Opening Day for Major League Baseball is just a few days away (though the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A's have started their season already with a series of games in Japan earlier this week). For all the teams, that basically means they have just a few days to make their final cuts to achieve their 25-player rosters; the grounds crews of all the ball parks are scrambling to get their parks looking pretty; and my kids are rolling their eyes at the realization that "American Idol" will be replaced by baseball games on our one-television household.
This is also a time to catch up (if you haven't done so already) on which veteran players are back for another year, and which ones did not succeed at free agency and had to accept retirement. Yankees catcher Jorge Posada announced his retirement during the off-season - he was not very happy last year being relegated to the designated hitter position and batting in the bottom of the batting order. He had an excellent career but can now focus on spending time with his family and working on his Foundation, which helps children with special needs.
Also possibly retiring (though it's not official yet) is 38-year-old right fielder for the Detroit Tigers, Magglio Ordoñez. Magglio is a free agent who has only been made minor-league offers, so he has said that he will more than likely retire if nothing better comes along. I mean, really - you had a great career in the Majors and they want you to go down to the minors to try out? No thanks!
In the same boat (and you knew I couldn't blog without mentioning him) is Iván Rodriguez, who still wants to play, still wants to reach 3,000 hits, and still continues to work out and practice rigorously in hopes that his phone will ring. The Kansas City Royals were supposedly interested at one point, but no offer has been made. Poor "Pudge" - who wouldn't want a 40-year-old catcher who has been plagued with injuries in the last 2 seasons? I know, I'm not doing a good job selling him. It may just be time for Iván to call it quits. :-(
But hey, there are several old guys returning to the Majors this year, so it's not all bad news. 49-year-old lefty pitcher Jamie Moyer (yes, I said 49!) is expected to make the starting rotation for the Colorado Rockies this year. He's older than my husband, made his debut with the Chicago Cubs when I was a freshman in high school, and has played for 8 teams in his 24-year career. I'm rooting for Jamie - I hope he makes it into the starting rotation and has a solid year - as long as the games don't go too late into the evening so he doesn't have to stay up past his bedtime.
Also returning this year will be shortstop Omar Vizquel, who earned himself a spot with the Toronto Blue Jays. Vizquel will be 45 at the end of April, and he can still field a ball like a hall-of-famer. Do you want to start up a really good debate with a die-hard baseball fan? Ask him or her to pick between Vizquel and Ozzie Smith for the title of "Best Shortstop Ever" and you'll get 50 valid reasons to support one over the other. Personally, I prefer Vizquel mainly because I watched him play more - Ozzie was a little before my baseball-game-watching time. We'll see if everyone else agrees with me when Vizquel retires and is eligible for Hall of Fame voting.
You know who else is back? Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte (39) and righty closer Mariano Rivera (42). Pettitte just came out of retirement and has been pitching quite adequately in Spring Training, and Rivera, well, he just doesn't get old! They are both two Yankee greats that even Yankee haters respect - let's just hope they're not great enough this year to get into the post-season!
Finally, I can't end a blog about geriatric players without mentioning Jim Thome. Thome is 41, and thanks to Ryan Howard's torn Achilles tendon, is being given the chance to play first base for the Philadelphia Phillies. Thome spent most of his career with the Cleveland Indians (where he played along with Vizquel), and is just one of those guys everyone loves. Again, let's hope he has a good season individually; we don't need the Phillies in the playoffs again this season!