Once athletes hit age 30, it’s basically impossible for them to dodge questions about production decline and the ends of their careers. While professional sports are, and always will be a young man’s game, sports media personnel and fans alike often fail to give credit to the veterans who still make significant impacts on their respective leagues.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert echoed a similar sentiment when he spoke about longtime quarterback Ben Roethlisberger this week. Roethlisberger is 37 and has been at the center of retirement rumors, but Colbert insisted that Pittsburgh’s franchise icon is nowhere near the end of his career and will still be an effective signal-caller in the fall.
NFL Quarterbacks Above Age 30 Average 2019 Stats: 65.4 Cmp percent, 3356 yards, 6.75 adjusted net yards per pass attempt
Big Ben spent most of 2019 recovering from an injury, but there were several other veteran quarterbacks who held their own in a league dominated by younger guys.
At age 40, Drew Brees was a rock for New Orleans, and he led them to their third-consecutive playoff berth. Brees led the league with a 74.3 completion percentage and ranked third in adjusted net yards per pass attempt with an 8.33 ANY/A, according to Pro Football Reference.
Aaron Rodgers also took his team to the playoffs and the Packers made it much further than the Saints did. Even though running back Aaron Jones comprised a large part of Green Bay’s offense, Rodgers still threw for 4,002 yards in the regular season.
The Falcons took quite a bit of well-deserved heat last season, but Matt Ryan still posted a solid campaign. Ryan completed 66.2 percent of his passes and threw for 4,466 yards, fifth-best in the NFL.
He isn’t a quarterback, but Rams offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth has to be mentioned here. The veteran survived yet another season on the O-line last season, which is no easy feat for anyone, let alone a 38-year-old.
Average Age of Minnesota Twins’ Starters: 28.7 years
The Twins weren’t afraid to bolster their rotation with veterans instead of younger hurlers, and their latest addition was 31-year-old Kenta Maeda. After posting a 4.04 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 2019 with the Dodgers, according to ESPN Stats, Maeda came over in a trade and is now the sixth pitcher 30 or north of 30 on the Twins’ active roster. In addition to those six, the Twins also agreed to terms with Jhoulys Chacin, 32, on Feb. 3 and will add Michael Pineda, 31, to the roster when he returns from suspension.
Maeda is practically a rookie compared to some of Minnesota’s other rotation reinforcements. Rich Hill, also a former Dodger, is 39 and first pitched in the majors in 2005. Although Hill pitched only 58.2 innings last season due to injury, according to Baseball Reference, he brings much-needed experience to a Twins rotation whose inexperience cost them in the 2019 playoffs.
Homer Bailey, yet another former Dodger signed by the Twins in free agency, is no spring chicken either, with 13 seasons in the majors. In 2019, Bailey fell victim to MLB’s ball change and posted a 4.57 ERA, according to Baseball Reference. On the bright side, he pitched 163.1 innings, his highest total since 2013 with the Cincinnati Reds. He should slot in well as a back-of-rotation starter.
The Twins have a strong veteran presence in the bullpen as well. Sergio Romo, 36, and Tyler Clippard, 35, both figure to eat up several innings out of the pen. In Tampa Bay last year, Romo had one of his best seasons since his prime in San Francisco and walked only 17 batters. Clippard was even better with a 2.90 ERA and 4.27 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The Twins easily have the most experienced pitching staff in the AL Central and own one of the best starting groups in the entire American League. There is no reason Minnesota can’t find itself in the same tier as the Yankees or Astros this season.
JJ Redick: 15.7 PPG, 45.4 FG percent, 45.8 3-point percent, 27.2 MPG
There are plenty of elder statesmen in the NBA who receive relatively little attention because of their age, but perhaps no one is overlooked more than JJ Redick. After being one of the most sought-after free agents in the off-season, Redick ended up with the New Orleans Pelicans and has been shooting the lights out ever since.
Redick is 35, but he hasn’t lost a step in three-point territory. Redick’s 45.8 three-point percentage ranks first in efficiency among NBA players attempting at least six shots from deep per game. Of Redick’s 10.7 field goal attempts per game, 6.6 are threes, and the only other player older than 32 to attempt more shots from beyond the arc is Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, according to NBA Stats.
Making Redick even more valuable to the Pelicans is his tenacity and durability. Redick has played in 50 games this season, second to only Jaxson Hayes on the New Orleans roster. In those games, Redick has averaged 27.2 minutes, sixth-most on the team and fourth-most among players 35 or older, according to NBA Stats.
Milwaukee shooting guard Kyle Korver, 38, and Dallas shooting guard J.J. Barea, 35, have also followed the three-point-shooting veteran model. Korver is sinking 40.7 percent of his three-point attempts, while Barea makes 46 percent of his, according to Basketball Reference.
Sure, Korver is twice as old as 10 players in the league, and Redick and Barea aren’t far off that mark.
But age is just a number, right?