Many years ago, the great Satchel Paige declared, “Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind it, it don’t matter.” But, even Paige had to eventually call it a career in 1966 at the tender age of 60 years young. No matter how young a player feels at heart, Father Time eventually catches up with you.
Usually, there is an abundance of reasons why older players would stay in the league past their prime. Either chasing that elusive championship ring, tracking that personal career achievement, or for a select few, they can still play, are just a few reasons oldies but goodies stick around.
Continuing to live out their boyhood dreams, the following players have one last shot to experience the camaraderie of “The Boys of Summer.”
After spending 18 years in the majors with eight different teams, pitcher Darren Oliver joins yet another new club in 2012. Following two attempts at a World Series title in Texas, the 41-year-old signed with the Toronto Blue Jays for one-year, $3 million.
While he has officially gone over the hill, the reliever is still putting up more than respectable numbers. Last year, the left handed reliever recorded his best ERA in his career at 2.29 and his third best career WHIP (1.137)
Moving around has always been an Oliver calling card, but North of the Border will likely be his last stop on the tour. For the first time in a long time, he will suit up for a team that will most likely not compete for a Divisional title. From the cream of the crop of the AL West to the fourth best team in the AL East could even make a grizzled veteran want to hang up the cleats for good.
In 2008, he earned a salary of $23.4 million from the New York Yankees. This year, Jason Giambi will take home $1 million for his services with the Colorado Rockies.
The hard-partying, long-haired, slugger has been now been reduced to a salt and peppered veteran with declining numbers. In fact, the 41-year-old first baseman recorded a paltry 34 hits and 32 RBI in 2011.
After being sidelined with injuries and wearing the stigma of a “steroid abuser,” Giambi has failed to duplicate the eye-popping numbers he once had pre Mitchell Report. Currently, he is on the last year of a two-year contract. This might be his last opportunity to prove to baseball that his abilities are more than just the results of modern science.
The proverbial writing should have been on the wall for Tim Wakefield at the end of 2011. After eight attempts at his 200th victory, he was able to achieve his milestone on September 13. Those failed eight efforts should have brought him closer to the reality of retirement. But despite the warning signs, Tim Wakefield remains steadfast that he is pitching this year.
At this point, no one really knows if he will continue wearing the same Red Sox jersey he has since 1995. Revealing that other teams have inquired about his services, he is keeping his options open.
However in the last two years, the 45-year-old has recorded his highest ERA (2010/5.34, 2011/5.12) in Boston. Throughout his career, he has lived and died with his knuckleball. But, now he is now eons away from yesteryear when the horsehide sphere danced to the tune of an ERA under 4.00.
For 21 years, Jim Thome has been chasing that championship. After coming so close with the Indians in 1995, he has missed his chance by a few years with stints in Chicago and Philadelphia.
Now, the future Hall of Famer has returned to the Phillies for 2012 for one last shot at a ring.
On a personal level, Thome has nothing to prove. The 41-year-old has accomplished everything needed to be bronzed with the greats in Cooperstown. With 604 career home runs, he stands in elite company with the game’s sluggers. Yet, it’s obvious the lack of a championship is eating him up inside.
In a move he described as a “no brainer,” Thome signed a one year deal with Philadelphia this offseason. With Ryan Howard’s return from an Achilles injury unknown, a few days a week at first base seems realistic.
With that being said, Thome has only played more than 100 games once in the last five years. His playing days and chances at a championship are winding down. Accepting a reserve role with the Phillies could be his last try at the Commissioner’s trophy.
Only one pitcher was spry enough to pitch past the age of 50, that being Leroy “Satchel” Paige. But, Jaime Moyer is trying to crash that exclusive party of one.
After sitting out last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, the 49-year-old signed a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training with the Colorado Rockies. Ironically, that organization didn’t even exist when Moyer started his career in 1986.
Playing through four decades and five U.S. presidents, Moyer has seen it all. But, one has to question how much is actually left in the tank?
Mostly known for his exquisite defense, Omar Vizquel is only a few hits away from the historic 3,000 hit mark.
The 44-year-old shortstop signed a minor league contract last week with the Toronto Blue Jays to keep the dream alive. But, it will definitely be an uphill battle.
In order to reach 3,000 hits this year, he would have to get 159 hits this year. Something he hasn’t accomplished since 2006. “Little O” might fall a little short of 3,000 but will possess the credentials to enter the Hall of Fame in a few years.
Even after posting a 1.91 ERA and 44 saves in 2011, this year will most likely be the last for Mariano Rivera. At 42 years old, he is on the back end of a two-year contract with the Yankees and ready to tackle one final season in the sun.
Some might find it hard to imagine a Mariano-less Yankee team, the reliever himself as already hinted at 2012 being his well-earned swan song. “I don’t know what will happen," Mariano admitted. I might call it over.