Baseball legacies are defined in a way that is pretty unique by comparison to the other four major sports. In a game so controlled by numbers and statistics defining greatness due to there being so many more moving parts to bring home a World Series, the “ring culture” that comes with the pressure of winning a title isn’t necessarily the same as a sport like basketball, where that can make-or-break a player’s status in the history books.
While that may be the case, playoff success and at least being able to say that the player ended up with a championship when it’s all said and done is still a fascinating aspect to watch. Yes, Clayton Kershaw was going to end up in the Hall of Fame even if he didn’t finally get his one World Series to win in 2020 with the Dodgers, but now the monkey is off his back when we look back on him decades from now.
It’s time to break out the Just For Men hair dye because we’re going to take a look at some of the graying candidates that would be interesting case studies with a World Series ring. These are the “Old Guy Without a Ring” Watch Candidates.
- Evan Longoria, Arizona Diamondbacks 3B, 37 years old
The Tampa Bay Rays legend that’s responsible for one of the most famous home runs in MLB regular season history that’s a 3-time All-Star, 3-time Gold Glove winner, and Silver Slugger winner was once one of the premier faces of baseball. When you think about those pesky Rays teams that would give the big-market Yankees and Red Sox troubles throughout the 2010s, you think about Longo as the man on that franchise.
Longoria has had a bit of a second career life after not re-signing in Tampa in 2018, opting to play with a San Francisco Giants veteran roster for 4 seasons, and rather than retire this year, he’s playing quality minutes as the grizzled and wise veteran for a young Diamondbacks team that’s off to a winning start! He’s batting .333 and is likely a great voice in the clubhouse.
The Diamondbacks have a slim chance of winning it all this year, barring a miraculous run, so if they were to flip Longo to a contender at the deadline if he continues to produce to maximize his value for their future, it would be delightful to see a man on the Tampa Bay Rays’ Mt. Rushmore of players cap off his career with at least one ring before it’s all said and done.
- Nelson Cruz, San Diego Padres DH, 42 years old
Ah, yes, the current oldest bear in the big leagues left. You may know him as the Texas Rangers outfielder who, if he would have fielded a fly ball to right field properly, would have sealed a World Series victory for them in 2011. You may know him as a subject of the biogenesis steroid scandal in 2013. You may know him as the current big boy old man who has been a “homer for hire” player that signs mini deals with the Orioles, Mariners, Twins, Rays, Nationals, and now the Padres as just an old big fella that’s gonna mash it 500 feet every now and then. Nelson Cruz has been many things, but a central figure of these last two decades sum up his career.
The biogenesis scandal with Cruz almost seems to come off as an afterthought because Cruz was the subject of that tragic mishap in the 2011 World Series, and he’s just plainly a likable guy in the clubhouse! He’s electric yet even-keeled, he apparently naps before every single game, and he apparently has an entire entourage of friends and trainers that take care of his multiple cell phones and regimen. He’s also a 7x All-Star, 4x Silver Slugger winner, and has over 2,000 hits and 461 homers while being the GM of the Dominican Republic National team as an active player…
Cruz was signed as a hired gun on a Padres team that is all-in on winning a World Series. While he’ll still have the black cloud of the World Series debacle and the scandal, Cruz is the grandpa of the MLB that could at least cap off a career in which he left footprints everywhere with a title as an impactful bat.
- Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals SP, 39 Years Old
A 6x All-Star, a Cy Young Winner, a 6x Gold Glove, and a 2x Silver Slugger as a pitcher, Greinke has been the model of success and consistency in every single location that he’s been. While he’s made several World Series and been in big-time postseason games, the potentially most-interesting personality in baseball over the past decade has never been able to take home the glory and cap it off with a victory.
He’s closed off and reserved, yet there are a million stories of teammates regarding his intelligence on the game that ultimately makes him the impactful yet cartoon character he is. When signing his major deal with the Diamondbacks in 2015, it came with a package that included guacamole after being infuriated by the price at Chipotle (then a minority stake in their company), a Blu-Ray copy of The Shawshank Redemption, and a samurai sword, which Greinke collects.
You put up with Greinke being an enigma because of the payoff on the mound every single night. Greinke has always been worth the asking price of his high-dollar deals (and the guac). He’s a scientist in his craft that rarely gives up walks and will get a maximum value out of every pitch thrown.
While he’s content for a “one last hurrah” run with the team, he started with in Kansas City for the second straight year; the Royals are another team in the “let’s do right by Greinke” that would be fun as a deadline addition to a contender needing starter depth. Let’s put a World Series ring on his chip-dipping hand.
- Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds 1B, 39 Years Old
The stories of Joey Votto alone are enough to make a Hall of Fame career case for the man who has become an almost mythological figure.
People have said that he loves to clean so much that there should be an Instagram account for him called “Joey Moppo.” He has a Lamborghini at home but drives a minivan to the clubhouse because it’s easier to transport his dog. He’s a chess fanatic and travels the world for tournaments. His mic ’d-up antics are some of the best in all of sports in the manner in which he talks to the fans and opposing players.
He also happens to be a former NL MVP winner, has over 2,000 hits, and is a 6x All-Star. His counting stats aren’t going to be as relevant as other Hall of Famers for their case, but the on-field adaptations he’s made over the longevity and what he brings on a day-to-day basis is revolutionary. One of the best Joey Votto stats ever is that he started off his career with 8,130 plate appearances before finally popping out to the infield for the first time. He’s the most calculated bat of this era.
While the Reds did tear down their 2020 core and sold off essentially every piece they had but Votto, he’s been very adamant that he loves the franchise and wants to end his career as a Red. That may hold him back from getting that final moment to recapture playing meaningful games, as Votto is working on getting off the IL. Still, it would be an interesting deadline moment for them to give him that “go get it” moment should they add him to a team better suited to win a ring before his final curtain call.