That ’70s Project: Summer update

That 70s Project
John Lackey is atop the class of players born in the 1970s. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

Three months ago, as teams were still in spring training, I took a look at an endangered species in the major leagues: ballplayers born during the 1970s. This group of players had shrunk to less than 100, and it is only a matter of time until they disappear from the majors altogether.

I don’t expect this to happen for at least another four or five seasons, at the earliest. But my thinking was that the 34-and-over crowd (which is how old a player born at the very end of 1979 would be today) is on a one-way path to extinction. It didn’t occur to me that players of a certain age could find their way onto active MLB rosters after the season had got underway, and yet that is exactly what has taken place. I’m happy to report that the number of ballplayers in this endangered group has risen in both the National and American Leagues, and now stands at either 94 or 93, depending on one variable which I’ll discuss momentarily. This number represents just over 13 percent of all active major leaguers, and suggests that the “Me Decade” isn’t ready to leave the big-league stage just yet.

In the American League, the number of players born in the 1970s has risen to 47, including Boston’s John Lackey (born 10/23/78; apparently, I had just missed his name on the roster back in March); Cleveland’s Scott Atchison (3/29/76); Houston’s Kyle Farnsworth (4/14/76); Los Angeles’ John McDonald (9/24/74); Minnesota’s Matt Gurrier (8/2/78); Seattle’s Endy Chavez (2/7/78), Joe Biemel (4/19/77) and Chris Young (5/25/79); Tampa’s Erik Bedard (3/5/79); Texas’ Colby Lewis (8/2/79); and Toronto’s Bobby Korecki (9/16/79). Toronto also added Raul Valdes from Houston. The only 1970s-born player to fall off the list since late March is Tampa’s Heath Bell, who signed a minor-league deal with the Yankees on June 13 and still might make it back to the majors this season.

The National League also has added several players born in the 1970s, including Atlanta’s Aaron Harang (5/9/78); Chicago’s Eli Whiteside (10/22/79); Cincinnati’s Ramon Santiago (8/31/79); L.A.’s Chone Figgins (1/22/78); Miami’s Kevin Gregg (6/20/78) and Reed Johnson (12/8/76); Milwaukee’s Lyle Overbay (1/28/77); New York’s Bobby Abreu (3/11/74); and Washington’s Greg Dobbs (who came over from Miami) and Rafael Soriano (12/19/79). The only NL players from the 1970s to be lost this season are Pittsburgh’s Wandy Rodriguez (who was DFA’d in late May) and Arizona’s J.J. Putz, who was DFA’d on June 20 and is still technically with his team. If Putz manages to latch on somewhere else in the majors he will be the 94th player from the ’70s; otherwise the tally will stand at 93.

Some of the players from the 1970s are currently on the DL, including San Francisco’s Marco Scutaro, who hasn’t yet played this season due to a back problem. Injuries are a part of the game, but they can take on an added significance as a player moves closer to the end of his playing days. For now, the Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive” seems to fit these players, as they seek to prolong their time the majors for as long as they can.

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