Monday, May 10, 2010

Craft and Class

Here we sit, at the beginning of May, in first place and performing well beyond any expectations. As Uncle Teddy says, and I agree, “this is a fun team to root for.” This has been my favorite Padres season since 2006 and I don’t see that changing. Sure, no one in the country knows anything about this squad, but we’re Padres fans, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thinking about the Padres issue with obscurity this past week forced me to think about another one of baseball’s hidden gems: Jamie Moyer.

This past week Jamie Moyer became the oldest pitcher to ever throw a shutout. I’ve always been a big fan of Moyer and I’ve even drafted him for my fantasy team a few times. Over the past few years he has become widely recognized as the “Jack LaLanne of baseball,” but before that he accomplished a lot without much acknowledgement. Moyer started his first game for the Cubs in 1986 and between 1997 and 2008 was (statistically) one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball.

While currently being the oldest active player in baseball, he became the winningest pitcher in Mariners history and the oldest Phillie to ever get a hit. He's won the Roberto Clemente, Lou Gehrig and Branch Rickey Awards. In 2007 when Moyer pitched against Randy Johnson, they were the oldest lefty pitchers to oppose each other in MLB history. Moyer also won a world championship with the Phillies two seasons ago, and during that run became the oldest southpaw to ever start a playoff game. And while accomplishing all of that he quietly accumulated 262 wins. Pretty amazing considering that he was told to retire at least three times: In 1993 by the Baltimore GM, in 1995 by the media and in 1996 by his wife. At every turn he kept plugging away, believing in his ability and adjusting every aspect of his game to achieve success. At age forty he won twenty games. At forty-one he won twenty-one games all with an average fastball speed of 81 mph. Craft.

The thing I love about a guy like Jamie Moyer is that he understands what being able to play baseball for a living should be all about: gratitude and fun. And through his off-the-field work, charity organizations, and general joy while on the mound it certainly seems to me he cares. As fans we spend outrageous amounts of money to support our favorite teams and players. We also spend countless hours debating their futures and loving them to no end. I can honestly say, having met a handful of pro baseball players (I know, I’m cool), that the majority of these guys couldn’t care less about what you think. Most of them feel entitled. They think they deserve the Hall of Fame, the start, the adoration and of course the money - cause if they don’t get it then they won’t play (Yep, I still haven’t let go of 1994 completely). But not Jamie Moyer, he does nothing but work hard and constantly adjust his approach so that he can continue to have the greatest gig of all time. Fans love Moyer and he loves them back. More importantly, when I think of a player like Moyer or others, like “Super” Joe McEwing, David Eckstein, Dave Cone, Eric Davis, Sean Casey, Mark Grace, David Ortiz or Tony Gwynn - I know that they love baseball just as much as I do. And as a fan, that’s all that really matters. I paid $35 to see you play with a ball, you better have a friggin’ smile on your face when you play with it.

Unfortunately, guys like Jamie Moyer live in obscurity. Sure, a lot of baseball fans have heard of him. People who live in the cities he’s played in definitely know him. However, he doesn’t throw 95mph or strike out eight guys a game so few remember him. But, I’ll tell you who never forgets about Moyer: Major League batters. When Moyer finally does decide to retire, which I hope is never, he will have numbers that are “on the cusp” of the Hall of Fame. To Moyer’s discredit he is not a flashy Hall of Fame pick, but in my mind he is a Hall of Fame player to the highest degree.

So next time you get upset that your favorite player was caught with steroids (Jeter is next) or some NFL player shot/stabbed/ran over/blow torched some guy or their wife - remember Jamie Moyer. He is what it’s all about. I only wish ESPN made a bigger deal out of guys like Moyer and their accomplishments rather than Tiger and his failures. In 2003 a reporter in Seattle asked Jamie Moyer what the secret to his longevity was and he replied with, “A short memory.” When asked if he had regrets he replied with, “I wish I was good the whole time.” When asked the question about his will to succeed by Craig Sager after the 2008 World Series Moyer smiled and replied, “It’s just a game.” Class.


red said...

He looks foxy in that suit.

I can't say I know anything about Moyer beyond his old age and Phillyness, but now I'm inspired to read his Wikipedia or something. Well done.

Josh Elwell said...

The two-hitter was cool. But he was lame when he couldn't take a classy move to the bullpen last August when his ERA was 5+. And Atlanta's the only team this season's he's given up less than four runs to. He sure can dominate Troy Glaus and Melky Cabrera.

Dallas, $5 he's back to the bullpen by August 15th?

Digger Rachel Phelps said...

If I was as old as Moyer, I wouldn't be happy about a demotion to the bullpen either. Imagine, being sent down there and having to deal with Heath Bell and his remote-control cars.

Other interesting tidbits: Moyer is married to Digger Phelps's daughter and they once snagged a child from Guatemala and didn't return 'em.

But mostly, I respect him for not changing his style of stirrups over the years. Could you imagine him pitching with baggy pants that covered his shoes? (That style, BTW, was first adopted by Derek Bell of the Astros)

Although, I wouldn't pay $35 to watch Joe McEwing play with anything. Nonetheless... well said.