While it is preposterous, remarkable and almost downright improbable that Jamie Moyer is going to win a Major League Baseball game at age 49, that’s only half his story. For Moyer is freakish on two counts: How long he’s pitched and how he pitches.
When I first saw Moyer on TV a quarter-century ago, I turned to my wife at the time – actually, I believe she was on her way out the door to meet with a divorce lawyer – and proclaimed, “I could hit .350 off this guy.” Which is the wonder of Moyer – when he pitches, the baseball looks like a beach ball, but it keeps going off the end of your bat.
He’s the only pitcher in MLB whose changeup is a fastball.
Moyer is the dead-ball era. He’s never thrown 90 mph; his fastball barely hits 80.
In a world of Ferraris, Moyer is a horse-and-buggy; in a world of smartphones, he’s a rotary dial.
The Rockies don’t use a radar gun when Moyer pitches, they use a sundial.
There’s a baseball adage: You can’t hit what you can’t see. With Moyer, you can see what you can’t hit, and it’s exasperating.
He might’ve just been known as a journeyman junk baller; instead, Moyer’s mark on the game now comes from the fact that his baseball card soon will double as an AARP card.
Then again, Madonna is still shaking her body at 53, so why can’t Moyer still be slinging curves at 49?
Now, I happened to be 49 just a few summers ago and this is what I remember:
My alarm would go off and I’d spend 40 minutes lying in misery, willing myself out of bed. Then I’d spend another 40 minutes showering, shaving and avoiding looking at my body before going into the kitchen for a glass of juice and Metamucil. I would then take my 45-minute morning walk, which most days took only 25 minutes because I’d cut it short. I’d return home and fall asleep on the sofa for a couple of hours – calling this “an inadvertent nap” – because I was tired.
All of this would take me to mid-afternoon, which, of course, is a little late to get anything constructive started. Hello, Happy Hour!
Anyway, I used to root for the Orioles – before Peter Angelos wore me out – and, in 1994, when Moyer was in a Baltimore uniform at 31, I declared him over the hill. Little did I know, I was over the hill. Moyer? In 1996 and ’97, he was a combined 30-8; in 2001, he was 20-6; in 2003, at age 40, he was 21-7.
The thing is, Moyer is not turning back time. When he was 29, he pitched like a 49-year-old. In fact, at age 29, the Cubs offered Moyer a coaching job when it appeared his pitching days were over. And, indeed, at 29, no one could envision Moyer still pitching at 49 unless it was slow-pitch softball.
He led the National League in earned runs allowed in his first full season, at 24.
In his 20s, Moyer had five straight losing seasons. In his 30s and 40s combined, he’s had three losing seasons.
He went to Boston in 1996 – at age 33 – with a 59-76 lifetime record. He is now 267-205. Just think about that late career upsurge – I mean, imagine if Kevin Costner, at age 33, had miraculously discovered acting chops and became Olivier-like.
Moyer made at least 25 starts each season from ages 34 to 46.
His secret? Diet (lots of water), exercise (yoga) and state of mind (think positive). He makes Deepak Chopra look like Mickey Rourke.
After the 2010 season, Moyer’s career finally appeared over – his elbow snapped playing winter ball. But rather than retire, he had Tommy John surgery and rehabbed through all of 2011. After all, why should a torn ulnar collateral ligament and detached flexor pronator muscle stop a man from working?
Which brings us to 2012, where, with his eighth team in his 25th big-league season, Moyer made his first appearance Saturday in nearly 21 months – adding to his MLB record for homers allowed (513) – in a 7-3 loss to the Astros.
But in his next start, he could become the oldest player in MLB history to win a game. And when I’m dead a quarter-century from now, I just hope ESPN Afterlife has highlights of a 74-year-old Moyer breaking Cy Young’s career record for wins.
Ask The Slouch
Q. If Theo Epstein wins a World Series with the Cubs, is it fair to say he is the right hand of God? (Steve Allen; Spokane)
A. Hey, I don’t think Saint Thomas Aquinas could’ve won a World Series with the Cubs.
Q. Does your family pour Gatorade on you the rare times you get up off the couch? (Don Pollins; Takoma Park, Md.)
A. Actually, Orange Crush.
Q. Is John Calipari such a great coach that he could lead a mid-major to a vacated national championship? (Bryan Satterlee; Albany, N.Y.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.