Five older players who still got it

Welcome to the Old Dude Revolution

September 15th, 2020
Art by Tom Forget

The COVID-shortened season has allowed teams to expand their rosters and give top prospects some exciting big league debuts. There's the fireballing Sixto Sánchez, third base phenom Alex Bohm and Angels savior Jo Adell. And then, of course, there are the other young superstars already in the game: Fernando Tatis Jr., Juan Soto, Luis Robert and Kyle Lewis. There's article after article written about them.

But, hello, what about the old dudes?

In the same season, there are MLB veterans over the age of 37 who've been playing like they're still in their early 20's. They say Father Time can't be defeated, but these five have done the impossible. Bask in their immortality below.

Nelson Cruz, 40 years old, 1.9 WAR

Somehow, some way, Cruz just continues to get better every single year. You expect him to drop off, but it just never happens. He will literally hit home runs until there are no more home runs to hit. And this season, the year he turned 40, has been his best yet: tied for the Major League lead with 16 homers, to go with his 32 RBIs and .323/.414/.652 slash line. No hitter who's turned 40 in a season has ever led the league in dingers. His late-career 1.066 OPS is up there with Barry Bonds, Ted Williams and Hank Aaron. He's a frontrunner for the AL MVP.

How does he do it? Lots of practice and lots of naps.

Oliver Pérez, 39 years old, 0.7 WAR

If you followed baseball back in the early-to-mid 2000's, you probably knew about Oliver Pérez. He was a young phenom for the Pirates with electric stuff and a bright future ahead of him. But besides one solid year with Pittsburgh and a legendary turn in MVP Baseball 2005 that Reddit threads still tell stories about, he didn't live up to his potential. He looked destined to be out of the league by his early 30s.

But the grey-haired Perez has stuck around and totally revamped his career the last few seasons with the Indians -- using different windups and release points coming out of the bullpen to baffle hitters. This season has been one of his best yet: 14 1/3 IP, 1.26 ERA, 0 homers allowed and a miniscule 0.977 WHIP.

Adam Wainwright, 39 years old, 0.5 WAR

Back in November, after signing a one-year contract with the Cardinals, Wainwright told's Anne Rogers this might be it.

“At the moment, we are going year to year with likelihood of this probably being it," the 15-year veteran said.

But that was after a few non-Waino, over-4.00 ERA seasons in a row. In 2020, the Cardinals lifer has turned back the hands of time. He's 4-1 with a 2.91 ERA. His 1.014 WHIP is at a five-year low. He recently threw his first complete game since 2016 -- a three-hit shutout against the Marlins and now, well, he's talking about pitching a few more years in the Majors.

Robinson Canó, 37 years old, 1.0 WAR

After his first very down and injury-plagued year in 2019, Canó looked like he might not get anywhere close to the perennial All-Star caliber player he'd once been. But, just a month shy of his 38th birthday, he has.

The Mets second baseman/DH is slashing at a .320/.358/.544 rate with seven homers and 20 RBIs. He just passed Hall of Famers Rabbit Maranville and Tim Raines on the all-time hit list. His 144 OPS+ is the highest it's been since a 147 mark ... in 2013 ... with the Yankees.

Darren O'Day, 37 years old, 0.6 WAR

Since the start of his career in 2008, O'Day has been a reliable reliever for all five teams he's played for. And this year, with the Braves, has been one of his finest: The submarining righty is 3-0 with a 0.69 ERA, 18 strikeouts, four walks and zero home runs allowed. He's given up just ONE earned run in 13 innings. He's been one of the most consistently great bullpen arms in baseball, and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Honorable Mentions: Erik Kratz (40) -- 12 games, .296/.321/.370, 0.2 WAR; Rich Hill (39) -- 2-1, 3.81 ERA, 0.3 WAR.