10/21/08 7:00 PM ET
It's the u30ws (Under 30 World Series)
Phils-Rays matchup one of the youngest in postseason history
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
No fewer than 24 members of the most recent rosters of the Rays and Phillies can watch the World Series highlights on ESPN, knowing full well they haven't lived a day of their life in which the cable network, which launched in September 1979, did not exist.Seventeen of those players were born during the Reagan administration (1981-89). Thirteen were born after compact discs first hit the marketplace in October 1982. Yes, youth is served in a Fall Classic that should showcase that the game is in good hands -- even if those hands have never held a vinyl record. Just listening to what television shows players listed as some of their favorites speaks to the youth of these rosters. "[I watched] 'Boy Meets World' on Friday nights," Rays center fielder B.J. Upton said. "I loved Topanga." Said third baseman Evan Longoria: "I was a big 'Saved by the Bell' guy. And 'Family Matters.'" Yes, this is a World Series designed more for fans of Urkel than Uecker. The youth is particularly prevalent in the starting rotations of the Rays and Phillies. Sure, Jamie Moyer is the 45-year-old granddaddy of the bunch, but the next-oldest starter for either club is the Phils' Pat Burrell, who just turned 32. In all, seven of the eight starters lined up to pitch in the Series are younger than 30 -- the highest percentage since all seven starters in the 1986 Series between the Mets and Red Sox were under 28. The Rays' rotation of Scott Kazmir (24), James Shields (26), Matt Garza (24) and Andy Sonnanstine (25) is the youngest Series rotation since that of the '69 Mets, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
With an average age of 27.4, the Rays are one of the more youthful teams to ever appear in the World Series. However, they don't rank in the top 30. The five youngest:
|1911||New York Giants||26.0|
|1912||New York Giants||26.7|
|1912||Boston Red Sox||26.8|
The youth extends to the lineups. Rays outfielder Gabe Gross celebrated his 29th birthday on the eve of this World Series. No word on whether he realizes that makes him three years younger, to the day, than actor Jeremy Miller of "Growing Pains."Actually, the Rays' abnormally adolescent roster, with an average age of 27.4, makes a Phillies roster with six players born after the dawn of the '80s look like "That '70s Show." Consider that the Rays have 15 players who weren't even born the last time the Phillies clinched a World Series title on Oct. 21, 1980. Longoria was just 8 years old the last time the Phils were in the Series, in 1993, and Upton was 9. Rays manager Joe Maddon, in discussing the impact of those two youngsters, uttered a comment that bodes well for the game's future. "I just think this is the beginning, obviously, and I'm not being very bright by saying that," Maddon said. "These guys are really talented, and you'll keep seeing them getting better every year." The same can be said for quite a number of the other young guns on the Rays' roster. Meanwhile, if the Phillies look old, it's only by comparison. They have 11 players under 30, including prominent lineup members Shane Victorino (born Nov. 30, 1980), Ryan Howard (Nov. 19, 1979), Chase Utley (Dec. 17, 1978) and Jimmy Rollins (Nov. 27, 1978). "Tony Gwynn and Junior Seau were my role models. Can you tell I'm from San Diego?" said Phillies Game 1 starter Cole Hamels, who is 24. "I didn't watch much TV, but any movie about baseball was good with me." This, then, is a Series for those raised on MTV and PlayStation. For those who barely remember a world without the Web and who remember Michael Jackson, not the Jackson 5. Just don't tell that to Moyer.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.