6/26/2014 12:00 A.M. ET
Here's an all-40 team that Jeter could captain
Iconic shortstop joins the likes of Mays, Henderson, Ryan, and of course, Rivera
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
It would be an exaggeration to suggest that baseball life begins at 40, but it doesn't end there. History is rife with superb seasons by players in their 40s.
Derek Jeter, in the midst of his final season, has to be the man at the shortstop role on the all-time 40-plus team. In his ever-humble way, the Yankees' captain will tip his cap to Luke Appling, Class of 1947, among others who have excelled at the position in their later years.
The White Sox star made the All-Star team that season and finished 10th in the American League MVP Award balloting. He batted .306 that season, playing 139 games, with eight homers, 67 runs scored and 49 RBIs. Almost as good at 41 in '48, he batted .314 and walked 94 times, giving him a .423 on-base percentage. The man was decades ahead of his time with his .399 lifetime OBP.
Pittsburgh's incomparable Honus Wagner still had his glove, leadership and great style at 40, but his bat had lost its life. After 15 consecutive seasons of hitting .300 or better, the eight-time National League batting champion slipped to .252 in 1914.
Omar Vizquel still held all of his magic with the leather in his 40s, but he didn't hit enough to steal the position from Appling on this Dream Team:
Catcher: Carlton Fisk
In perhaps the most remarkable of all post-40 seasons, given his position, the indomitable Fisk played 137 games for the 1990 White Sox at 42. He had a .285/.378/.451 line for an OPS of .829, producing 18 homers and 65 RBIs. He was 15th in the AL MVP Award balloting.
First base: Pete Rose
The "Hit King" was beginning to lose some of his "Charlie Hustle" persona and durability in 107 games for the Reds in the 1981 work-stoppage season, but he still was cranking out the knocks at 40. Rose batted .325 and scored 73 runs, driving the remnants of the Big Red Machine.
Second base: Julio Franco
At 45, with the 2004 Braves, Franco had a remarkable season, putting together a .309/.378/.441 line. A physical marvel, like Rickey Henderson, Franco still held his own with the glove for Atlanta at that advanced age.
Shortstop: Derek Jeter
His numbers aren't quite up to his familiar standards, but Jeter still has a presence that cannot be denied. The Yankees simply were not the Yankees last year without No. 2, and if they're going to make it back to the postseason, he'll be driving that vehicle.
Third base: Chipper Jones
This is not an easy call, Jones gaining a slight edge over Graig Nettles. Both were All-Stars at 40, and both still held their own defensively, although Nettles was no longer the magician he'd been in his Yankees prime. Chipper gets the call with a slightly superior offensive line of .287/.377/.455 in his final season, 2012, for the Braves. Nettles had a .261/.363/.420 line for the Padres in 1985 at 40.
Left field: Rickey Henderson
A dominant offensive force in Oakland, New York's Bronx and Toronto, Henderson had one last great season at 40 in 1999 for New York's other outfit, the Mets. The Man of Steal put together a .315/.423/.466 slash line, with 37 steals, 89 runs scored and 12 homers.
A tremendous postseason performer, his final October effort of note came when he batted .400 with a .500 OBP in a four-game knockout of the D-backs in the NLDS, stealing six bags and scoring five runs. The following season, he hit .400 in an ALDS sweep of the White Sox by the Mariners, who then were swept by the Yanks in the ALCS -- Rickey's postseason finale.
Center field: Willie Mays
The game's greatest all-around player by consensus opinion of experts and players alike, Mays still had something left in 1971 for San Francisco at 40. He led the NL in walks (112) and OBP (.425), batting .271 with a .907 OPS. He'd lost a step in center but still made enough basket catches and amazing throws to satisfy his faithful. The "Say Hey Kid" still had a lot of kid in him at 40.
Right field: Ty Cobb
He wasn't really a right fielder, but there's no way Cobb pushes Rickey or Willie off this team. The sentimental choice here would be Hank Aaron, who was still hammering baseballs in his 40s. But you can't deny what the combustible Cobb did at 40 in 1927 for his Tigers. He batted .357 and scored 104 runs with 93 RBIs and 22 steals. A case also can be made for Sam Rice, 40 in 1930. He hit .349 with 121 runs and 13 triples for the Senators.
Left-handed starter: Warren Spahn
Randy Johnson fans will howl in protest, but the Big Unit never had a season in his 40s to rival Spahn's 1963 campaign for the Braves, when he was 23-7 with a 2.60 ERA in 259 2/3 innings. He led the NL with 22 complete games. Johnson's best season in his 40s was 2004 with the D-backs when he was 16-14 and a 2.60 ERA with an NL-high 290 strikeouts. Excellent, but not quite Spahn great.
Right-handed starter: Nolan Ryan
Ryan had five superb seasons in his 40s, and Roger Clemens had three. It's another close call, but the choice is "The Express" at 42 in 1989 for the Rangers. He was 16-10 with a 3.20 ERA with an AL-best 301 strikeouts and a 1.086 WHIP. At 40 in '87 for the Astros, he led the NL in ERA (2.76) and strikeouts (270) but was 8-16 with an anemic offense. Clemens' best 40-and-over seasons were 2004 when he was 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA for the Astros and 2005 when he 13-8 with a 1.87 ERA.
Reliever: Mariano Rivera
Tremendous as a setup man in 1996 and simply the greatest ever as a closer, Rivera carried his regal brilliance into his 40s. The Sandman closed his career in style in 2013 when he was 6-2 with 44 saves and a 2.11 ERA in 64 appearances at 43. The man knew how to bring down the curtain in style.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.