You know that sinking feeling you get when your team decides to go all-in on some increasingly calcifying veteran free agent on the wrong side of 35? Well, it’s happening less and less:
For a group of big-name baseball free agents over the age of 35, last year was a winter of serious discontent.
Frank Thomas, Jim Edmonds, Ray Durham, Paul Lo Duca and many others
were hit by a deep freeze that left proven veteran Major Leaguers
without big league offers, and in some cases, even Minor League
invites. It was cold and puzzling, and yet another harsh sign of the
A year later, with the Hot Stove season in full swing, similarly aged
former star players such as Garret Anderson, Brian Giles, Jim Thome,
Nomar Garciaparra, Kevin Millar, Darin Erstad, Miguel Batista and Randy
Winn might find themselves wondering where they’ll be employed, or
quite possibly having to prove themselves in Spring Training all over
Sure, two-thirds of those guys will get multi-year offers from the Giants, but what are the other guys gonna do?
But seriously, is there one name on that list that is a better than anyone your team has in a given position right now? Maybe Thome would still be useful as a DH, but with the Andruw Jones signing, even his most speculated-about landing pad — the White Sox — may not be an option.
It’s always been amazing to me that a game that is such a brutal meritocracy on the way up has been an old boys club on the back end. Those days are all but gone now, and while that may be sad in any given case — who didn’t want to see Jim Edmonds take a victory lap last season? — it’s a good thing for the game in the aggregate.
Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports that Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax will be honored with a statue at Dodger Stadium, expected to be unveiled in 2020. Dodger Stadium will be undergoing major renovations, expected to cost around $100 million, after the season. Koufax’s statue will go in a new entertainment plaza beyond center field. The current statue of Jackie Robinson will be moved into the same area.
Koufax, 83, had a relatively brief career, pitching parts of 12 seasons in the majors, but they were incredible. He was a seven-time All-Star who won the National League Cy Young Award three times (1963, ’65-66) and the NL Most Valuable Player Award once (’63). He contributed greatly to the ’63 and ’65 championship teams and authored four no-hitters, including a perfect game in ’65.
Koufax was also influential in other ways. As Shaikin notes, Koufax refused to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series to observe Yom Kippur. It was an act that would attract national attention and turn Koufax into an American Jewish icon.
Ahead of the 1966 season, Koufax and Don Drysdale banded together to negotiate against the Dodgers, who were trying to pit the pitchers against each other. They sat out spring training, deciding to use their newfound free time to sign on to the movie Warning Shot. Several weeks later, the Dodgers relented, agreeing to pay Koufax $125,000 and Drysdale $110,000, which was then a lot of money for a baseball player. It would be just a few years later that Curt Flood would challenge the reserve clause. Koufax, Drysdale, and Flood helped the MLB Players Association, founded in 1966, gain traction under the leadership of Marvin Miller.