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The Yankees are old, but not necessarily busted


Jim McIsaac

The projected lineup of the New York Yankees, with their age as of July 1, 2014:

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, 30
  2. Derek Jeter, SS, 39
  3. Carlos Beltran, RF, 36
  4. Mark Teixeira, 1B, 33
  5. Brian McCann, C, 30
  6. Alfonso Soriano, DH, 38
  7. Brett Gardner, LF, 30
  8. Kelly Johnson, 3B, 31
  9. Brian Roberts, 2B, 36

This is a team that can sit around and talk about Super Nintendo games. Mark Teixeria's favorite was Super Guys and Dolls. He liked to make pew-pew sounds whenever Nathan Detroit shot his gun. But now we're off track. The point is that the Yankees are old. If you have a secret cache of Brian Sabean jokes, now's the time to dig through the closet.

As you would expect, there haven't been a lot of teams with a roster filled with over-30 players. Only two in history had nine such players qualify for the batting title: The 1915 Buffalo Blues of the Federal League, and the 1982 California Angels. The Blues didn't do so hot, finishing sixth (just behind the Newark Pepper). The Angels, though, won their division and came within a two-out Cecil Cooper single from advancing to the World Series.

So being old isn't automatically a death knell. The Angels turned the oldest team in baseball history into one of the best seasons of the organization's history. The team was stacked, with Don Baylor, Bobby Grich, Rod Carew, Brian Downing, Reggie Jackson, and Fred Lynn. Being old doesn't mean the team went out to the bars across the street and rounded up the pensioners. The players were still playing and starting past 30 because they had more talent to begin with, so it was less devastating when they lost a step.

Let's pick a nice, even date to look at. Since 2000, 28 teams have fielded teams with five or more hitters over 30 who qualified for the batting title. Those teams:

Year Team Number of players over 30 qualifying for batting title Players Wins Losses
2012 Texas Rangers 6 Adrian Beltre / Nelson Cruz / Josh Hamilton / Ian Kinsler / David Murphy / Michael Young 93 69
2008 Baltimore Orioles 6 Ramon Hernandez / Aubrey Huff / Kevin Millar / Melvin Mora / Brian Roberts / Luke Scott 68 93
2007 Boston Red Sox 6 J.D. Drew / Mike Lowell / Julio Lugo / David Ortiz / Manny Ramirez / Jason Varitek 96 66
2007 Detroit Tigers 6 Carlos Guillen / Brandon Inge / Magglio Ordonez / Placido Polanco / Ivan Rodriguez / Gary Sheffield 88 74
2007 New York Yankees 6 Bobby Abreu / Johnny Damon / Derek Jeter / Hideki Matsui / Jorge Posada / Alex Rodriguez 94 68
2005 New York Yankees 6 Jason Giambi / Derek Jeter / Hideki Matsui / Jorge Posada / Gary Sheffield / Bernie Williams 95 67
2001 Arizona Diamondbacks 6 Jay Bell / Craig Counsell / Steve Finley / Luis Gonzalez / Mark Grace / Tony Womack 92 70
2001 Cleveland Indians 6 Roberto Alomar / Ellis Burks / Juan Gonzalez / Kenny Lofton / Jim Thome / Omar Vizquel 91 71
2012 Chicago White Sox 5 Adam Dunn / Paul Konerko / A.J. Pierzynski / Alexei Ramirez / Alex Rios 85 77
2012 New York Yankees 5 Curtis Granderson / Derek Jeter / Alex Rodriguez / Nick Swisher / Mark Teixeira 95 67
2011 Philadelphia Phillies 5 Ryan Howard / Raul Ibanez / Placido Polanco / Jimmy Rollins / Shane Victorino 102 60
2010 Boston Red Sox 5 Adrian Beltre / J.D. Drew / Victor Martinez / David Ortiz / Marco Scutaro 89 73
2010 Philadelphia Phillies 5 Ryan Howard / Raul Ibanez / Placido Polanco / Chase Utley / Jayson Werth 97 65
2009 Philadelphia Phillies 5 Pedro Feliz / Raul Ibanez / Jimmy Rollins / Chase Utley / Jayson Werth 93 69
2008 Chicago Cubs 5 Mark DeRosa / Kosuke Fukudome / Derrek Lee / Aramis Ramirez / Alfonso Soriano 97 64
2008 Chicago White Sox 5 Orlando Cabrera / Jermaine Dye / Paul Konerko / A.J. Pierzynski / Jim Thome 89 74
2008 New York Yankees 5 Bobby Abreu / Johnny Damon / Jason Giambi / Derek Jeter / Alex Rodriguez 89 73
2007 Seattle Mariners 5 Jose Guillen / Raul Ibanez / Kenji Johjima / Ichiro Suzuki / Jose Vidro 88 74
2007 San Francisco Giants 5 Ray Durham / Pedro Feliz / Bengie Molina / Omar Vizquel / Randy Winn 71 91
2006 Chicago White Sox 5 Jermaine Dye / Tadahito Iguchi / Paul Konerko / Scott Podsednik / Jim Thome 90 72
2006 New York Yankees 5 Johnny Damon / Jason Giambi / Derek Jeter / Jorge Posada / Alex Rodriguez 97 65
2005 Boston Red Sox 5 Johnny Damon / Kevin Millar / Bill Mueller / Manny Ramirez / Jason Varitek 95 67
2004 New York Yankees 5 Derek Jeter / Hideki Matsui / Jorge Posada / Gary Sheffield / Bernie Williams 101 61
2004 Seattle Mariners 5 Bret Boone / Raul Ibanez / Edgar Martinez / Ichiro Suzuki / Randy Winn 63 99
2004 San Francisco Giants 5 Edgardo Alfonzo / Barry Bonds / Ray Durham / Marquis Grissom / Michael Tucker 91 71
2003 Boston Red Sox 5 Kevin Millar / Bill Mueller / Manny Ramirez / Jason Varitek / Todd Walker 95 67
2002 San Francisco Giants 5 Rich Aurilia / Barry Bonds / Jeff Kent / Reggie Sanders / Benito Santiago 95 66
2000 Chicago Cubs 5 Damon Buford / Mark Grace / Ricky Gutierrez / Sammy Sosa / Eric Young 65 97

They average 89 wins as a group, with pennant winners and World Series winners included. Just four of the 29 teams finished under .500.

It's a self-selecting pool, of course. It's not like Chad Mottola and Calvin Murray keep getting shots because they were drafted so high. But Derek Jeter keeps getting shots because he's rarely been anything other than excellent. Players who were good in the past are more likely to be good in the future, even if they're over 30. It's a truism that no one's going to bother arguing with.

If you're looking for a little optimism as a Yankees fan, then, this will do just fine. Most of the teams that finished a season with a full complement of 30-somethings were talented, winning teams.

If you're a Yankees fan, you can close the tab, armed with a contrarian piece of propaganda that fits your current worldview. I live to give.

However, your eagle eyes might have spotted something up there. The odd phrasing a couple paragraphs ago.

Most of the teams that finished a season with a full complement of 30-somethings were talented, winning teams.

Yes, that. Because here's what the quick research doesn't show us: the teams that were counting on over-30 players who were either too hurt or ineffective to qualify for the batting title.

Take the 2005 Giants. Please. They were counting on Barry Bonds, who missed most of the season. His replacement in left was Pedro Feliz. They were counting on Moises Alou to stay healthy. They were hoping for J.T. Snow, Marquis Grissom, Michael Tucker, and Edgardo Alfonzo to be healthy and productive. They got none of those things. Before the season, they were just like the Yankees, coming off a near-playoff season and relying on a lineup that was completely devoid of anyone in his 20s.

The story shouldn't be the Yankees' age, as if that's what will bring them down. Old players can be good. The Yankees have done more with aging players than any team in recent memory, so they know that.

But, goodness, what a risk. There aren't too many players in a glass case. Eduardo Nunez, Brendan Ryan, and Ichiro are the names you know on the bench. There are prospects, but no one you should expect in 2014.

The Yankees didn't have a choice, really. They don't do rebuilding plans, and they had enough resources for a win-now stab. And, as always, prematurely laughing at the Yankees is a good way to look really, really stupid. Over a fifth of those teams up there are recent Yankees teams. They've done this before, and it's not like McCann and Ellsbury are 58 years old. They're barely 30.

Still, it's an old team. That doesn't have to be a bad thing. You can, however, use a few hands and feet to count all the possible bad things that can happen to the best-laid plans. All the Yankees need is to stay healthy, and good things from the hitters they're expecting to hit. So, kind of like everyone else, then. Just older.

For more on the Yankees, please visit Pinstripe Alley