Archive for Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Lordy, lordy, look who’s 40

Record seven pitchers starting today, that’s who

June 27, 2007

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— It really will be old-timers' day in the major leagues today, when a record seven pitchers in their 40s are scheduled to start.

The New York Yankees' Roger Clemens (44), Philadelphia's Jamie Moyer (44), Detroit's Kenny Rogers (42), San Diego's Greg Maddux (41), the New York Mets' Tom Glavine (41), Houston's Woody Williams (40) and Atlanta's John Smoltz (40) are set to pitch on the same day.

"I guess it means it's not a kid's game anymore," Maddux said.

The previous record of six was set last Friday, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, when all but Clemens started.

"It is remarkable," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "You talk about the Glavines of the world - the guys who have milestones they're shooting for, and yet they're not on their ballclubs just to go for their milestones. They're on their ballclubs to help them win pennants. That, to me, is very, very remarkable. I was weaned off a guy like Warren Spahn, who won 23 games at (42) years old."

Of the seven pitchers, Clemens has the most victories at 349. He's also got the biggest paycheck, earning $17,442,637 this season after signing a one-year contract worth $28,000,022 on May 6.

Maddux is next with 339 victories. Glavine is four away from No. 300. Moyer has 223 followed by Rogers (208), Smoltz (201) and Williams (127). Smoltz, who beat Glavine and the Mets for his 200th victory last month, is the only pitcher in major league history with 200 wins and 150 saves.

"There are days when I don't feel as energetic as maybe I did 10 years ago," Glavine said. "I probably don't enjoy running the bases when I get a hit like I did 10 years ago, but the rest of it, I don't really feel there's been a drop-off in the things that I want to do. I still feel like I can do everything I want to do as a pitcher."

Clemens and Smoltz are the hardest throwers among the group, still able to hit 90 mph with their fastball. Rogers had better heat in his younger days. Maddux, Glavine, Moyer and Williams have always relied on offspeed pitches, pinpoint control and outthinking batters.

"It's actually nice just to be mentioned with those guys," Williams said. "They've had great careers and longer ones than I've had. But, at the same time, there's a lot to be said to pitch this long. I've been blessed fortunately that there are teams that still want me."

Rogers, who just returned to the Tigers' rotation after shoulder surgery in the offseason, and others credit modern medicine.

"It's all about the doctors," he said. "The trainers have gotten better, but the biggest difference is everything they can fix these days. Pitching isn't about age, it is about intelligence, so there's nothing hard about pitching into your 40s, as long as they can keep fixing the problems."

Former players wish some of those medical advancements had been implemented sooner.

"When I was pitching, they were hoping to pitch past 30," said Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell, a star reliever with the Mets and Phillies in the late '80s and early '90s. "You always hear older pitchers say, 'I wish I'd known when I first started out what I know now."'

The seven semi-seniors have combined for 1,743 career wins, 42 trips to the All-Star game and 14 Cy Young Awards. And they're not the only 40-year-olds in rotations: Arizona's Randy Johnson (43) is on the disabled list, and San Diego's David Wells (44) and the Mets' Orlando Hernandez (41) are slated to have the night off.

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