April 4, 2019


The Era of the Old Athlete Is Over (Will Leitch, 4/03/19, New York)

In 2012, pitcher Jamie Moyer started ten games in April and May for a lousy, dull Colorado Rockies team. He was terrible. He had an ERA of 5.70, giving up almost a hit and a half an inning, and, in his final start of the season, he was drilled for four homers and seven runs in five innings. The Rockies mercifully released him after that game, a journeyman let go by a team that was already going nowhere. It was an entirely unremarkable transaction that nevertheless depressed just about every person I knew.

The reason for this was simple: Jamie Moyer was old. He was 49 years old -- he would turn 50 at the end of the season -- which, when he earned the latter of his two wins that May, made him the oldest pitcher in Major League Baseball history to win a game. It wasn't his skills that made him beloved among baseball fans, though: It was that he was pitching at all. The fact that a 49-year-old was still an active major leaguer made everyone I knew feel younger than they really were. The end of Moyer meant the end of the illusion of youth.

Every sports fan goes through this, the accelerating aging process of sports, watching our own cycle of birth, life, and death play out with our favorite players right in front of us. Athletes essentially age like dogs: Take how many years they've been playing, multiply it by seven, and that's how old their career is in normal human time, before retirement, i.e. death. (In football the life cycle is more like tsetse fly's.) A player's career is nearly over by the time many of us are still figuring out what the hell we're doing in our lives. (We're all now old enough that the players we watched in college are now running for president.) My marker was former Phillies/Tigers/Cardinals infielder Placido Polanco, who was born on October 10, 1975, the same day as me; he quit the game three years ago, though I like to kid myself he's got a comeback left in him. The day the last athlete older than you retires is a dark one indeed.

I bring all this up because sports, more than at any other time I can remember, have become deeply, almost obsessively preoccupied with youth. 

If a single WAR is worth around $8 million, it makes little sense to sign declining expensive players.

Posted by at April 4, 2019 4:04 AM