The Calendar Shows Athletics Players Losing Much-Needed Playing Time

The Oakland Athletics, like all other teams, are getting older while they sit out during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. For the average player, not being able to play will impact future earnings and could increase the possibility of a shorter career.
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The Oakland A’s are aging before our very eyes.

Or at least they would be, if they were on the field, playing games so that we could see them.

Fully one-quarter of the A’s have had a birthday since Major League Baseball went into lockdown mode as the sport dealt with the arrival of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic on March 12.

That’s one way to look at just how long baseball has been shut down. Fully one quarter of the A’s 40-man roster had had a birthday in a little less than one quarter of the calendar year.

The latest birthday boy is left-handed reliever T.J. McFarland, who turns 31 today.

The A’s pitching staff has been particularly inundated by the lockdown-tinged birthdays, including right-hander Grant Holmes (who turned 24), right-hander Frankie Montas (22), lefty A.J. Puk (25), right-hander Burch Smith (30), right-hander Joakim Soria (36) and right-hander J.B. Wendelken (27).

Position players who have added a year on the calendar include third baseman Matt Chapman (27), first baseman Matt Olson (26) and outfielder Chad Pinder (28).

Baseball is a game built around statistics, but age is given relatively short shrift when the numbers game hit center stage. A couple of months isn’t going to make that much of a physical difference, but for men who have been played baseball every summer, in most cases, since they were teens, spending a summer sitting on the sidelines can’t help.

When baseball returns, many players will have celebrated a birthday during the down time. If the reopening happens in the next month or so, that’s one thing. But if the entire season is lost to the pandemic and to the owners and players being unable to come up with a compromise that suits both sides, that’s going to have career-defining impact.

At one end there are players such as the Angels’ Mike Trout, who is still just 28, who could find the loss of a full season at the peak of his abilities ultimately keep him from possibly putting up record-setting career numbers.

Most players aren’t Mike Trout, who by the end of his career will have made about as much money as anybody in the game. For those other players, which includes most everybody else, including much of the A’s roster, losing the 2020 season would be life-impacting in the sense that the average player is in the big leagues for 5.6 seasons, during which most of them will make more money that they will make at any other job.

To lose a full season would be to lose almost 20 percent of that playing time. Since future salaries are based on performance, particularly for the first six seasons of a players’ career before free agency alters the equation, a missed season is going to hit career earnings hard.

And still the calendar turns with no plan in place to get baseball back.

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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