We're still early in Yankees camp, but it appears that the biggest story out of Tampa is going to be the one about whether or not Mariano Rivera will call it a career at the end of the season.
After Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada in the last two years, it feels like this is an official trend for the team that will eventually make its way to Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. It runs parallel to another trend in Yankeeland, the one that leads to a bunch of people wondering if the Yankees are too old to make a run at the World Series title.
Joel Sherman of the Postkicked things off this weekend with a piece that examines the larger movement in the major leagues away from older players. There are just 75 players in camps this year who are 36 or older and no team has more than the six that the Yankees brought with them to Tampa.
That's left players like Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Vladimir Guerrero unemployed right now and may force some of them into an early retirement as the league moves away from aging stars whose production has declined in recent years. Thanks to long-term contracts and sentimental attachments, the Yankees don't have much choice but trying to buck the trends with players old enough to be the fathers of 19-year-old Gary Sanchez, the Yankee prospect who is the youngest player in any big league camp.
Sherman shies away from the histrionics about falling skies that sometimes accompany this topic and he does it for good reason. Every year these concerns find their way to the forefront and they wind up amounting to much ado about nothing as the Yankees find their way back to the postseason.
Advancement in the postseason has never come down to the team being markedly older than the opposition and you could argue that their ability to keep getting back to October is helped by an experienced roster remaining on an even keel over the regular season. This year looks like it is going to be more of the same.
Jeter and Rodriguez are older than most left sides of the infield that you'll encounter, but they are also a good bit more accomplished than most of their peers throughout history. Both players have declined, but neither one has fallen off a cliff and there's no reason to think that it is going to happen this summer.
Rivera is the oldest player on a 40-man roster, but comparing him to anyone who has come before is well-established folly at this point in time. Age simply doesn't affect him the way it affects others.
Hiroki Kuroda, signed as a free agent this offseason, is 37 years old and there have only been two pitchers that age to make 30 starts in the last two seasons. But the acquisition of Michael Pineda means that the Yankees are looking for Kuroda to provide stability at the back of the rotation, something Bartolo Colon did last year even though he fell short of that 30-start mark.
If there's a place for concern, it is on the bench where Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez are all on the wrong side of the hill without the kind of athleticism and versatility you see from backup infielder Eduardo Nunez. How much that winds up mattering remains to be seen, but it would be nice to see something a bit more dynamic given the options the Yankees have available to them for the money.
But the main takeaway is that while the broad strokes of recent baseball history run counter to the plan the Yankees have adopted, the Yankees' own recent history has shown that the age of their roster isn't a tremendous worry.