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It's rough out there for a gray hair

Nov 27, 2009, 8:20 AM EDT

You know that sinking feeling you get when your team decides to go all-in on some increasingly calcifying veteran free agent on the wrong side of 35? Well, it’s happening less and less:

For a group of big-name baseball free agents over the age of 35, last year was a winter of serious discontent.

Frank Thomas, Jim Edmonds, Ray Durham, Paul Lo Duca and many others
were hit by a deep freeze that left proven veteran Major Leaguers
without big league offers, and in some cases, even Minor League
invites. It was cold and puzzling, and yet another harsh sign of the
economic times.

A year later, with the Hot Stove season in full swing, similarly aged
former star players such as Garret Anderson, Brian Giles, Jim Thome,
Nomar Garciaparra, Kevin Millar, Darin Erstad, Miguel Batista and Randy
Winn might find themselves wondering where they’ll be employed, or
quite possibly having to prove themselves in Spring Training all over
again.

Sure, two-thirds of those guys will get multi-year offers from the Giants, but what are the other guys gonna do?

But seriously, is there one name on that list that is a better than anyone your team has in a given position right now? Maybe Thome would still be useful as a DH, but with the Andruw Jones signing, even his most speculated-about landing pad — the White Sox — may not be an option.

It’s always been amazing to me that a game that is such a brutal meritocracy on the way up has been an old boys club on the back end.  Those days are all but gone now, and while that may be sad in any given case — who didn’t want to see Jim Edmonds take a victory lap last season? — it’s a good thing for the game in the aggregate.

  1. Levi Stahl - Nov 27, 2009 at 10:12 AM

    I was a bit surprised that Edmonds and Durham didn’t find work; both looked to me like they still had something to offer. The guys on this year’s list, though? Outside of Thome, I’m not seeing it.
    Tell me Matt Stairs will be back, though . . . please? And that he’ll grow back that curly mullet?

  2. Old Gator - Nov 27, 2009 at 10:27 AM

    Tsk tsk, such age-ism, Craig. I can’t remember which year it was that that old geezer Joe Hardy helped the Washington Senators to the pennant (and for the life of me I don’t know why that incredible limp-off catch he made in center field isn’t up on the wall in Cooperstown next to that Japanese outfielder perched on top of the fence with his glove hand outstretched like some socialist-realist sculpture of a 1930s Leningrad factory manager). But there’s no substitute for age and experience when it comes to a game like baseball of which, as we all know, ninety percent is half mental. There was a good reason why native Americans kept offering the grandparents multi-year deals to keep them around the hogan. Even if modern baseball teams don’t need anyone who knows how to cure their hides, someone still has to do the cooking.

  3. Great Trout Spirit - Nov 27, 2009 at 11:20 PM

    “There was a good reason why native Americans kept offering the grandparents multi-year deals to keep them around the hogan.”
    Gator, how do you keep comin’ up with this stuff? Man, I would really hate to be trapped inside your mind, even for a few minutes.

  4. Old Gator - Nov 27, 2009 at 11:42 PM

    I don’t blame you, Spirit. You’d have to share the space with my recollections of my ex-wife. I doubt if you could even handle as much as a few minutes.
    Incidentally, you’re not related to Trout Mask Replica, are you?

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