MLB's All-Over-the-Hill Team for 2013
Mike Trout can't outrun him. Giancarlo Stanton can't hit enough home runs to drive him from the game.
Father Time is always hanging around the ballpark, and sooner or later, he shows up at every player's locker in the clubhouse, dropping hints that the end is near.
Some players, like Mariano Rivera, choose to hear his message, leaving the game on their own terms while still performing at a high level. Others are a bit more stubborn, hanging on until each of the 30 doors in baseball have been closed to them. Even then, some players still can't give up the dream.
But for some veterans still staking a claim to a spot on a team's 25 or 40-man roster, their days are numbered, and they are soon to be replaced by younger, more athletic alternatives.
While most consider "Over-the-Hill" to be someone closer to the age of 40 than the age of 30, the fact of the matter is that plenty of 30-somethings have lasted well past the time when they were useful, everyday players.
Sure, the players who made the 2013 "Over-the-Hill" team can still produce a big hit or a make a solid defensive play here and there, but asking these players to take the field for any extended period of time is asking for trouble.
So who made the cut? Let's take a look.
Catcher: Ramon Hernandez, Los Angeles Dodgers
No position in baseball ages a player quite like catcher, where the physical toll is unlike anything experienced by any other player on the diamond.
For parts of the past 15 years, 36-year-old Ramon Hernandez has taken a beating behind home plate, a career that has seen him play for six different teams, most recently with the Los Angeles Dodgers as the primary backup to A.J. Ellis.
An All-Star in 2003 with the Oakland Athletics, Hernandez hasn't appeared in more than 100 games in a season since 2008. He spent an injury-plagued 2012 with the Colorado Rockies, posting a career-worst slash line of .217/.247/.353 in 184 at-bats.
While there's always a market for experienced catchers, the days of Hernandez serving as a real contributor to a team's success are firmly behind him and time is running out on what has been a solid big league career.
First Base: Carlos Peña, Houston Astros
From 2007 through 2009, Carlos Peña was one of baseball's most consistent sluggers, hitting .252 with 39 home runs and 108 RBI a season while playing Gold Glove-caliber first base for the Tampa Bay Rays, a run that netted him a pair of top-10 finishes in the AL MVP voting.
Since then, Peña has struggled to remain relevant, failing to hit above the Mendoza Line in two of the past three seasons and averaging only 19 home runs and 59 RBI a year.
Now the primary designated hitter for the Houston Astros, a soon-to-be 35-year-old Peña has reached the point in his career where he has no choice but to accept low-paying (relatively speaking) one-year contracts to continue his playing career.
Despite his struggles at the plate, Peña remains a solid defender and a positive influence in the clubhouse, something that wasn't lost on Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle following a recent Astros loss:
#Astros' Carlos Pena: "We definitely have a lot of pride. That's why it hurts when you lose. ... I don't care how low the expectations are."— Brian T. Smith (@ChronAstros) April 9, 2013
While a positive attitude like that is invaluable to a rebuilding team like the Astros, which boasts a roster full of players who haven't a clue what it takes to win consistently in the big leagues, his overall lack of production at the plate and inability to hit for average seriously limits his chances of playing much longer.
Second Base: Jamey Carroll, Minnesota Twins
How long has Jamey Carroll been playing baseball? He spent the first three years of his career with the Montreal Expos.
Carroll doesn't offer anything in the way of power and has never driven in more than 40 runs in a season, but his ability to play multiple infield positions has continued to earn him a roster spot in the big leagues.
Now entering his second season with the Minnesota Twins, a 39-year-old Carroll is becoming more of a liability than a quality option off of the bench.
This season, his minus-105.5 UZR/150 (via FanGraphs) is the worst in baseball among players who have spent time at second base, while he's managed only one hit in eight at-bats thus far.
The more he plays, the more exposed the flaws in his game will become.
Third Base: Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees
Whether he actually plays in 2013 is irrelevant—Alex Rodriguez is a shell of the player that he once was.
A multitude of injuries, including surgery on both hips, which may or may not be related to his admitted PED use, has limited the 37-year-old third baseman to 221 games over the past two years, bringing to an end his 13-year streak of driving in at least 100 runs a season.
Reviled by fans around baseball, A-Rod is under contract with the New York Yankees through the 2017 season. Only a career-ending injury or criminal charges from his rumored involvement with the Biogenesis clinic in Florida is going to keep the fallen icon off the field.
Is a healthy Alex Rodriguez, even at the age of 37, a better player than some of the other aging third basemen around the game, such as Miami's Placido Polanco?
But A-Rod simply cannot perform at the level he once did. He's no longer a threat on the basepaths, his defense is shaky and the power that once put him on track to shatter the career home run record is quickly fading.
Shortstop: Miguel Tejada, Kansas City Royals
While he's yet to appear at shortstop in a Kansas City uniform, it's the position where Miguel Tejada made a name for himself, so he gets the nod as the starting shortstop on the Over-the-Hill squad.
Tejada, 38, didn't play in the big leagues in 2012, spending all but 36 games with Baltimore's Triple-A club off of the field, seemingly retired.
A solid performance for both the Royals and the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic this spring earned the veteran a roster spot in Kansas City, but his best days are behind him and the former American League MVP is no longer an impact player.
Like Carlos Peña, Tejada's biggest value to the Royals this season is his experience and leadership. In a clubhouse full of players that have known nothing but losing baseball in the major leagues, Tejada is one of the few members of the team that knows what it takes to win.
Left Field: Mark Kotsay, San Diego Padres
When Mark Kotsay broke into the big leagues as a 21-year-old with the then Florida Marlins, the Associated Press' Steve Wilstein had yet to discover that bottle of andro sitting in Mark McGwire's locker.
He's had a lengthy major league career, one that enters its 17th season, his fifth with the San Diego Padres. Always solid but rarely spectacular, Kotsay doesn't command a hefty salary and can still be somewhat effective as a left-handed bat off of the bench.
That said, it's been nearly a decade since Kotsay reached double digits in home runs and six years since he drove in more than 50 runs. Since the end of the 2008 season, Kotsay has played a full nine innings only 96 times, making the 371 games in which he's played since a very misleading number.
Center Field: Willy Taveras, Kansas City Royals
Deemed unworthy to break camp with the Kansas City Royals, 31-year-old Willy Taveras finds himself playing for the team's Triple-A affiliate, the Omaha Storm Chasers, where he's managed only three hits in 29 at-bats to start the season.
Runner-up to Philadelphia's Ryan Howard in the 2005 NL Rookie of the Year voting, Taveras hasn't played an inning of major league baseball since May of 2010, when he was released by the Washington Nationals.
Known primarily for his speed—he led baseball with 68 stolen bases for the Colorado Rockies in 2008—the older he gets, the less dangerous he becomes on the basepaths and the less ground he's able to cover in center field.
Right Field: Jason Bay, Seattle Mariners
Jason Bay's struggles as a member of the New York Mets are well-documented, and while he made Seattle's 25-man roster, the 34-year-old outfielder has made it pretty apparent that those struggles were a result of his declining skills, not the pressure of New York or the dimensions of Citi Field.
Sure, he went 2-for-4 with a RBI against the Texas Rangers over the weekend, but one of those hits and his RBI were shaky, as Rangers center fielder Craig Gentry easily could have been charged with an error on the play.
Only a few days before his "offensive explosion," the Seattle Times' Larry Stone noted that Bay wasn't exactly crushing the ball when he made contact:
Saunders' replacement Jason Bay is 0-for-4 tonight and hasn't left the infield— Larry Stone (@StoneLarry) April 11, 2013
Four years removed from his last productive major league season, when he hit .267 with 36 home runs and 119 RBI for the Boston Red Sox in 2009, the end of his time in the big leagues is drawing near.
Designated Hitter: Jason Giambi, Cleveland Indians
Jason Giambi finally made his 2013 debut for the Cleveland Indians, going 0-for-4 against the Chicago White Sox this past Sunday.
Indians fans can expect plenty of zeroes in the hits column of Cleveland's box scores when the 42-year-old designated hitter is in the lineup.
In his final season with the New York Yankees in 2008, Giambi hit .247 with 32 home runs and 96 RBI. Since then, he has played in 314 games, hitting .225 with 33 home runs and 126 RBI.
He's still capable of drawing a walk or going deep on occasion, but asking the "Giambino" to do anything more than pinch hit at this point in his career is simply asking him to do too much.
Left-Handed Pitcher: Jonathan Sanchez, Pittsburgh Pirates
You might be saying to yourself, "hey, Jonathan Sanchez is only 30 years old, he doesn't qualify as 'over-the-hill'."
You might be right.
But there's no disputing that Sanchez has lasted in the major leagues well past his expiration date as a useful pitcher.
In his last 17 major league starts, spanning two seasons and three different teams (Colorado, Kansas City and Pittsburgh), Sanchez has allowed 70 earned runs and 96 hits over 73 innings of work. That works out to an ERA of 8.63, a WHIP of 2.11 and a spot as the left-handed pitcher for our "Over-the-Hill" gang.
Right-Handed Pitcher: Derek Lowe, Texas Rangers
Derek Lowe will be celebrating his 40th birthday in June.
Whether he'll still be wearing a Texas Rangers uniform by then remains to be seen.
It's been two years since Lowe finished a season with an ERA below 5.00, and he's gone 18-29 with a 5.09 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in 74 games (55 starts) since. Lowe's never had overpowering stuff on the mound and batters haven't had trouble hitting his cutter or slider, both of which sit in the mid-to-high 80s.
Texas will certainly look to squeeze as much out of him as possible, but as injured arms of the Rangers return to action, Lowe is almost certainly going to be the odd man out in Texas.
It would be surprising to see another team pick him up.
Closer: Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers
It was only two years ago that Jose Valverde went a perfect 49-for-49 in save opportunities, and despite his struggles, he still picked up 35-of-39 saves for the Detroit Tigers in 2012.
Yet Valverde had fallen so far in the eyes of talent evaluators around baseball that he couldn't muster a single major league offer as a free agent this past winter, forced to settle on a minor league deal with the Tigers after the 2013 season had already begun.
So far, the 35-year-old Papa Grande has thrown one inning in extended spring training with a walk and a strikeout against the Atlanta Braves. He's got a long road ahead of him if he's to make it back to the major leagues, and chances are that once he's tested against better competition, his struggles will return.
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