Raul Ibanez, Hideki Matsui, and Miguel Tejada: Over 35, Or Just Over?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 26: Raul Ibanez #29 of the Philadelphia Phillies slides trying to catch a fly ball during the game against the at Citizens Bank Park on May 26, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was unable to make the catch. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

It's lazy to assume that every old player who is struggling is doing so because they've fallen off an age-related cliff. But, hey, it's usually the correct hypothesis. Players don't tend to have a nice, linear decline once they hit 35 -- they spring their own ACME roadrunner traps and get crushed under brick walls, holding up a sign that reads, "ouch!" before fading away into nothingness.

Here are three 35-and-older hitters, though, who are struggling, but still have some semblance of job security:

Raul Ibanez
If Ibanez isn't hitting, he isn't valuable, and right now Ibanez has a .298 on-base percentage. He has eight home runs and ten doubles, so his power is still hanging around, but the 43 strikeouts and 14 walks in 208 plate appearances hints at deeper problems.

Who could take his job?

Before the start of the season, right field was supposed to go to the winner of a steel-cage match between Ben Francisco and Domonic Brown, but Brown hurt his hand and went on the disabled list. Now with Francisco holding his own and providing solid defense, it makes more sense to have Ibanez sit in favor of the prospect, Brown.

Why isn't he likely to lose his job soon?

Right now, it looks like Charlie Manuel is sticking with Team Ibanez, fashioning a platoon out of the right-handed Francisco and the left-handed Brown. It's been a while since Manuel has had to deal with a position player cratering-- he's had some of the easiest lineup decisions in the game for a while -- so there really isn't much indication how he'll handle the situation. But the early returns suggest Brown/Francisco seems to be his platoon of choice.


Hideki Matsui
It's actually kind of impressive how every hitter the A's touch turns to dust. It's like something out of a Brothers Grimm fable. Matsui has always hit at every level. He hit in Japan, he hit in New York, he hit in Anaheim. He hit when he was young, he hit when he was old -- he can hit. Well, until he put on an A's uniform, that is. There's an A's clubhouse attendant who goes around corking bats, thinking he's helping, but he fills the hollow bats with kryptonite, lead, and dessicated Bobby Crosby toenail clippings.  He's just trying to help.

Who could take his job?

If the A's had hitters in the queue, they would have used them already. Michael Taylor has hit for an empty batting average in triple-A since returning from a wrist injury, and Shane Peterson, who came over in the Matt Holliday deal, has had a nice season in triple-A.

Why isn't he likely to lose his job soon?

Between Coco Crisp, David DeJesus, and Matsui, the A's have a few regulars who are struggling. Even if they wanted to give Peterson an extended look, they wouldn't have to sit one guy to do it. They'll give Matsui all sorts of chances to get better -- and they're hoping he's more Frank Thomas than Mike Piazza when it comes to all-time greats DHing for the A's.


Miguel Tejada
His career has followed a nice, neat little bell curve -- his .217/.241/.277 line right now is eerily similar to what he did in his first season in the majors. But right now the bell curve tolls for thee, Miguel. He has a slider-speed bat these days, and that might be downgraded to a Livan-Hernandez-curve-speed-bat within the month.

Who could take his job?

Mike Fontenot was playing short while Tejada manned third in Pablo Sandoval's absence, but Fontenot is on the DL with a calf strain. Brandon Crawford made the jump from A-ball and hit a grand slam in his first game, but he was overmatched in the Eastern League last year. Of all the prospects who could go without any triple-A time, Crawford seems especially unlikely to have an immediate impact, but the Giants will keep playing him until more infielders return from the DL.

Why isn't he likely to lose his job soon?

Here's how Bruce Bochy works: When he was with the Padres, he kept playing a reanimated Vinny Castilla, who was constantly interrupting play to search for brains to eat. When Kevin Towers, the Padres GM, asked Bochy why he kept playing Castilla, Bochy responded with something along the lines of, "Hey, if you don't want me playing him, don't put him on the team." So Towers released Castilla, at which point no other major league team signed him to start. Or sit on the bench. Or perform other baseball-related activities. This was because it was obvious to everyone in the world that Castilla was a zombie shell of what he used to be, which wasn't that great to begin with.

Bochy would still be playing Castilla today. So, no, Tejada isn't especially likely to lose his job soon.

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