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Nelson Cruz Is Finally Falling Victim to Father Time

Nelson
(Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

Nelson Cruz Is Finally Falling Victim to Father Time

The 2010s were fun for baseball. One of the brightest spots of the era was outfielder/designated hitter, Nelson Cruz. He was a slugger by all accounts and one of the more feared hitters in the game.

One of the trademarks of Cruz was his ability to perform at an All-Star caliber level well after his age-35 season. In fact, between ages 35 through 40 he hit 208 home runs while averaging 44 per season. He also was an excellent hitter slashing .282/.363/.551 with a 147 OPS+.

What’s even crazier is that this was arguably the best stretch of his career. Before that, his slash was .273/.334/.510 with an OPS+ of 123. Not that this was bad by any stretch, but he just seemed to get better with age.

Nothing seemed to get in the way of his performance whatsoever. That was until halfway through his campaign in 2021. 40 years old at the time, his age actually started to show upon being traded to the Tampa Bay Rays.

He started 2021 quite strong as a member of the Minnesota Twins. Through 85 games, Cruz was hitting .294/.370/.537 with 19 homers and 50 RBI. Once becoming a member of the Rays, he struggled to hit only .226/.283/.442 with 13 homers in 55 games.

In the 2021 offseason, teams were still determined to acquire the veteran bat. With the new designated hitter rule in place for the National League, many ballclubs were in need of one.

The Nationals signed Cruz to a one-year, $15 million deal, hoping for the slugger that was present with the Twins and the Mariners of previous seasons. Unfortunately, they got more of the second half of the 2021 Cruz variety. As of Sept. 5, he’s batting .235/.315/.343 with ten home runs and a 91 OPS+.

Now 42 years old, it may be time for him to consider retirement. His career is impressive, especially with his 459 career home runs, which ranks 39th all-time, ahead of Carl Yastrzemski.

Sadly, Cruz probably won’t be in the Hall of Fame. He was accused of using performance-enhancing drugs in 2013. However, this came before age 35, so who knows! All I know is Father Time has caught up with Cruz, and it may be time for him to hang up the cleats.

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