Respect Your Elders
Little-known fact: According to U.S. Census Bureau data released over the summer, Phoenix has the lowest percentage of senior citizens (7.5%) for any city larger than 65,000 people.
However, with the Diamondbacks’ recent re-acquisition of Randy Johnson from the Yankees, those numbers are going to have to be altered.
Alright, alright – R.J. isn’t really a senior citizen, but at age 43, he is clearly nearing baseball death, even though he would dispute that fact.
“A lot of people say my career is over,” Randy told the Associated Press. “I had a 5.00 ERA. Well, I was out there pitching with a bad back for most of the year.”
Ohhhh… well, that explains it! He pitched badly because he had a bad back. Of course. And there’s plenty of reason to believe that at age 43 his back problems will get better.
Essentially, Randy’s logic here is: Listen everyone, I was pretty crappy last year, but that’s just because I’m old and broken down. I’ll be much less old and broken down now that I’m a year older.
Okay, in fairness, Randy did have back surgery in the offseason, and frankly we here at The OCC have always been something of a Unit fan. So, let’s stop hating on Randy…
…and let’s start hating on the D’Backs.
Here's the thing about this acquisition – in a vacuum, it really wouldn't be problematic – Team Brings Back Aging Yet Still Popular Former Star for One Last Run at Glory. But the fact is, this is part of a disturbing trend of agedness for the Arizona franchise over the years. The fact is, this franchise steadfastly refuses to get young year after year despite not being above .500 since 2003.
Consider the average ages of the D’Backs’ starting lineups (as listed on baseball-reference.com) for the past six seasons going back to the 2001 World Series title year:
2001 – average age of 34Furthermore, during that six-year span, only 17 of the 48 position player spots have been occupied by players under the age of 30.
2002 – average age of 33
2003 – average age of 30
2004 – average age of 29
2005 – average age of 30
2006 – average age of 31
The fact is, this team has been rebuilding for years (rebuilding in this case meaning “not winning), but has been doing so Baltimore Orioles style – by continuing to acquire and play veteran talent instead of developing a core of young players.
Think about it: What’s the best position prospect the D’Backs have developed over the past six years? Lyle Overbay? He’s two teams removed from Arizona now. Junior Spivey? He’s already washed up. Chad Tracy? Okay, he’s not bad. But the Arizona franchise’s track record of producing strong young position players has been downright rotten.
Though it should be pointed out that with an influx of young talent including Conor Jackson, Carlos Quentin and Stephen Drew, the D’Backs appear to finally be getting the idea that they need to give the young guys a chance.
Of course, this comes just in time for them to acquire a gimpy 43-year-old who will provide a sentimental lift, leadership and some moments of excellent pitching but ultimately will just bog down the rotation and the payroll (R.J.’s new contract is for $26 million over the next two years) during his last baseball hurrah.Phoenix may have the smallest percentage of senior citizens in the country, but right about now, the city’s baseball fans must be feeling downright ancient.