Chase Utley and 20 Superstars Whose Bodies May Let Them Down in 2011
Aging is a part of baseball.
Hell, it's a part of life.
There soon comes a time when a ball player has to admit that he just doesn't have it anymore, or he simply can't compete at the same level he used to.
Some players try to hold on for dear life, switching positions, switching from starting pitcher to reliever, anything.
Others know when it's time, and bow out respectably.
And some simply get forced out of the game due to rampant injuries.
Here are the top 20 superstars whose bodies may let them down in 2011.
20. Cliff Lee
Cliff Lee is just like that old guy who won't learn that he's supposed to be declining and tries to still do jumping jacks.
Except Cliff Lee continues to do jumping jacks all around professional hitters at the ripe old age of 32.
But he's been in the league nine years and he threw over 200 innings last year, something that tends to eventually catch up to pitchers.
19. Matt Thornton
The thing about being a relief pitcher is that you get a lot of relief.
You may fire out of the bullpen once called upon, but you aren't throwing the amount of innings starting pitchers ratchet up.
Matt Thornton of the Chicago White Sox has pitched in at least 61 games the last three season, his ERA never ending above 3.00.
It appears he can go on for a while, but he's also 6-foot-6, 235 pounds and 34 years of age.
That can certainly slow you down.
18. Prince Fielder
Prince Fielder is only 26 years old, but he sure doesn't look it.
Generously listed at 5-foot-11, 268 pounds, if Fielder gains weight, as many players do as they get older, they may have to carry him off the field in between innings so he can bat.
17. Jose Valverde
Jose Valverde, at 32 years of age, has had at least 25 saves in the last two years and had 44 with the Houston Astros back in 2008.
But he's still 32 and he's been in the league for eight years.
There are some exceptions to the rule, but at this age you expect pitchers to start losing some "oompf."
Note: He also has apparently turned into the Blueberry Boy. Happens every time when you get this age...
16. Adam Dunn
Big Daddy Dunn isn't called Big Daddy Dunn for nothing.
Listed at 6-foot-6, 287 pounds, this 31-year-old must have been mistaken for a piggy bank by Washington investors when he was with the Nationals.
Sadly, he wasn't a piggy bank, and now he has to carry this load around all day.
Dunn hasn't had much trouble with his weight yet, but it's only a matter of time, perhaps even as soon as this year right when he gets a brand, spanking new contract.
15. Roy Halladay
This is more wishful thinking on my part, being a San Francisco Giants fan.
Not that I want him to get hurt or anything, I'm just saying, if he could slip out of baseball when signs of injury appear that would be just grand.
Halladay is 33 years old now, he's been in the league 13 years, and he just pitched a whopping 250 innings last year.
Something's got to give, doesn't it?
14. Johan Santana
For all the stories of Johan Santana having elbow problems, he sure has managed to escape losing much playing time.
He's started at least 25 games the last seven seasons.
But he is getting older, at 31 years of age, and it just seems like it's only a matter of time before those elbow problems really flare up and cost him dearly.
13. Heath Bell
San Diego Padres closer Heath Bell is not only 33 years old, he also weighs in at 250 pounds standing at 6-foot-3.
Sure, that could be all muscle, but I highly doubt it looking at this picture.
12. Tim Hudson
Sure, Tim Hudson's now 35 years old.
Sure, he's been in the big leagues 12 season.
And sure, he started only seven games two seasons ago.
But he's also some kind of freak of nature in the mold of Greg Maddux who seems like he'll never go away.
He had a 2.83 ERA and 17 wins for the Atlanta Braves last season.
Ya, he's really slowing down...
11. CC Sabathia
CC Sabathia can only sustain so much weight.
Listed at 6-foot-7, 290 pounds, he looks more like he's over 300 and suited to be an offensive lineman in the NFL.
He's only 30 years old, but he's also been in the league 10 years, and with his weight, that could feel more like 20.
10. Chris Carpenter
Chris Carpenter has been a suitable ace in the majors for a while now.
But at 35 years of age, he's been in the league for 14 years, and his ERA, albeit stellar by most pitchers' measures, rose noticeably.
He still compiled a 3.22 ERA, but it was a far cry from his 2.24 ERA the season before.
Remember, Carpenter only started four games in 2007 and 2008 combined due to injury.
He may start slowing down at this point.
9. David Ortiz
How David "Big Papi" Ortiz has been able to play in at least 145 games in six of the last seven seasons is beyond me.
He's big, he's in his mid-30s, and... did I mention he's big?
They don't call him Big Papi for nothing.
Pretty soon, Ortiz won't like it when they call him Big Papi.
8. Torii Hunter
Los Angeles Angels outfielding sensation Torii Hunter has been a star all-around player in the big leagues pretty much ever since the 2001 season.
But he's now 35 years old, he's been in the league 14 years, and he simply can't steal bases anymore, something that made him such a multidimensional weapon throughout his career.
Soon he will lose his legs completely and not be able to track down balls the way he used to.
It's sad to see this decline, because Hunter's always been one of the favorite players in baseball.
Especially with expressions like these.
7. Jimmy Rollins
Jimmy Rollins isn't too old, at 32, but it sure feels like he's been around forever.
Maybe because he has, playing in 11 seasons.
Last year he played in just 88 games for the Phillies.
With injuries apparently hurting his production with the bat, it's only a matter of time before his overall game goes when he can't steal anymore.
Sad, because, like Hunter, I liked Rollins as a player a lot.
6. Mariano Rivera
Sure, Mariano Rivera's 41 years old, but I can't put him in the top 5 because he's still extremely productive and he's another one of those Greg Madduxes that never goes away (much to the chagrin of hitters nationwide).
He pitched in 61 games, with a 1.80 ERA and 0.83 WHIP last season, collecting 33 saves...as a 40-year-old.
That's just sick.
Rivera's the kind of guy you envision playing until he's 50 even despite all the signs of aging.
5. Chase Utley
Chase Utley is still not a dinosaur at 32 years of age, but last season should have Phillies fans fretting.
He continues to have knees problems this offseason after playing in just 115 games last year, his power numbers dropping drastically and looking more like a doubles hitter than a guy who could consistently hit 30-plus home runs in a season.
He's also been in the league eight years, as a second baseman, and that's a the type of position that requires constant pivoting and sliding from side to side.
4. Arthur Rhodes
Arthur Rhodes has long been one of the most underrated relievers in baseball.
At 40 years of age now, he's another one of those timeless wonders.
He's been in the league an astounding 20 years and he's still going strong, posting a 2.29 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 69 games last season.
But, c'mon, he's 40, he's got to slow down some time.
3. Magglio Ordonez
Longtime great Magglio Ordonez of the Detroit Tigers finally hit a roadblock last season after 14 years in the big leagues.
He'd had injury-shortened seasons before, but last year sure seemed like it could be the beginning of the end for him, playing in just 84 games.
He's 37 years old and at that age a broken right ankle sure doesn't seem too swell (no pun intended).
He also has Blueberry Boy syndrome like Valverde.
2. Vladimir Guerrero
If you watched Vladimir Guerrero stumble around in the outfield during the 2010 World Series against the champion San Francisco Giants, it was a painful thing to see.
I compared it to a Little Leaguer fielding his first ball in the outfield.
As big a Giants fan as I am, seeing the 36-year-old great hobble around made me actually feel bad for one Texas Ranger.
He's been in the league for 15 years now and it may soon be the end for The Great Vladimir.
1. Chipper Jones
Honestly, when isn't Braves third baseman Chipper Jones the No. 1 superstar whose body may let him down?
He's a walking reincarnation of Mickey Mantle, for crying out loud (except a tad less talented).
Last year was when it all came to a head, Jones playing in just 95 games due to injury.
A cornerstone of the the Braves for 18 years, Chipper Jones may soon be close to his last tomahawk out of the park.