I first knew I was getting older, becoming a real grownup, when there started to be Major League Baseball players who were my age. Then, I knew I was getting older when the manager started to be my age. And then, I knew I was officially old when players my age were almost all retired. Baseball is a game people fall in love with in our youth, but, alas, youth doesn’t last forever. And eventually you hit the point when you’re older than everybody. It’s a sad day.
Here are the stages, as I’ve established before:
All baseball players are older than you. They all seem eternal and massive, like redwoods.
Rookies are your age; you watch up-and-coming prospects while studying for midterms. The world spreads out before you, limitless.
This is when you are the same age as the superstars, mid-to-late 20s, when players are at their absolute best and you start worrying, "Hey, I should have a lot better idea of where my life is going than I do."
This is when the players who were rookies when you were in college started getting called "grizzled."
It is incredibly disturbing when baseball players your age start retiring and you're still figuring out how to tackle that student loan.
"Wait, how in the world is Rocco Baldelli old enough to be a baseball manager?"
Fortunately, we are all immortal and will never die.
Baseball is, and always will be, a young man's game. Life, however, just keeps going. So here's a look at the oldest 11 players in baseball heading into the 2019 season. To qualify for this list, you must:
• Have played in 2018
• Be either on a Major League roster, be on a Minor League contract or receive a non-roster Spring Training invite
• Not have been cut yet
This is your reminder that Bartolo Colon remains unsigned. But he’s 45 years old and ready to pitch. All it takes is one phone call. He’s on the same page as fellow not-yet-retired older folks like Matt Holliday, Matt Belisle, Jorge De La Rosa, Brandon Phillips, Ryan Madson, Jose Bautista and Santiago Casilla.
If you are younger than everyone on this list, congratulations. But time is coming for you yet.
1. Ichiro Suzuki, OF, SEA (age 45)
Born: Oct. 22, 1973 ... First season: 2001 ... Career fWAR: 58
So Ichiro is a little bit of a cheat, since he sort-of retired last year and he came back just to play in these two Mariners games in Japan and he officially announced his retirement afterwards ... but he was, after all, in an Opening Day starting lineup in 2019. Every day that Ichiro played in a baseball game was a good day.
2. Fernando Rodney, RP, A’s (age 42)
Born: March 18, 1977 ... First season: 2002 ... Career fWAR: 8.2
Hey, it was Fernando’s birthday on Monday. Happy Birthday, Fernando! He’s still hanging around setting up for the A’s, who picked up his club option for this season and is therefore at least committed to him. He had a rough spring outing over the weekend, but you know somehow he’s going end up with 20 saves this season. Amazingly, if Ichiro hangs them up this week, Rodney will be the only active player born in the 1970s.
3. Albert Pujols, 1B-DH, Angels (age 39)
Born: Jan. 16, 1980 ... First season: 2001 ... Career fWAR: 88.1
How much younger in baseball getting? Last year, Pujols wasn’t even one of the 10 oldest players in baseball. Now, he’s the third oldest. The real question is, with three years left on his contract, whether he’ll end up being No. 1 on this list ... or out of baseball entirely. The next few years are as pivotal for Pujols as they are for the Angels.
4. Rich Hill, SP, Dodgers (age 39)
Born: March 11, 1980 ... First season: 2005 ... Career fWAR: 14.9
Hill’s remarkable late-in-baseball-life resurgence remains one of baseball’s most amazing stories, and for all the controversy about his World Series usage (or lack thereof) last October, it is truly astounding that Hill is pitching in the World Series at all. It’s always worth remembering just how remarkable his journey truly has been.
5. Erik Kratz, C, Brewers (age 38)
Born: June 15, 1980 ... First season: 2010 ... Career fWAR: 3.8
It probably shouldn’t have taken this long to get a backup catcher on this list, but with Yasmani Grandal and Manny Pina on the Brewers' roster, Kratz might not be able to hang on this list much longer. But for a guy who didn’t break into the Majors until he was 30, that’s quite an achievement on its own.
6. Nelson Cruz, DH, Twins (age 38)
Born: July 1, 1980 ... First season: 2005 ... Career fWAR: 33.5
Cruz has to be considered a sleeper pick to end up being the oldest player in baseball within the next few years. He’s only on a one-year contract in Minnesota, but he’ll surely be able to hit homers in his sleep until his 60s. His next homer will tie him with Joe DiMaggio, by the way: Cruz is 40 shy of 400.
7. CC Sabathia, SP, Yankees (age 38)
Born: July 21, 1980 ... First season: 2001 ... Career fWAR: 66.2
Sabathia’s surge of the last few seasons -- at times, he has been the Yanks’ most reliable starter -- is one of the most astounding stories in baseball, especially considering all that he has overcome. He had both knee surgery and a heart operation in the offseason, but he’s still in camp, throwing simulated games, and he will likely be in the rotation for his final season soon. Who doesn’t love CC Sabathia?
8. Pat Neshek, RP, Phillies (age 38)
Born: Sept. 4, 1980 ... First season: 2006 ... Career fWAR: 6.5
Neshek was nearly out of baseball at the beginning of the decade, but he recovered to make an All-Star Game in 2014, and now he has a chance to bring his delightful delivery into the next decade. There aren’t many pitchers like Neshek anymore. We must all value him while we can.
9. Rajai Davis, OF, Mets (age 38)
Born: Oct. 19, 1980 ... First season: 2006 ... Career fWAR: 12.3
It’s rare that you see a speed and defense specialist hang on until he’s 38, but Davis is in such fantastic shape and he is such an incredible athlete that he’s pulling it off. He is making a late push to make the Mets’ roster, and, as with everywhere he goes, he’ll become an instant fan favorite if he does.
10. Curtis Granderson, OF, Marlins (age 38)
Born: March 16, 1981 ... First season: 2004 ... Career fWAR: 49.0
One of baseball’s truly great guys, cheers were heard around the sport when the Marlins signed Granderson earlier this month. He still has value and he’s an ideal Trade Deadline acquisition, which could give him the opportunity to at last win that elusive World Series title.
11. Ben Zobrist, Utility, Cubs (age 37)
Born: May 26, 1981 ... First season: 2008 ... Career fWAR: 44.2
Zobrist is in the final year of the four-year, $56 million deal the Cubs signed him to before the 2016 season, and, well, considering he won the MVP Award in the one World Series the Cubs have won in the last 100-plus years, it’s fair to say the club isn’t upset with how this has turned out. At 37, he is still somehow a super sub.