15 Active MLB Legends

David A. CucchiaraCorrespondent IOctober 9, 2012

15 Active MLB Legends

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    “Calendars are for careful people, not passionate ones.” – Chuck Sigars

    A few players in MLB have transcended time and continued to produce into the twilight of their careers.

    Fueled by passion, not artificial enhancers, players like Derek Jeter and Chipper Jones have kept their eye on the prize, being offensive assets and leaders to their respective franchises.

    Love for the game of baseball and dedication to the profession motivate these players to press on, while others fade away into history.

    Here are 15 active MLB players who share that love for the game and have proven that age is simply just a number.

Derek Jeter

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    Few players in baseball have exhibited leadership, on and off the field, like New York Yankees’ shortstop Derek Jeter.

    Jeter, 38, put on an offensive clinic with the bat this season. He led the majors in hits with 216, 11 more than Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.

    Age has refused to take a toll on Jeter’s production.

    His postseason numbers are another reason he’s one of the best shortstops of all-time. The ageless Jeter is a .309 career postseason hitter with 20 home runs. In two postseason games this year he’s 4-for-9 with a RBI.

    Age continues to be just a number for Jeter as he competes for his sixth World Series ring.

Carlos Beltran

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    Since winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1999, Beltran has been a force to reckon with in MLB.

    The three-time Gold Glove award winner was really the pioneer of the five-tool player beginning in the late-nineties.

    Throughout his career, Beltran provided the Kansas City Royals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants and, currently, the St. Louis Cardinals with stolen bases, great fielding and one of the smoothest swings in baseball.

    Beltran, 35, turned back the clock in 2012 putting up extraordinary numbers. Playing in 151 games, he batted .269 with 97 RBIs and led his team in home runs with 32.

    This postseason, Beltran has managed three clutch hits in eight at-bats, knocking in three runs.

    Even at 35, Beltran is a weapon that would make any team in baseball that much better.

Todd Helton

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    Todd Helton, 39, has been the face of this Rockies franchise since coming into the league in 1997.

    One of the more underrated players in history, Helton’s production in the late 90’s and early 2000’s was legendary. He currently sits 22nd on the all-time doubles list with 570, ahead of names like Chipper Jones, Manny Ramirez and Lou Gehrig.

    The highlight of his career came in 2000 where he hit .372 with 142 RBIs and 42 home runs. The following year he would crush 49 home runs. Helton was one of the most feared players in the game during those two seasons.

    2010 marked a sharp decline in production where he batted a mere .256. Helton was written off by most writers and fans.

    “The truth has become so obvious, you can see Helton is done with your eyes closed. Helton will never again hit .300 and we should savor his next home run trot,” said Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post.

    But in 2011, Helton did something the baseball world thought would never happen again: the 28-year-old batted .302.

    2012 was an injury ridden year for Todd as the Rockies ended with the third worst record in baseball. Look for a healthy Helton to come out swinging next season, once again proving the doubters wrong.

Joe Nathan

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    It took Joe Nathan four seasons of mediocre pitching for the Giants to release him. It took one season for the Twins to realize they acquired one of the best closers in all of baseball

    Nathan, who turns 38 in November, has been an important part of the Rangers’ bullpen this season. In 40 save opportunities he came through 37 times, striking out 78 hitters and posting a 2.80 ERA.

    For his career, Nathan is 24th in saves all-time with 298. He’s shown his worth through his consistency each season.

    In 2010 Nathan underwent Tommy John surgery, and many wrote him off as no chance to be the dominant pitcher he once was.

    Joe’s 2012 season for Texas proved that he’s not ready to make his exit from baseball just yet.

Raul Ibanez

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    40-year-old Raul Ibanez has never been MVP, he’s never led the league in any category, and he’s never hit over 35 home runs. His legend lies in the consistent bat he’s provided for four teams over his 16 year career.

    Ibanez has moved on from the everyday starting left fielder he once was, but Ibanez has provided many clutch hits for the Yankees this season.

    Last week Ibanez rejuvenated his image by knocking in two key runs to clinch the division against the Red Sox Oct. 3.

    Ibanez has never been the flashiest player on the field, the center of media attention or even the best player on his teams. Taking that into consideration, he continues to be a work-horse and one of the best utility players in baseball.

R.A. Dickey

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    This year the country was introduced to the story of New York Mets’ knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

    A player that once considered hanging it up, Dickey’s performance this season has him in the running for NL Cy Young.

    Dickey won 20 games this season with an ERA of 2.73 and 230 strikeouts, all with an abnormally fast knuckleball and an 80 mph fastball.

    Dickey is far from finishing his MLB career and will continue to be a dominant pitcher in the NL.

Roy Halladay

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    35-year-old and 2010 Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay has been the most consistent pitcher of the decade.

    Halladay’s illustrious career in Toronto and Philadelphia has resulted in a 3.31 ERA, 2066 strikeouts and 199 wins over 14 seasons.

    This season Halladay struggled with a 4.49 ERA, but still managed a winning record of 11-8.

    His command and sweeping slider has earned him the reputation as the most feared starting pitcher in the game.

    In his five career playoff starts, Halladay has been masterful. He owns a 3-2 record with a 2.37 ERA and 35 strikeouts.

    A first ballet Hall of Famer, Halladay will overcome this season’s struggles and win his 200th game on the Phillies' opening day.

Alfonso Soriano

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    Alfonso Soriano began his career as one of the top prospects in baseball for the New York Yankees’ organization. 14 seasons, 1897 hits and 270 stolen bases later, he’s become a force in the middle of the lineup.

    Soriano struggled in the 2011 season batting only .244 with 26 home runs, well below his average numbers.

    Playing for a Chicago Cubs team that has managed more loses than wins in the last three seasons, Soriano needed to find a source of motivation.

    He began the 2012 regular season on a 30 game home run-less streak. The Cubs in a rebuilding phase, trade rumors began to emerge saying that the front office was looking to deal their all-star left fielder.

    Apparently that’s all the motivation Soriano needed. The 36-year-old went on a tear ending the season with 32 home runs and 108.

    Soriano isn’t going out quietly and continues to be the leader on this young Cubs team.

Takashi Saito

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    The Japanese right-hander Takashi Saito has made a name for himself since entering the league in 2006 as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ closer.

    At 42-years-of-age, Saito has been a key part of various bullpens over the years. Owning a career 2.34 career ERA with 400 strikeouts, he’s been one of the more valued relievers in baseball.

    He began this season in the minors and wasn’t called up until late in the season by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    It would seem that the short career of Takashi Saito is winding down, but only because his age is forcing him out of the game.

    Saito had a 6.75 ERA in 16 games for Arizona this season.

Ichiro

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    Just when you think the career of Ichiro Suzuki will be remembered by his years with Seattle, a mid-season trade re-ignites his bat and motivation.

    Ichiro has enjoyed a remarkable career to this point. Since his rookie year, he has 2606 hits and 813 stolen bases.

    Ichiro, who turns 39 on Oct. 22, began his career at age 28 and was never sent down to the minors in twelve seasons.

    In 2011 he only hit .272, a career low, and looked like another fading veteran. Since being traded to the Yankees on July 24, he’s back to his old self batting .322.

    Playing in his first playoffs since his rookie year in 2001, Ichiro will be key in the Yankees' chance for advancing.

Darren Oliver

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    Darren Oliver, 42, has played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball. No, that’s not a misprint.

    Oliver has experienced a little of everything as a pitcher. He’s had 6+ and sub-3 ERA seasons. He’s pitched for seven different ball clubs. He’s collected 115 wins, most of which came in relief. He’s pitched in the steroid era and the post-steroid era. And Oliver has managed to stay out of the media.

    The most remarkable thing about this guy has been the distribution of his success. The last five seasons with the Angels, Rangers and Blue Jays, Oliver has amassed a 2.48 ERA and 274 strikeouts.

    It took Oliver until age 37 to finally find his stride and be successful in the majors.

    Now, at age 42, Oliver is coming off arguably the best season of his career and has shown no signs of retirement.

Torii Hunter

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    37-year-old slugger and nine-time consecutive Gold Glove winner Torii Hunter has been one of Major League Baseball’s most coveted characters in the last decade.

    Hunter is one of those players Little League Baseball coaches tell their players to imitate in the field. No other player has won more Gold Gloves in the last decade than Torii Hunter.

    In fifteen years Hunter has only 39 errors, one of the most overlooked feats in baseball.

    A .277 career hitter, he’s been able to get it done with the bat. In 2012, Hunter had his best offensive season since 2007 with Minnesota. He batted .313 with 92 RBIs and 16 home runs.

    Hunter has been a leader in the club house and a weapon at the plate this season for the Angels.

Jim Thome

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    Veteran slugger Jim Thome, 42, has quietly amassed a legendary career.

    Ranking 6th all-time in home runs over his 22 seasons, Thome has put his name next to players like Griffey, Robinson and Mays. His 612 home runs came in an age where performance enhancing drugs were all too common.

    His untainted record has earned him the respect of all of baseball, especially the young Baltimore Orioles team that has defied all odds this season.

    While his days of being an everyday starter are over, the Orioles are delighted to have a legendary home run threat coming off the bench.

    This season Thome is batting .252 with 25 RBIs and eight home runs.

Mariano Rivera

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    This season we learned that 42-year-old Mariano Rivera is human.

    On May 3rd, Moe tore his ACL fielding fly balls during Yankees pregame batting practice. The Yankees would go the entire 2012 season without the league’s all-time saves leader.

    Mariano has a career ERA of 2.21 and is MLB’s all-time saves leader with 608. His 18 Hall of Fame worthy seasons, all with the Yankees, have developed a reputation of prestige.

    Not many players can say they invented a pitch and no pitch in the history of the game has been more dominant than Rivera’s cutter.

    In 96 postseason appearances, Rivera has an MLB record 42 saves and a 0.70 ERA.

    There’s a good chance baseball will never see a reliever as dominant as Mariano Rivera.

    With next year on the horizon, he looks to continue his Hall of Fame career and go back to being the foundation of the Yankee bullpen.

Chipper Jones

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    Last Friday the baseball world said good-bye to 40-year-old Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones.

    Chipper’s historic career was defined by a consistent bat, exceptional fielding at third base and always saying the right things.

    One thing is certain, the Braves will never be the same without their leader on the field and in the clubhouse.

    He hit .287 this year with 62 RBIs and 15 home runs.

    In his 19 seasons in the bigs, Chipper has 2726 hits, 468 home runs and 1623 RBIs. He’s an eight time all-star, career .303 hitter, MVP, batting champion and World Series champion.

    As soon as Chipper is eligible, he’ll most certainly be a Hall of Famer and his name will nestle aside Hank Aaron’s as one of the best to every put on a Braves uniform.