The Veteran Players Carrying the AL West


As the playoffs begin to take shape, much attention is being paid to impressive young players like Yasiel Puig and Alex Cobb.  While no one could dispute what these players and others have meant to their clubs, it seems that the veterans, who tend to have a larger, albeit less tangible role, have gone unsung.  Thus, we look at the AL West and highlight the players who are truly leading their teams in one of baseball’s most exciting races.

July 21, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Bartolo Colon (40) celebrates his 6-0 complete game victory against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Bartolo Colon

The other four pitchers in the A’s starting rotation are aged, respectively: 24, 25, 24, and 23.  Bartolo Colon’s 40 looks like a typo.  Make no mistake about it, though, the 15-year veteran has the third most wins in the American League.  His ERA is almost the lowest it’s ever been (2002 saw only a 2.55 ERA but he made just 16 starts – he’s up to 26 this year and owns a 2.96).  Colon was likely brought in as a mentor for younger talent, but his overall impact has been sorely felt throughout the rest of the division.

Joe Nathan

Jul 31, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers relief pitcher Joe Nathan (36) throws a pitch in the ninth inning of the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Texas won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Five saves from passing Brewers’ great Rollie Fingers on the all-time list, Hall of Famer in-the-making Joe Nathan continues to beat the odds.  After a long tenure with the Minnesota Twins, the 38-year old is enjoying his second season with the Rangers, unbelievably putting up better numbers than those of his first Arlington campaign.  Not only has Nathan re-written rules about age, his coming back strong from a Tommy John surgery at age 35 is proof of a durability known only to players of a certain degree.  The league’s top closer in 2013, 25-year old Craig Kimbrel, may be part of the reason some feel that baseball is now a younger man’s game; but Nathan, who’s given up only three more runs on the year, is there to remind the youngster exactly what it takes to be great.

Coco Crisp

Aug 31, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics center fielder Coco Crisp (4) celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the eight inning to give Oakland a 2-1 lead against the Tampa Bay Rays in a game at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Quite possibly the best name in baseball, it feels as though Coco Crisp has been in the league for over thirty years.  This is perhaps because the 11-year vet has never failed to deliver excitement to each team he’s been on.  Covelli Loyce Crisp (MAS PUNTOS if you knew that was his real name), RBI alum, was a seventh-round pick for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1999.  He was traded to the Indians in 2002 where it wasn’t long before he became the starting center fielder.

Despite issues staying healthy, Crisp has managed to make a significant impact everywhere he’s been.  Most notably, he was a key member of the 2007 Red Sox World Series team.  This season, he leads the A’s in runs, stolen bases, and carries one of the team’s lowest strike out percentages.  Oh, and the team leader has often been known to turn out a web gem or two.

Aug 19, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre (29) hits a ground out RBI against the Houston Astros during the third inning of a baseball game at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

Adrian Beltre

If the MLB gave an award for most underappreciated, Adrian Beltre would be a serious contender.  Beltre is top five amongst all third basemen in runs, singles (owns first place), home runs, and RBIs, all the while boasting one of the top fielding percentages year after year.  Plagued by inconsistency throughout most of his career, the Santo Domingo product has seemed to be truly at home in Arlington Ballpark.  He leads the Rangers in most every offensive category, including average and on base percentage.

Perhaps most importantly, though, Adrian Beltre has served as an effective leader throughout such distractions as the Josh Hamilton departure and the Nelson Cruz suspension.  Beltre continues to put the Rangers on his back, all while wearing a smile.  Hopefully when Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar line up next to him at Short, they can absorb some of his wisdom and ability.