MLB All-Old Team: Roster of the Best Active Players 35 or Older
More than other team sports, baseball grants its players longevity.
Being on the wrong side of 35 isn't such an awful thing. I could muster a formidable 25-man roster comprised strictly of MLB players who are of that age or older.
Time eventually reduces all athletes, but elite baseball players often sustain their level of play as their hair grays.
Veterans of the game adjust to adversity. They continue to contribute even when agility, bat speed and arm strength deserts them.
It is a sport unintentionally engineered to preserve its athletes.
C Ramon Hernandez
Ramon Hernandez is a very reputable player who has been underrated his entire MLB career.
Unlike more prominent aging catchers like Jorge Posada, Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Varitek, he continues to provide a powerful bat and clean defense.
As a 35-year-old last season, Hernandez gunned down 37 percent of attempted base-stealers and batted .282.
The starting job is his to lose with the Colorado Rockies in 2012.
1B Paul Konerko
Paul Konerko's stats are deceptive. They suggest that he is merely as productive as ever, when in fact he is at his best entering his age-36 campaign.
He posted the highest OPS+ of his career in 2010 and nearly matched it in 2011, despite the nonexistent protection he was getting from disappointing clean-up hitter Adam Dunn.
His defense is adequate and he isn't showing any signs of decline at the plate. Konerko also brings leadership ability. Such intangibles cannot go unrecognized.
2B Mark Ellis
Middle infielders don't age well. Mark Ellis turns 35 on June 6, which is just early enough to make him eligible for this roster.
Overall, 2011 was a weak season for Ellis' bat, but the numbers were skewed by the slow start he got off to. A midseason trade from the Oakland Athletics to the Colorado Rockies ignited a fire under him.
He's an intelligent second baseman who occasionally steals bases.
SS Derek Jeter
I am not of the opinion that Derek Jeter is still a superstar, but he is more effective than other shortstops of a certain age.
Whether Jeter still has the ability to slug double-digit home runs—even with home games at hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium—is in doubt.
However, he is sure-handed in the field and aggressive on the bases. His unique inside-out swing remains intact.
Honorable mentions for this position include Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria and Marco Scutaro.
3B Alex Rodriguez
Even though his amazing streak of 13 straight 30-100 seasons (home runs and runs batted in) has ended, Alex Rodriguez hasn't declined all that much.
Stints on the disabled list over the past several seasons are signs that his body is weakening, but maybe that experimental treatment he tried in Germany in December will assist him in fighting old age.
A-Rod remains an outstanding hitter until his performance says otherwise. He plays the hot corner very well, too.
LF Lance Berkman
Lance Berkman started in left field sparingly in 2011 and not at all from 2007-2010. I'm assuming a great teammate such as he would shift positions for the sake of the other old-timers.
He's coming off a shocking bounce-back season that culminated in a World Series championship and a seventh-place finish in National League MVP voting. With 31 home runs, he tied Paul Konerko for most home runs among batters 35 or older.
Few players have comparable plate discipline. His switch-hitting allows him to thrive against left-handed and right-handed pitchers alike.
CF Torii Hunter
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim made perennial Gold-Glover Torii Hunter switch positions. On this roster, he'll play in center field, where he's most comfortable.
Although his defense has been deteriorating, Hunter is as effective as ever at the plate. He has learned to be more selective while totaling 20 or more home runs in each of his full seasons since 2001.
I said earlier that I wouldn't be ignoring intangibles; Hunter is consistently charismatic.
RF Carlos Beltran
I worry about Carlos Beltran's knees, but not his offensive abilities.
He is a switch-hitter who hits for equally impressive average and power from both sides of the plate. His recent production isn't far off from what it was in his prime.
His experience in the outfield allows him to make plays despite lost athleticism.
DH David Ortiz
David Ortiz is perhaps the most inept fielder in baseball. His prolific bat, though, makes him more than serviceable.
His 2011 season may have been a fluke because Ortiz did not struggle with strikeouts as he often does.
No matter how many swing-and-misses we should expect from him going forward, Big Papi remains an extra-base-hit machine.
UTIL Michael Young
Honestly, Michael Young is a better starting candidate than Mark Ellis is at second base. His shortstop skills rival Derek Jeter's, too.
I mean no disrespect by casting him in a utility role. On an all-old team, it's practically a starting job.
Young is a terrific hitter and ideal teammate who would see regular action because of his willingness to play anywhere in the infield.
C A.J. Pierzynski
Every 25-man roster needs a backup catcher.
A.J. Pierzynski makes as much contact as any of these aged position players, although his defense is highly questionable.
He is also incredibly durable.
RF Vladimir Guerrero
Vladimir Guerrero is hardly an outfielder at this point in his career. He didn't see the field at all in 2011.
But you realize how special a slugger he has been when observing that a .290 batting average is his career-worst. His free-swinging mentality makes him awfully tough to strike out.
A subpar 2011 has me unsure whether or not he is still a power hitter.
3B Chipper Jones
Chipper Jones is similar to Carlos Beltran—his splits against right-handers and lefties are mirror images of one another.
Jones turns 40 in April 2012, making him by far the oldest daily player on this roster.
Never has this future Hall of Famer finished with an OPS below .800.
His defensive range is inferior to Alex Rodriguez's—otherwise he might have cracked the starting lineup.
SP Roy Halladay
Roy Halladay is dominant by every statistical measure.
Aside from logging a tremendous number of innings, he accumulates strikeouts and rarely puts on baserunners via hit or walk. He doesn't allow home runs, either.
Halladay is arguably the best active MLB starting pitcher. Nothing from the neck down gives away his age.
SP Tim Hudson
Not even Roy Halladay can boast about 13 consecutive winning seasons. Tim Hudson can.
He similarly commands the strike zone and lasts deep into games.
His off-speed pitches remain crisp as he enters his late thirties.
Hudson was a legitimate Cy Young Award contender as recently as 2010.
SP Chris Carpenter
Chris Carpenter looked shaky at times during the regular season, but he shut up all the naysayers by going undefeated in six postseason starts.
It is difficult to trust Carpenter solely because of his injury history. He has lost nearly three seasons to shoulder and elbow issues.
SP R.A. Dickey
The future is bright for R.A. Dickey.
As a knuckleballer, he won't be significantly affected by an inevitable loss of velocity. His last two seasons, in fact, have been easily the greatest of his career.
Pitching in the National League hasn't helped him strike out opponents, but he has learned to frustrate them nonetheless.
SP Hiroki Kuroda
Hiroki Kuroda rounds out this rotation of 35-plus starters.
He has improved since debuting in the majors in 2008 by pitching more economically. He hasn't hurled a complete game in years, though.
Kuroda has always thrown strikes and he had great success this past season, despite losing 16 games.
RP Scott Downs
Scott Downs couldn't have dreamed of making this roster at the turn of the Millennium, when he was a struggling starter with the Chicago Cubs and Montreal Expos.
He has since become somewhat of a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen.
His strikeout total was modest in 2011, but he managed a microscopic 1.34 ERA by inducing weak contact.
RP Kyle Farnsworth
For the bulk of his career, Kyle Farnsworth battled control problems.
He was loathed by New York Yankees fans for years. Since the summer of 2008, he has bounced around from club to club.
However, Farnsworth rediscovered his closer abilities in 2011 with the Tampa Bay Rays.
There is no guarantee that he will fare well again this coming season, but he still features an elite fastball.
RP Joe Nathan
Joe Nathan wasn't his usual self immediately after returning from Tommy John surgery, but he was noticeably more effective during the second half of the season.
There were few—if any—better ninth-inning options in baseball when he was in his prime prior to 2010.
He can be an elite reliever, even without fully regaining his pre-surgery dominance.
RP Francisco Cordero
Overall, Francisco Cordero's career has been uneven.
He's coming off a banner year where he posted a 1.02 WHIP.
It's with some hesitation that I name him to this roster despite a slowing fastball.
RP J.J. Putz
J.J. Putz has followed two mediocre campaigns with a pair of remarkable seasons. He recently returned to closing duty with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Putz has exceptional strikeout ability and his control is often another strength of his game.
If he wasn't the best closer in the National League this past season, he was not far behind John Axford and Craig Kimbrel, both of whom are many years his junior.
RP Takashi Saito
Takashi Saito still has all his tricks working for him as his age-42 season approaches.
There aren't any other active MLB pitchers who have relieved for six or more full seasons without ever slipping up with an ERA worse than 3.00.
He'll be teaming up with J.J. Putz in 2012 for the Arizona Diamondbacks to form a fearsome back end of the bullpen.
RP Mariano Rivera
There is nobody older nor better on this list than Mariano Rivera.
His pitch location? Always perfect. His cutter? Unfair for the opposition.
He elevates his game when necessary, especially in the playoffs.
His calm temperament is ideal for a closer and he's only getting better with age.
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