If you’re anything like me, I hate it when my favorite team signs an aging veteran free agent. I’ve uttered the phrase, “Please God don’t let them sign that crusty old vet,” too many times to count.
But those “crusty old vets” hold a ton of importance to a team’s success, especially in baseball where World Series-winning rosters usually have a mixture of both youth and veteran experience. Take the World Champion Giants for example. They won because of their young pitching, but it wasn’t Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain or Madison Bumgarner who wound up holding the World Series MVP Trophy at the end. It was 35-year-old Edgar Renteria, who was cursed by the SF faithful for being yet another horrible Brian Sabean signing, but wound up being a Fall Classic hero.
Today’s media doesn’t pay enough homage to the older MLB players. In fact, when fellow TSR contributor David Medsker and I were brainstorming ideas for a new feature, the first thing I brought up was that we should do an all 24-and-younger MLB team comprised of…well the idea is pretty self explanatory.
It wasn’t until David and I exhausted that idea before he sent me an e-mail that simply read: “Has anyone done an all 35-and-over team?”
Perfect. The moment I read it I burst into laughter. Could you imagine compiling a team of players that were only 35 years or older when present day teams usually build around youth? I love it.
Unfortunately, the guys over at Off Base Percentage beat us to the punch by compiling their own 35-plus year old team, so David and I decided to actually hold a live draft in order to make two teams. (Take that OBP.)
Below is a round-by-round breakdown of our all 35-and-older MLB draft. We selected a player for every infield position, plus three outfield positions, four starting pitchers (we only had eight to choose from), three relievers, one DH and two bench spots. Once the draft started, David and I quickly developed different strategies for building our rosters, so it was interesting to see how the draft played out. Take a look and let us know if you would have gone a different route.
David Medsker: GM of team “Springfield Geezers”
Anthony Stalter: GM of team “He’s Still in the League?”
Springfield Geezers: Alex Rodriguez
He's Still in the League?: Derek Jeter
David: A-Rod was unquestionably the best position player on the board, and while starting pitching was scarce, I remembered the one time I took a pitcher in the first round (Jason Schmidt, 2005). Never again.
Anthony: I’ll admit it: I screwed the pooch by not taking Ichiro with the first pick. That’s not to say I don’t like Jeter (whom I believe will bounce back this season at the plate), but Ichiro has been the poster child for consistency his entire career. My first pick of my first 35-and-older MLB draft and I screwed up. Bow + Head = Shame.
He's Still in the League?: Chris Carpenter
Springfield Geezers: Ichiro
Anthony: I knew Carpenter would be one of my first two picks because after David chose A-Rod, I wasn’t going to build my team around offense. Pitching still wins championships and Carp was clearly the best starter available. Again, I blew it by not taking Ichiro with one of my first two picks but just let it go, okay? Back off.
David: Had I picked second, Ichiro would have been one of my first two picks, so seeing him "fall" to me in the second round was a bonus. Anthony took the best pitcher on the board, and when I see a run starting, I tend to do the opposite - time to get another bat.
Springfield Geezers: Paul Konerko
He's Still in the League?: Alfonso Soriano
David: Thirty-nine dingers last year. Pauly still has some pop, plus he is by far the best first baseman of this group.
Anthony: This is when I really started to hate my draft and I wanted to beg David for a re-do. I’ll gladly take the 20-25 home runs from Soriano, but his numbers are clearly in decline and he plays an awful left field. There’s no doubt that the Ichiro blunder was still fresh on my mind.
He's Still in the League?: Tim Hudson
Springfield Geezers: Bobby Abreu
Anthony: But I quickly righted the ship with the selection of Hudson. Now I have the top two pitchers from the available talent pool and I’m completely invested in my pitching staff. As long as I didn't directly look my offense in the eye I was okay with the way my team was shaping up.
David: And now I'm in trouble. Anthony now has the two best pitchers on the board, so I may as well take one more hitter before drafting my first pitcher. Abreu is a perennial member of my real-life fantasy team (it's a points league, and his high walk rate is gravy), so this one was a no-brainer.
Springfield Geezers: Ted Lilly
He's Still in the League?: Vladimir Guerrero
David: Sigh. Lilly is by no means a #1 starter, but I couldn't afford to let Anthony take him as his #3 starter. Definitely a defensive maneuver. I would much rather have taken Vlad the Impaler here, but there is great depth at the DH slot. I can make it up in the next round.
Anthony: Finally one of my draft moves paid off. As David noted above, my selection of Hudson caused him to grab Lilly and therefore, Vlad “fell” to me. With this pick, I’m starting to feel a little more optimistic about my offense.
He's Still in the League?: Torii Hunter
Springfield Geezers: David Ortiz
Anthony: And now I feel a little better about my defense, too. Hunter obviously isn’t the same player he was earlier in this career but he’ll anchor things in the outfield. I don’t expect much of a drop-off from the offensive numbers he put up last year either (.281 average/76 runs/23 home runs/90 RBI/9 SBs).
David: Big Papi is not a bad consolation prize in the DH slot. Plus, as much as Baltimore’s offense has improved this offseason, Ortiz is still going to have far more run-scoring opportunities than Vlad, even if he lands in the 6-hole like he's projected to.
Springfield Geezers: Mariano Rivera
He's Still in the League?: Derrek Lee
David: All right, so I didn't get the two best pitchers. But I definitely have the best closer, and a ton of offense to give him loads of save opportunities.
Anthony: I don’t know if he meant to or not, but David read me like a book here. I wanted Rivera to pair with my solid starting pitching, but he snagged him a pick before I was going to take him. Lee’s thumb is a concern but if he stays healthy he should be more productive than he was a year ago.
He's Still in the League?: Joe Nathan
Springfield Geezers: Jorge Posada
Anthony: I was somewhat worried that David would take the top two relievers, so I grabbed Nathan while he was still available. Hopefully he’ll return to form and I’ll have a top-notch closer to go with my solid rotation.
David: There are lots of over-35 catchers, but there is only one who's still producing at the plate, and that is Posada. I never take catchers this early in a fantasy draft, but given the position scarcity, this seemed like the one to take the plunge on.
Springfield Geezers: Raul Ibanez
He's Still in the League?: Mark DeRosa
David: He's only one year removed from 34 homers and almost 100 runs batted in, and he's one of the most well-liked players in baseball. Can't think of a better guy to round out my outfield. And with Anthony taking one of the two second basemen on the board, I can now punt on the position until the last round.
Anthony: I’ll be honest, I just didn’t want to wind up with Craig Counsell, so I scooped up DeRosa while he was still available. A wrist injury ruined his 2010 campaign, but when he’s healthy De-Ro can play multiple positions and is the ultimate clubhouse guy. I’m happy to have him on my team…as long as it's not Craig Counsell.
He's Still in the League?: Derek Lowe
Springfield Geezers: Miguel Tejada
Anthony: And boom goes the dynamite. I now have three quality starters while David is stuck with Ted Lilly as his No. 1. I may average 0.5 runs a game but hopefully my pitching will match up with his offense.
David: Anthony now has three starters and I have one, so it's time to pick off another scarce infield position and then go pitcher-crazy. Tejada is no one's first choice these days, but he still has some pop.
Springfield Geezers: Hiroki Kuroda
He's Still in the League?: Magglio Ordonez
David: Choosing my second pitcher was like choosing between an anvil on my head and a baseball bat to the kneecaps. In the end, I went with the guy with the best combination of low ERA and high strikeout numbers, plus a dandy 1.19 WHIP.
Anthony: Since David took all the best bats and I went with all the good pitching, I'm now left with a team full of defensive liabilities and injury concerns. That said, Maggs still hit .303 with 12 home runs last year in 84 games. I’ll take it at this point.
He's Still in the League?: Carl Pavano
Springfield Geezers: Francisco Cordero
Anthony: Had to do it. At this point, pitching is my strength so I rounded out my rotation with the best arm available in Pavano. Hopefully my franchise is nowhere near New York and I should be fine.
David: Anthony has now taken his fourth pitcher, which means I can now punt on this position as well since he's capped. May as well bulk up wherever I can, which means relievers. CoCo seems like a better bet than the guy that was just talking about retiring.
Springfield Geezers: Hideki Matsui
He's Still in the League?: Ryan Franklin
Godzilla hit 21 home runs in what was considered an off year for him, plus he can serve as a fourth outfielder, though now that I think about it, my entire outfield is left-handed, as are my catcher and DH. Should match up well against Anthony's starters.
Anthony: Franklin gives me another closer option if Nathan is hurt all year again. I probably should be adding more offense so that David doesn’t keep loading up on bats but at this point, my pitching is what will make or break me.
He's Still in the League?: Jim Thome
Springfield Geezers: Scott Rolen
Anthony: Thome was the best bat available, so there you have it. At this point, I was concerned about not adding more infield depth but I address that later.
David: My last three picks are already spoken for, so I may as well bulk this team up any way I can. Rolen might be worried about playing time when players report to camp, but I have a plan that I think he will find most agreeable.
Springfield Geezers: Darren Oliver
He's Still in the League?: Takashi Saito
David: This was tough. I flirted with taking Saito, but ultimately decided to get at least one lefty in the bullpen, and Oliver's numbers last year were shockingly good.
Anthony: I would have loved to have Oliver, so nice pick, David. I went with Saito, whom I’m happy with.
He's Still in the League?: Chipper Jones
Springfield Geezers: Livan Hernandez
Anthony: Again, another injury prone bat to throw into the mix. I’m a Giants fan and therefore hate Casey Blake, so I went with Chipper. I don’t feel good about the decision, but I feel better than if I would have said the name “Casey Blake.”
David: And so begins my default picks. Livan's a horse, I'll give him that, but then I remember watching him as a rookie dazzle in the NLCS against Atlanta, where he recorded his 15th strikeout on a called third strike to Fred McGriff that was a good 10 to 12 inches off the plate. Haven't liked him since then.
Springfield Geezers: Tim Wakefield
He's Still in the League?: Bengie Molina
David: Wakefield, on the other hand, I love. I hope he pulls a Phil Niekro and pitches until he's 60, (Yes, we know, Niekro *only* pitched until he was 48. Just go with it.) He's gotten knocked around more often than not lately, but I just love a pitcher who can throw a 70 mph fastball past a hitter because they're looking for something really slow and goofy. I watched Wakefield positively manhandle the White Sox in the mid-'90s, striking out John Kruk three times. It was a thing of beauty.
Anthony: I could have gone with Jason Varitek but I’ve always had a soft spot for Bengie. He has the speed of a two-legged wooden chair but the guy can work with a pitching staff. He can still hit a little as well.
He's Still in the League?: Placido Polanco
Springfield Geezers: Craig Counsell
Anthony: I had to do something about my infield depth and Polanco cured my woes. He can play multiple positions and if he can stay healthy (the theme of my offense), he can still hit for average.
David: Well, we can't win 'em all. There were two names at second base, and Anthony knew I was a DeRo fan after his time with the Cubs, so I can't help but think he took De Rosa when he did just to mess with me. Bastard.
Anthony: Yep, that’s exactly what happened.
C: Bengie Molina
1B: Derrek Lee
2B: Mark DeRosa
SS: Derek Jeter
3B: Chipper Jones
OF: Alfonso Soriano, Torii Hunter, Maggio Ordonez
DH: Vlad Guerrero
Bench: Jim Thome, Placido Polanco
SP: Tim Hudson, Chris Carpenter, Derek Lowe, Carl Pavano
RP: Joe Nathan, Ryan Franklin, Takashi Saito
C: Jorge Posada
1B: Paul Konerko
2B: Craig Counsell
SS: Miguel Tejada
3B: Alex Rodriguez
OF: Ichiro, Bobby Abreu, Raul Ibanez
DH: David Ortiz
Bench: Hideki Matsui, Scott Rolen
SP: Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda, Tim Wakefield, Livan Hernandez
RP: Mo Rivera, Francisco Cordero, Darren Oliver,
C: Jason Varitek, Ivan Rodriguez, Jason Kendall, Henry Blanco
1B: Todd Helton, Lance Berkman
SS: Orlando Cabrera, Omar Vizquel
3B: Casey Blake
OF: Mike Cameron, J.D. Drew, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon
David Overall analysis: I'm very happy with my team's power potential, and it has a moderate amount of speed to boot. The starting rotation is my biggest weakness, but the bullpen is pretty spiffy. The first thing I'd do in spring training is move Tejada to second base and A-Rod back to short, so I could bench Counsell and start Rolen. My biggest concern is getting Godzilla plenty of playing time, but given that these players are all old, giving them a day or two off each week shouldn't be an issue. Well, except for Ichiro. He would surely take offense and tell me that I've disgraced the family name or something like that.
Anthony Overall analysis: My offense makes me want to puke but hey, there’s a new batch of 35-year-olds ready to come up next year. Pitching is definitely my strength and it better be good after David landed A-Rod with the first overall pick and then I foolishly handed him Ichiro. Hopefully sticking him with Lilly as an ace will make up for the clear advantage he has at the dish. My defense is pretty nasty too, which might force me to move DeRosa to left field and Polanco to second base. Of course doing that would admit that I made a mistake drafting Soriano in the third round (what was I thinking?). Ah well, every GM makes mistakes. I used to curse Giants’ GM Brian Sabean every chance I got for building a young pitching staff and a horrible offense and now look at me…I’ve become him.