Introducing a new installment of Baseball Questions We All Must Answer. There are questions that, within our lifetimes, every baseball fan -- each one of us -- must account for. These questions are of utmost importance. This is one of those questions.
Who is, or was, the least remarkable position player to play past the age of 40?
For decades, baseball has served as proof that 40 isn't "old." No, baseball isn't as physically demanding as some other sports, but if you can play such a sport on a daily basis that requires you to stand still for five minutes and then instantly break into a sprint without warning, you are not "old."
For one reason or another, baseball players who extend their careers past their 40th birthday seem more likely to be pitchers. Often, the everyday players were once good-to-great players, and are kept around because they can still do one thing very well.
One small fraternity of position players, however, manages to play past the age of 40 despite never having been a particularly remarkable baseball player. These guys never managed to hit 20 home runs or hit .300 or do anything that would catch your eye on the back of a baseball card. They aren't particularly noteworthy fielders, and advanced statistical measures such as OPS+ and WAR don't have much to say about them, either.
My nomination is Craig Counsell. He never really hit for average, at least not for a full season. He never hit for power. He was an effective base stealers in his mid-30s, but apparently coaches have stopped giving him the sign. His 127 fielding runs above average are nice, but certainly less important than what he can do with the bat. Now Craig Counsell, who owns a career OPS+ of 80, prepares to start a season in which he will turn 41 years old.
When I ask these questions, I try to avoid being mean-spirited, and I think I'm actually succeeding in doing so here. "Unremarkable big-league baseball player" is certainly not an insult, it simply means that year in and year out, the player is demonstrating enough worth to remain in the game's top echelon.
Thank you in advance for your participation in what is a tremendously important discussion. Please leave your submission in the comments below, or feel free to tweet me at @jon_bois. I'll publish your answers later this afternoon.