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.