Earlier this month, I was looking at the Chicago Cubs 40-man roster, and I made an observation that none of the players listed were born in the 1970s. As someone born in the late 1960s who remembers at least a little bit of the 1970s, this alarmed me to some degree. I started looking at other 40-man rosters to see how many players were still around from the “Me Decade,” and the results weren’t encouraging: Of the 1,200 players listed on 40-man rosters for MLB teams as of early March, there were just 76 players born on or before December 31, 1979. That’s just slightly more than 6 percent of active major leaguers, or an average of slightly more than two players per team.
The players of a 1970s vintage are disappearing quickly, and I wanted to chronicle their extinction from the game — at least at the major league level — over the coming season. Thus, That ’70s Project was born.
When final cuts are made later this month, and the teams head out to begin the regular season, the ranks of these players will be reduced, perhaps dramatically. But as of the early part of March, the Spirit of ’76 included the following players:
American League total: 37
Boston: 5 — Chris Capuano, Koji Uehara, A.J. Pierzynski, David Ross, David Ortiz. (Note: Ryan Dempster is not being counted at this time.)
Chicago: 3 — Scott Downs, Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko
Detroit: 3 — Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez
Houston: 2 — Chad Qualls, Raul Valdes
Kansas City : 2 — Bruce Chen, Jeremy Guthrie
Los Angeles: 1 — Raul Ibanez
Minnesota: 1 — Josh Willingham
New York: 7 — Hiroki Kuroda, Matt Thornton, Derek Jeter, Brian Roberts, Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro (Note: Alex Rodriguez is not being counted until/unless he returns from suspension.)
Oakland: 2 — Nick Punto, Coco Crisp
Seattle: 2 — Fernando Rodney, Willie Bloomquist
Tampa Bay: 5 — Grant Balfour, Heath Bell, Joel Peralta, Jose Molina, David DeJesus
Texas: 2 — Jason Frasor, Adrian Beltre
Toronto: 2 — Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey
National League total: 39
Arizona: 4 — Bronson Arroyo, J.J. Putz, Brad Ziegler, Eric Chavez
Atlanta: 1 — Gerald Laird
Cincinnati: 1 — Ryan Ludwick
Colorado: 2 — LaTroy Hawkins, Michael Cuddyer
Los Angeles: 2 — Jamey Wright, Juan Uribe
Miami: 2 — Greg Dobbs, Rafael Furcal
Milwaukee: 2 — Kyle Lohse, Aramis Ramirez
New York: 1 — Bartolo Colon
Philadelphia: 9 — Mike Adams, A.J. Burnett, Cliff Lee, Wil Nieves, Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Marlon Byrd
Pittsburgh: 3 — Jason Grilli, Wandy Rodriguez, Clint Barmes
San Diego: 2 — Joaquin Benoit, Eric Stults
San Francisco: 5 — Jeremy Affeldt, Tim Hudson, Javier Lopez, Ryan Vogelsong, Marco Scutaro
St. Louis: 2 — Randy Choate, Mark Ellis
Washington: 3 — Rafael Soriano, Adam Laroche, Jayson Werth
The premise of this project is pretty simple: At infrequent points during the season, I’ll check the 25-man rosters of MLB teams, looking for these players. If any are released or sent to the minors, or otherwise turned away from the majors, I will be sure to point that out.
The use of the 40-man rosters at this point is more of a necessity, as the difference between the 25-man and 40-man rosters is 450 players across MLB, and several of them will almost certainly be among the players listed above.
And it’s not impossible for a player from the 1970s to get added to a team’s roster, either. But the truth is guys on the downside of 33 are not exactly in demand. The players from the ’70s aren’t going away for good this season, not as long as Jayson Werth still has three years left under contract. But this process will feel like watching a snowbank melt, as the temperature continues to climb on a warm, sunny day. Can you tell this has been a long winter here in Chicago?
I hope this will make for an interesting — albeit depressing — look at the direction the game is taking. Comments and tips are always welcomed.