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It’s long been said baseball is a young man’s game, and one of the primary tenets of analytics for general managers today is don’t fall in love with players 32 years or older.

But tell that to the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants whose postseason fortunes are largely resting on the continuing superior performance of their own little geezer brigades.

You start with the Giants, at an average age of 30.63 the second oldest team in baseball (behind the A’s at 31.17), who most certainly would not have been in first place in the National League West (but for one day) since May 31 without the considerable contributions of the old hands from their 2012 and 2014 world championship clubs, Brandon Crawford (34), Brandon Belt (33) and Buster Posey (34). Crawford and Belt are having career seasons — in Crawford’s case, an MVP caliber season on both sides of the field — while Posey, with his most home runs since 2015 and typically stellar defense behind the plate, has re-established his Hall of Fame arc after being plagued by injuries in 2018 and ‘19 and sitting out all of last year for COVID reasons.

As for the Cardinals, the third oldest team in the majors at 30.02 average age, it’s fair to say the 13-game winning streak that surged them from 3 ½ games behind for the second wild card on Sept. 7 to close to clinching going into the weekend, does not happen without the late-in-baseball-life brilliance of 40-year-old Adam Wainwright and GM John Mozeliak’s enlightened trade deadline deals for 37-year-old Jon Lester and 38-year-old J.A. Happ. From July 27-Sept. 13, Wainwright won nine of 10 starts while the Cardinals have won 12 of his last 13 starts, vaulting him into the National League Cy Young conversation. Meanwhile, Lester and Happ have each undergone a renaissance since coming over to the Cardinals from the Nationals and Twins respectively, combining for eight wins in August and September as much-needed plugs in their injury-riddled rotation. (It is also worth noting that the catcher for the majority of these Cardinal wins was the 39-year-old marvel Yadier Molina, in the midst of his 10th All-Star season and 13th in which he has logged at least 110 games behind the plate. Happily for the Cardinals, Molina has said he will come back next year for one final season. After that the next time we’ll see him will be in Cooperstown.

Lester, 3-5 with 5.02 ERA in 16 starts with Washington, has credited Wainwright for his turnaround in St. Louis in which he has essentially been the Cardinals’ second-best starter and will likely start the wild card game against either the Giants or Dodgers. “It’s the first time in a long while I haven’t been the oldest pitcher on the team,” he said last week, adding that Wainwright emphasized to him the importance of pacing himself, throwing fewer fastballs and working the corners for strikes. In his Sept. 20 start, Lester recorded his 200th career win, limiting the first place Brewers to three hits and two runs over six innings.

What Lester’s feat reminded us is that 200 wins is now the new 300. With the analytics-driven emasculation of starting pitchers it is highly unlikely we will ever see another 300-game winner. As it is, the next closest to 200 wins among active pitchers are Max Scherzer (190), 33-year-old injury-plagued Clayton Kershaw (185) and Wainwright at 183.

And speaking of the 37-year-old Scherzer, who two weeks ago became the 19th member of the 3,000th strikeout club, has there ever been a greater, more impactful trade deadline pickup than this Hall of Fame bound geezer? With Kershaw still carefully nursing his elbow injury that sidelined him for two months, and Walker Buehler experiencing a September slump, Scherzer has stepped into the void by going 7-0 as a Dodger, with the team winning all 10 of his starts.

IT’S A MADD, MADD WORLD

Last week the Reds’ David Bell and the Diamondbacks’ Torey Lovullo were both removed from the endangered managers list when their respective teams gave them extensions. In Lovullo’s case the one-year extension was somewhat unexpected given the fact the Diamondbacks have had the worst season in their history, at one point breaking a major league record with 23 consecutive road losses. Nevertheless, GM Mike Hazen blamed himself as much as anyone for the D’backs’ miserable season: “I’m the one who charted the course we were going to go. I’m not a martyr, but I need to be honest where things have gone.” As for Bell, who got a two-year extension in spite of the Reds’ September collapse (9-18 from Aug. 22-Sept. 23) that effectively took them out of the wild card race, it’s a wonder if maybe Cincy owner Bob Castellini privately conceded that he was the real culprit for the team’s demise. Besides inexplicably overhauling the Reds’ player development system with the firing of highly respected hitting coordinator C.J. Gillman and pitching coordinator Kyle Boddy, it was Castellini who ordered drastic cuts in the payroll which resulted in the non-tendering/releases of two of the Reds’ primary relief pitchers, Archie Bradley and Raisel Iglesias. That left Bell with one of the worst bullpens in baseball which, as of Friday, had lost 32 games on its own. With his meddling, manic operating style, Castellini has fast established himself as one of the worst owners in baseball, more interested in turning a tidy profit with his revenue sharing than trying to win championships. … With Salvador Perez, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Shohei Ohtani all engaged in a spirited home race in the American League with 46, 46 and 45 respectively going into the weekend, it is worth noting this is now the 60th consecutive season that Roger Maris has reigned as the all-time single season American League home run champion. All the steroid cheats that obliterated the major league home run records back in the ‘90s were in the National League. The closest anyone’s come to Maris’ AL mark is Alex Rodriguez’s 57 (itself with a steroid asterisk) in 2002. … Another more subtle race we’re keeping a close eye on this year is manager with the most different lineups. As of Friday, the Rays’ Kevin Cash was leading with 149, with Lovullo close behind at 147.

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