On August 29, 1993, the Texas Rangers hosted the Baltimore Orioles. It was a pretty unremarkable game. And in the bottom of the second inning, something completely unremarkable happened: a 35-year-old hitter took an at-bat against a 30-year-old pitcher. The at-bat ended with a groundout. And the world kept spinning.
But this comes up almost two decades later because of who those two players were, and what they continued to do. Julio Franco was the 35-year-old batter. He'd play 15 more seasons, retiring shortly after turning 49. To put that in perspective, he was older then than Edgar Renteria is now. And Franco played 15 more years after that.
Both players were freaks. Franco was spry enough to steal a base as a 46-year-old pinch-runner. No, really:
And Moyer has a changeup of the gods. His fastball could be better, but he's scared that if he throws any harder, the fez on top of his head would fall off. Is this thing on? Hello? How will Moyer be able to pitch a nine-inning game next year? Depends! Hahaha. Ahem. Hello? This thing on?
Anywho, the point is that a couple of 30-somethings played in the same game in 1993, and before they retired, Joe Randa would debut, bat 5428 times, and retire himself. No one knows exactly how or why -- good genetics, sensible living, eating the flesh of young children in a candlelit ceremony, et cetera … -- but Franco and Moyer bucked some serious odds and became historical curiosities, if not inspirations
In 25 years, you're going to have to read an awful lot of columns about how nanobots are ruining the sanctity and history of the game. Sorry about that. And there will be all sorts of technological and medical advances that will extend playing careers well beyond what we're used to. But the hypothetical question of the day is this: Which 30-something players from today have the best chance of still playing in 2025 and beyond? Who could be this generation's Franco or Moyer? I'll offer a couple of suggestions and then open up the floor:
Why: He's left-handed, which is sort of a requirement for this quiz. More importantly, his contract runs through 2026, so he'll get every chance to keep playing.
Why not: Not very good, apparently. If his fastball deserted him in his late-20s, it's not going to do him any favors in his mid-40s. Also, his command is suspect, and if a pitcher is going to stick around into his 40s, he has to have great command. See: Jamie Moyer
Why not: Even lefty specialists rely on their fastballs -- or at least the speed of their fastball relative to their off-speed stuff -- somewhat. The exceptions are changeup wizards and knuckleballers. Even Thornton and Lopez need an 85-mph fastball. Still, Thornton has a lot of fastball to lose before he gets to that point.
Why: Multi-position guys get a boost because there's a half-decent chance that they'd at least be able to field first base in the 40s, which gives them an extra chance to stick on a roster.
Why not: He's a lowish-average guy right now, and as the bat speed slows, that's not going to improve.
Why: He's a fantastic defender, which should translate over to first as he slows down. Also, he was actually at the center of a reverse-age scandal thing, where he was even younger than originally thought. I have no idea how that should make a difference, but it has to help somehow, right? Right?
Why not: Oh, I have no idea. Here's a site filled with .gifs of people touching Beltre's head! That should factor in somehow.
The correct answer is "no one." The odds are that no current player will enjoy the longevity of Julio Franco and Jamie Moyer because those guys are freaks. But don't get too certain. Tommy John pitched until he was 46, well over a decade after he had an experimental surgery on his elbow that was named after him. That might be the most amazing story of them all, and it leaves open the possibility of Rafael Furcal, Ryan Howard, or Roy Oswalt sticking around for another 15 years and saying, "Remember those health problems I used to have in my 20s? What was that about?"
The comments are open for your guess as to the current player most likely to go the Franco/Moyer path ...