Read through our six weathered veterans' credentials and decide who has the best bounce-back abilities. They have all been big-time producers in the past, but it sure is tough getting old. Who has the stamina and skills to still shine and shake off last year's struggles? Check out our breakdown, then vote in the poll on the left to see how your opinion compares to the rest of SportsNation.
The Braves will have a veteran left-hander in their rotation this year, but it's not Tom Glavine. After going 22-4 for Houston in 1999 and being named NLCS MVP with the Mets in 2000, Hampton signed a $121 million deal with Colorado. In his first year, Coors cursed him with a 5.41 ERA. Hampton bottomed out his Rockies' stint with a miserable 2002. How miserable? He went 7-15 with a .390 on-base percentage allowed, a majors-worst 6.15 ERA. and a .313 batting average allowed -- the NL's worst by 27 points!
Ken Griffey Jr.
Griffey has fallen off the radar screen and has something to prove at 33 years old. Once considered an automatic Hall of Famer, Griffey faces a lot of questions from baseball people, who privately feel he hasn't been as serious about conditioning as he should. His ailments and time on the shelf has reduced him to non-factor status. Griffey has the skills to turn his ship around, but it comes down to staying healthy and getting into better shape.
A career .294 hitter, last year Vaughn produced his lowest batting average and fewest RBI since his second season in the bigs, partly because of his inability to beat out bobbles and would-be infield hits. The rotund first baseman looked more like a beer-league softball player than a major leaguer. He vowed late last season to report to spring training in better physical condition. We'll be the judge of that. If he can achieve that goal, Vaughn has a chance to rekindle memories of the power hitter he was throughout most of the 1990s.
Alomar has succeeded as a high-average hitter for years, yet he rarely looked comfortable in 2002. His .266 average matched his rookie year mark as the lowest of his career. The 10-time Gold Glover still has excellent range and good speed but he committed 11 errors in 2002, then more than double his 2001 total (5). Despite suffering significant stat drops across the board, Robbie's competitive spirit continues to be a promising factor.
Brown has been on the disabled list six times since joining the Dodgers in 1999 with his $100 million contract. He's pitched fewer than 180 innings the last two seasons, after averaging almost 220 innings over the previous 12. If any 38-year-old can come all the way back, Brown can, but his whipsaw delivery clearly has taken its toll over the years.
Though his body does not seem to cooperate as well as it should, Gonzalez is only 33 years old and should be far from finished. When he had a poor season with Detroit in 2000, he bounced back with a strong year for Cleveland in '01. The incentive of playing for a contract should motivate him in 2003, but the status of his thumb remains a concern. He wanted to play winter ball in his homeland this offseason, but the Rangers decided to hold him back. And we haven't even mentioned his balky back.