Now that the steroid era is over (well, ending, or at least partially over, or maybe getting a little complicated thanks to surgeries involving stem cells like the one Bartolo Colon had and is now being investigated for), 35 is not the new 25 anymore. Thirty-five is back to the old 35. Players don't magically get better as they head toward their 40s, as they're not invincible anymore, and they actually start to go downhill, just the way it was before players of the 1990s and 00s jumped into that pool in Cocoon, and came out stronger and more energized than ever. Now, a 35-year-old is just over the hill. Or clinging on so they don't tumble down the hill. There have been some special cases over the years of aging players lasting and producing well into the second (or third) decade of a career, but those guys are usually pinch-hitters, knuckleballers, Jamie Moyer or Satchel Paige.
The New York Yankees and New York Mets are counting on a bunch of players who are 35 or older (eight combined to be exact). And they each feature a 34-year-old who, heading into this season, was talked about as if they were about 47 (Freddy Garcia and Carlos Beltran), so we'll include that duo, too, in this little rundown of how the two local teams' baseball senior citizens are faring so far in this young season. The group of players has been split into four categories. Of course, any or all of these guys could switch categories as the season goes on. They are old, after all. Some could run out of steam, some could catch a second win and rejuvenate their game and some could possibly break a hip or die (well, probably not). None of these guys have liver spots or seek out the early-bird special quite yet, but most of them cross the street when they see a pack of teenagers heading in their direction and demand that their teammates turn down that darned music.
Found the Fountain of Youth: Freddy Garcia, Carlos Beltran, Mariano Rivera, Jason Isringhausen: They may not be as good as they were in their prime but these guys are still producing at a high level.
Found the Fountain of Youth But May Need to Take Another Dip in the Waters (But Hopefully Those Waters Are Legal and In Accordance With the Rules of Baseball): Bartolo Colon, Alex Rodriguez: They both got off to a hot start, but have recently come back down to earth a bit. A-Rod is a little more of a sure thing than Colon, but the Yanks sure need their husky hurler to keep on taking the ball every fifth day.
Looking for the Fountain of Youth But Stopped Off to Ask for Directions and Now Could Be on Track: Derek Jeter, R.A. Dickey, Tim Byrdak: The Captain has recently caught fire, Dickey is keeping his team in the game with each start and Byrdak has begun to get some outs while whittling down his ERA.
Looking for the Fountain of Youth But Just Wandered Off With Grampa Simpson: Jorge Posada: Is he having trouble acclimating to the DH position? Is it because he's 39 years old? Whatever the reason, Posada is performing like most players his age who have spent their careers behind the plate.
And now on to the top stories of the week in the world of New York sports.
Not Firing on Any Cylinders: The Yankees have yet to get on a real hot streak, and now they find themselves in second place behind Tampa Bay, with the rest of the AL East teams beginning to catch up to them, too. Offensively, this week was the same song and dance as the rest of the season for the Bombers: They had trouble hitting with runners in scoring position, and it's home run or bust for this gang. Jeter blasted his first two dingers of the year on Sunday, leading to a 12-5 romp over the Texas Rangers. But the flip side occurred on Wednesday, when the offense went two for 16 with RISP, and with only a single solo homer, they lost. Their starting pitching has been consistently solid, but a couple of clunkers, by Colon and Ivan Nova, led to losses. And their fielding has been shaky lately, too. The positive outlook: They have room to improve in every aspect of their game. The negative: They better get going soon, as all those slow starts by Tampa Bay and Boston are now a thing of the past.
A Black Cloud Hanging Over Queens? Coming into the season, the thinking was the Mets could contend if everything broke right for them. Well, though a few surprises have gone their way -- Carlos Beltran has been healthy and slugging (and was a one-man wrecking crew in Thursday's win), Jose Reyes is having an All-Star-type season, Ike Davis is avoiding a sophomore slump -- most things have gone wrong. Terribly wrong. Johan Santana, Angel Pagan, Pedro Beato, Bobby Parnell and now Davis are all on the DL, Chris Young is done for the season, Jenrry Mejia is having Tommy John Surgery, Mike Pelfrey was the worst pitcher in the National League in April, Jason Bay is slowly penciling himself onto the all-time list of Met busts, David Wright is batting .234, Dickey is not quite the R.A. Dickey of last year, the bench of Scott Hairston, Willie Harris and Chin-lung Hu has been brutal and on and on, not to mention the off-the-field financial issues. But with a black cloud seemingly following them wherever they go, the Mets aren't crawling into a ball and dying. They won their two series this week, going 4-2, and since their 5-13 start, they have a 12-7 record. It may not be enough to actually contend, but maybe they have some Terry Collins-style fight in them after all.
Derby Winner: Animal Kingdom won the Kentucky Derby, and as a 20-1 long shot, at that. Jockey John Velazquez filled in for Robby Albarado, who a few days before the race was thrown off his horse and kicked in the face resulting in a broken his nose. A similar scenario occurred at Citi Field a few hours after Animal Kingdom celebrated his romp with a meal of the finest hay in America, when Dillon Gee had to be a last-minute replacement for Chris Young, after the tough-luck pitcher was accidentally kicked in the face by Jerry Stiller, who was at the ballpark for Seinfeld Night. (Ok, Young was scratched because he couldn't get loose while warming up before the game and is now on the disabled list once again, but that other story is a lot more entertaining.)
What We Learned This Week: In somewhat shocking news, it was revealed that George Steinbrenner secretly helped the feds a few decades ago, which probably led to his pardon. Another secret may yet be uncovered: There's a rumor that he also infiltrated Fenway Park in 1978, the way Ben Affleck's character did in The Town, and hid inside the Green Monster during the Bucky Dent Game, so he could keep a close eye on the shifty Carl Yastrzemski. . . Longtime Yankee trainer Gene Monahan announced his retirement. We don't think he was a spy or anything, though. . . On Wednesday, former Mets clubhouse manager and traveling secretary Charlie Samuels pleaded not guilty to charges that he swiped roughly $2.3 million in memorabilia, jerseys, bats and whatnot. What's not clear is if he was trying to get fired last year, a la George Costanza, when the Yankee employee attended a meeting wearing Babe Ruth's uniform and tied the World Series trophy to his car and dragged it around the parking lot. . . New York Knicks guard Landry Fields was named to the NBA's All-Rookie first team, while Amar'e Stoudemire made the All-NBA second team, and rumors are flying that there's a slim chance Phil Jackson will return to the Knicks (with or without Hawthorne Wingo). . . A plan for a new arena for the New York Islanders was unveiled this week, which may be their saving grace. A whispering voice was heard throughout Long Island: "Build it and they will stay." . . . But we still have no NFL football in sight. . .