As the victory tour for Mariano Rivera commences, he is not the only player in baseball this season who is well beyond normal retirement age for his profession.
These are not just the oldest players in the game, guys barely clinging to a roster spot or toiling away on minor league contracts hoping to be used as a pinch hitter. These are players still performing at a high level despite advanced age.
While history tells them to stop, hang up the cleats and call it a career, these veterans soldier on and bring invaluable experience to a clubhouse.
Age might really be just a number if one considers Paul Konerko. Since turning 30 before the 2006 season, he has batted .287 with 26 home run and 80 RBI averages. Even more impressively, over the last three seasons, those numbers have increased to .304, 32 and 97.
Konerko has also been an asset at first base for Chicago. He made one error in 879 chances in 2012. Over the last 10 years, he has never had more than seven errors, with over 950 changes in each year prior to 2012.
Finally, in 2005, Konerko hit five home runs with 15 RBI in 12 postseason games, leading his White Sox to the World Series title. Now at 37 years old, Konerko continues to be a keystone in a competitive lineup.
Andy Pettitte retired once upon a time, missing all of 2011. But he returned to make 12 starts at 40 years old in 2012, posting an incredulous 2.87 ERA, 1.142 WHIP and his highest K/9 since 2004, 8.2.
Since turning 30 in 2002, Pettitte has 130 wins, a 3.74 ERA, 1.312 WHIP and 7.1 K/9. Coming into 2013, it looked like the Yankees pitching would be their strength, but after CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda lost games one and two, Pettitte started and won game three. He then won his second start, having now allowed just two earned runs over 15 innings.
Of course, Pettitte's postseason resume is unmatched in baseball. He has made 44 starts, winning 19 games, five World Series games and one ALCS MVP award for his performance in 2001.
R.A. Dickey, the defending National League Cy Young, is 37 years old. Dickey's career has not taken the usual path.
After the 2009 season, at 34 years old, Dickey was a career 22-28 with a 5.43 ERA and it seemed he might be done in baseball. But over the next three seasons, he reinvented the knuckleball. Since 2010, Dickey has 39 wins, a 2.95 ERA and 1.150 WHIP.
Dickey has yet to experience the playoffs, but now, pitching for a loaded Blue Jays squad, he has a chance to taste his first postseason at 38 years old.
One of the most underrated players in baseball, Aramis Ramirez did his job for a mostly terrible Chicago Cubs organization before moving to Milwaukee in 2012. Now 35 years old, since turning 30, Ramirez has hit .290, averaging 24 HR, 91 RBI and 75 rubs.
Ramirez is coming off a 2012 in which he hit .300 with 27 HR, 105 RBI and 92 runs. It was both his highest home run and RBI total since 2008. When the top third basemen in the game are discussed, deserving names like Evan Longoria and David Wright are mentioned. However, Ramirez has a higher average, more home runs and more RBI than either.
In 2012, Ramirez set a career-high .977 fielding percentage, his first positive Rtot (total fielding runs above average) since 2007. He is also the best protection to keep Ryan Braun from being relentlessly intentionally walked, contributing to his star teammate's production.
Mariano Rivera planned to retire after 2012, but when he suffered a fluke knee injury, ending his season after nine games, he trained for one last season, a proper swan song for the greatest closer in the history of the game.
The numbers are unmatched: 609 saves, 894 games finished and 205 ERA+ are all career records, carrying a 0.999 WHIP. Additionally, he has 480 saves since turning 30 (way back in 2000) with a 0.949 WHIP.
But Rivera's career in the regular season is nothing compared to what he has done in October. He has 42 postseason saves in 141 innings. His postseason ERA is 0.70 with a 0.759 WHIP. Rivera should be the first unanimous Hall of Fame selection ever.