You know you’re getting older, becoming a real grownup, when you realize you’re the same age as Major League Baseball players. Then it dawns on you that players your age are considered “grizzled veterans.” And then, eventually, there’s no one your age in Major League Baseball left. Then you are old.
Marking your age by how it compares to MLB players is a risky proposition; I’m still reeling from the fact that Placido Polanco, the former Cardinal, Phillie and Tiger who was born on Oct. 10, 1975, the same day as me, has been retired since 2013. But life moves on, inexorably, regardless.
The good news for wretches like us is that there still are some old guys in Major League Baseball. As the season completes its first week, we take our annual look at the 10 oldest players in Major League Baseball.
To qualify for this list, players simply must be on a Major League roster; being on the injured list counts, as long as you’re on a roster. (And we olds know how it is to always feel injured.) There are some guys still searching: Not-yet-retired-but-not-on-a-roster older folks include JA Happ, Jeff Mathis and Ervin Santana.
If you are younger than everyone on this list, congratulations. But time is coming for you, too.
1. Albert Pujols, DH, Cardinals (age 42)
Born: Jan. 16, 1980 … First season: 2001
This is the third consecutive year The Machine has been No. 1 on this list, and it will be the final time: He has already announced that he is retiring after this season. He’ll do it, of course, in St. Louis, the city where he played the first 11 years of his Hall of Fame career, alongside two players who are also on this list… and with whom he has won two World Series. Pujols is ending his career with the Cardinals, which is just and right and how this should finish out.
2. Rich Hill, LHP, Red Sox (age 41)
Born: March 11, 1980 … First season: 2005
Hill is making his first start of the season on Tuesday against the Tigers, one of the few Major League teams he has hasn’t played for yet. This is actually his third stint with the Red Sox: He pitched for them 2010-12 and again in 2015. A lot has happened since then: He entered the Majors at 25, struggled as a starter into his 30s, converted to a reliever in 2010 with Boston, was a middling LOOGY before leaving Boston and becoming, absurdly, one of the best starting pitchers in baseball in ’16. He’s been solid since then too, and as long as you don’t expect too many innings from him, he could still be doing this when he’s 90.
3. Nelson Cruz, DH, Nationals (age 41)
Born: July 1, 1980 … First season: 2005
Cruz is in the National League for the first time since he had five at-bats for the Brewers his rookie year, way back in 2005. (When he was 24 years old. It’s impossible to imagine Nelson Cruz being 24, isn’t it ?) He hit his first Nats homer on Sunday and is now exactly 50 away from 500. It’s not crazy to think he’ll get there.
4. Oliver Pérez, LHP, D-backs (age 40)
Born: Aug. 15, 1981 … First season: 2002
Every one of the four oldest players on this list switched teams this offseason: Gotta learn to be flexible when you get older! Perez’s wild career – I swear, there was a time when he was 21 years old and with the Pirates and we thought he might be the next Randy Johnson – is finally coming to an end after this season: He has already said he ‘ ll retire after this final go-around.
5. Adam Wainwright, RHP, Cardinals (age 40)
Born: Aug. 30, 1981 … First season: 2005
Contrary to popular opinion, Wainwright has not said he is retiring after this season, unlike Pujols and fellow old man Yadier Molina. The way Wainwright pitched last year, and so far this year, he’d be silly to consider it: He is, improbably, the ace of this staff again, just like he was back in the late aughts. Of all the players on this list, he’s the most likely one to make the All-Star Game. (It would be his first since 2014.)
6. Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals (age 39)
Born: July 13, 1982 … First season: 2004
And there’s Waino’s batterymate, and of course the third Cardinal on this list. Molina has already announced he’s retiring, and he’s doing it while making one last ride with Wainwright and Pujols, one of his closest friends in the sport. The record for most starts together for one battery since 1900 is 324, by Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan of the Tigers in the 1960s and 70s. Wainwright and Molina need 19 more starts together to tie them, 20 to pass them.
7 (tie). Robinson Cano, 1B/2B/DH, Mets (Age 39)
Born: October 22, 1982. ^ First season: 2005
He’s back on the list after missing all of 2021 after being suspended for the use of a banned substances. He’s also off to a solid start for the Mets, which may feel like a surprise but probably shouldn’t be: Whatever else you might say about Canó, he always hits. He’ll be moving up this list: He’s still signed through next year.
7 (tie). Darren O’Day, RHP, Braves (Age: 39)
Born: October 22, 1982. ^ First season: 2008
O’Day actually shares a birthday with Canó, though you’d have to ask their parents or their doctors who is actually older: Alas, official baseball statistics do not include time of birth. O’Day has appeared in 617 career games but has never started one. Maybe the Braves will let him be an opener one game this year, just so he can say he did it.
9. Justin Verlander, RHP, Astros (age 39)
Born: Feb. 20, 1983 … First season: 2005
Actually, forget what I said about Wainwright up there: The way Verlander looked in his first game back after missing last year with Tommy John surgery, maybe he’ll be back in the All-Star Game this year too. He’s certainly making more money than anyone else on this list: He’s signed with the Astros through next season at $ 25 million a year. He will very likely be worth every penny.
10. Sergio Romo, RHP, Mariners (Age: 39)
Born: Mar. 4, 1983 First season: 2008
Romo is still kicking around, though he’s fortunate to be doing so after a rough year in 2021. He still pitched in 66 games, though you shouldn’t expect the Mariners to use him near that much in 2022. He’s got a Hall of Famer hot on his heels on this list: Miguel Cabrera, who is quite famously signed through next season, is one month younger than Romo.