That ’70s Project: Oldies but goodies impact playoffs

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Oldie but goodie Josh Willingham delivered a rally-starting single to help the Royals tie the A’s in the ninth on Tuesday. (Ed Zurga/Getty Images North America)

At the beginning of the regular season, I conceived a plan to track the gradual disappearance of players born in the 1970s from the major leagues: That ’70s Project. I reasoned that baseball is now getting to a point where players from the decade that gave us Star Wars and disco are getting harder and harder to find.

The retirements of Bobby Abreu, Derek Jeter and Paul Konerko last Sunday thinned out these ranks even further. And a number of other players from the ’70s also have retired, they just don’t know it yet. Next spring will make the point clearer for at least a few of these guys.

As the postseason gets underway, it is worth pointing out that ’70s holdovers already have made their presence felt. In the American League Wild Card game on Tuesday — the first half of what I’ve dubbed the Oct2ber — Josh Willingham (birthdate: 2/17/79) keyed the Royals’ ninth inning rally with a single. The game then went into extra innings, and the win in relief went to Jason Frasor (birthdate: 8/9/77).

In addition to Willingham and Frasor, the Royals also had Raul Ibanez and Jeremy Guthrie on their wild card roster. Led Zeppelin will always be the prime quartet from the ’70s, but Kansas City fielded a ’70s quartet of their own, while the Oakland A’s were more akin to the Bee Gees, with the trio of Adam Dunn, Coco Crisp and Nick Punto on their playoff roster. At this time of year, it would appear that four was better than three.

The second half of the picture was resolved Wednesday, and the 1970-somethings were less prominently on display. The Pirates, in fact, had only one such player on their roster, Clint Barmes, and he did not play in the game. The San Francisco Giants carried two such players — Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez — but neither reliever was needed, since Madison Bumgarner went the distance. Still, the Giants’ version of The Captain and Tennille was enough to knock off the Pirates and their solo Elton John.

In each of the first two playoff games, the team with more ’70s-born players on their roster prevailed. Whether this trend will hold up the rest of the way remains to be seen, but for now let’s break out the vinyl records and enjoy the boogie.

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