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Washington Nationals manager David Martinez reviews his lineup during a spring training game against the Baltimore Orioles on Monday. Photo: Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Young athletes are the future, but in the strange ecosystem that is sports in 2020, veteran players could be just what the doctor ordered.

The state of play: In the NBA and MLB in particular, rule changes, condensed schedules and the basic need for warm bodies have thrust aging role players into the spotlight.

  • NBA: Jamal Crawford (40), J.R. Smith (34) and Joakim Noah (35) are among the free agents signed in recent weeks to plug holes on rosters affected by COVID-19.
  • MLB: With the universal DH temporarily adopted to protect pitchers, bat-first veterans like Daniel Murphy (35), Howie Kendrick (37) and Hunter Pence (37) will get the opportunity to regularly contribute in the National League without managers having to worry about wear-and-tear or defensive ineptitude.

The big picture: Much like playoff contenders relying on the experience of their wily vets, teams in 2020 will lean on older players more than ever to provide a sense of calming perspective amid bizarre circumstances.

  • Taking it a step further, the "it's a sprint, not a marathon" reality of this summer's condensed schedule should give older players a chance to contribute physically in ways a full season might not allow.

The bottom line: An over-the-hill role player shifting their team's fate when you least expected it could be a morsel of cheery news during a year of sadness.

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Oct 20, 2020 - Sports

The Development Academy generation

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A record 10 Americans will play in this season's Champions League, which kicks off Tuesday.

The state of play: Key players include Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Gio Reyna (Dortmund), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Weston McKennie (Juventus) and Sergiño Dest (Barcelona).

Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor of Arkansas

Sarah Huckabee Sanders at FOX News' studios in New York City in 2019. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will announce Monday that she's running for governor of Arkansas.

The big picture: Sanders was touted as a contender after it was announced she was leaving the Trump administration in June 2019. Then-President Trump tweeted he hoped she would run for governor, adding "she would be fantastic." Sanders is "seen as leader in the polls" in the Republican state, notes the Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, who first reported the news.

Updated 25 mins ago - World

Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for coronavirus

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a press conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday. Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: López Obrador tweeted that he has mild symptoms and is receiving medical treatment. "As always, I am optimistic," he added. "We will all move forward."