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:
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 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.
GM of team “Springfield Geezers”
GM of team “He’s Still in the League?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thirty-nine dingers last year. Pauly still has some pop, plus he is by far the best first baseman of this group.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I would have loved to have Oliver, so nice pick, David. I went with Saito, whom I’m happy with.
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.”
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.