three year contract spread out over four years. If the team gets three productive years out of him, well done. A fourth year is gravy. Similarly, I for one am not too worried about A-Rod's age 40 season. The team overpaid to keep him; this will very likely pay off for the next few seasons at least. Worry about five years when that time is more proximate.

The Yankees have the type of resources to overpay for veterans (both in dollars and years), and this is as acceptable strategy so long as the contracts are kept manageable. In other words, they cannot afford to stack too many of these essentially backloaded contracts at the same time. This off season is a perfect example: Giambi's big contract, which was probably "too long" , ran out in time to sign Sabathia and Teixeira, both of whose contracts are probably "too long." The Yankees are fortunate to have enough resources to juggle the back ends of these contracts; if they are clever, they can do so almost perpetually.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
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