December 12, 2004

34 Is 34

Anyone hoping that Jason Giambi can clean up his reputation by putting up big numbers next year sans steroids and despite all his injuries, had better beware that he has one other big obstacle to overcome -- Father Time. As if Giambi's world hadn't fallen apart enough over the last year, he turns 34 years old on January 11, 2005, putting him at the precipice of death for baseball hitters.

Lucille Ball Was 34

In the entertainment world, much has been made about 40 being the new 20 recently. Singer Sheryl Crow, for one, has been trying to peddle this new philosophy over the past couple of years.

I'm not buying it. 40 is 40, and  20 is 20. Sure, we've got pilattes now, and long distance running and fancy health clubs. But people have looked good in their 40's long before the last decade.

Lucille Ball was born in 1910 – which means she was 43-48 during the height of the “I Love Lucy” series. And she looked good. 40 was 40 then. Katherine Hepburn looked good in her 40’s. Bette Davis, Rosalind Russell.. most actresses did.   

Maybe Crow was talking about the plastic surgery and botox that’s available today. But that can’t be it because look at Meg Ryan.

No, 40 is 40 and I think Crow was just trying to make herself feel good.

34 and Done

In baseball, we've been tricked into believing that with all the exercise regimens, and personal trainers, and so much money at stake, ballplayers are keeping themselves in tip-top-shape and playing well late into their thirties and even forties. This is a mirage; it's only true for pitchers, and it's always been true for pitchers.

For hitters, 34 is 34 and has always been. It’s the age when most hitters have a big drop off in their hitting numbers. You name the baseball hitter, most likely his statistics fell off the map when he was 34. It’s the magic age. No matter how much today’s ballplayers work out to prolong careers and cash in on million-dollar salaries, 34 is 34. Hand-eye coordination and reflexes just drop off; injuries that used to take a week to heal take a month.

Go ahead, name a hitter

Mike Piazza – broke down in 2003 at age 34 (click on link -- age is given in second column from left)

Bernie Williams – broke down in 2003 at 34.

Roberto Alomar – fell apart at age 34.

Graig Nettles – had a dropoff at 34 and never hit more than 20 homers again.

Danny Tartabull – done at 34.

Reggie Jackson – at 35 he bottomed out. Had one more good year at 36, then that was it.

Jim Rice – the beginning of the end at 34.

Don Mattingly – done at 34.

Robin Ventura – bottomed out midway through his 34th year.

John Olerud – first bad year at age 34 in 2003.

Kent Hrbek – done at 34.

Kirby Puckett – done at 34.

Tom Brunansky – done at 34.

Mickey Mantle – big drop off at 33.

It goes on and on. 

Barry Bonds

With this said, you can now see how the evidence that mounts on when Barry Bonds started taking steroids. Bonds had a drop-off year at 34, and then was magically rejuvenated to become as potent a hitter -- even more potent -- than he had been before, as he aged into his late thirties.  

Pitching Is Different

As we said, pitchers are a different story. Different position; different parts of the body used to perform the game. It's all about legs, and arm, and delivery, and plus a pitcher can fool hitters with off-speed pitches mixed in with occassional heat as they age. Pitching well does not require quickness of reflexes.

Anyway I wish Jason Giambi well. I got my own shit going on with Father Time, so if Giambi wins, strike one up for all of us.


-- LouV

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