Sunday, May 27, 2007

1987 Topps #227

On April 12, 2007, Jamie Moyer dueled Tommy Glavine as the two elder statesmen combined to be the oldest left-handed starters to face each other in Baseball's history, totaling 85 years and 163 days between the two. Several weeks later, on May 9, Moyer would break that record again facing the Arizona Diamondbacks and Randy Johnson. The two lefties combined were 88 years and 48 days old. Two starts later, Moyer beat the Atlanta Braves for the first time in exactly 20 years and 2 days, leading to a heightened appreciation of the crafty southpaw's distinguished career, which spans 21 years and 7 franchises.

In what has turned out to be a rare astute move of the Pat Gillick regime in Philadelphia, he traded a couple of minor-league warm bodies to employ Moyer's services to shore up the rotation for a run at the playoffs. As with most Philadelphian runs at the playoffs, it was, of course, ill-fated, but not without Jamie doing exactly what was expected of him, going 5-2 with a 4.03 ERA the rest of the way. Gillick, already having convinced Moyer to waive his no-trade clause to switch to the National League, promptly signed the 43 year-old to a $10.5 million two-year extension after the season. So far, Jamie has been reliable, if not exciting, posting an 4.18 ERA in a hitter's park and making a contract issued to a pitcher through his Age 45 season an unusual bargain.

I'd like to think that Jamie approved the move to Philadelphia because after 122 career starts and nearly 10 years of owning Safeco Field, he had long mastered the confines of his home park, how American League hitters hit there and grew a bit bored of it. Though it may be a bit insulting to call Jamie Moyer a poor man's Greg Maddux, the comparison is certainly apt. Both spend countless hours studying the flaws of opposing hitters and keep copious notes on their tendencies and weaknesses, using their intelligence, outstanding control and secondary pitches, rather than blazing fastballs, to exploit those flaws. Although Maddux will retire with 5 Cy Young awards and a first-ballot invitation to Cooperstown, Moyer will have to settle for just one All Star appearance, and an invitation to the Baseball Hall of the Pretty Good, if such a shrine should ever be built. Which, if you've ever seen Jamie Moyer pitch, should be just fine for a man who has survived in the big leagues for 21 seasons almost by sheer virtue of being the second-smartest pitcher to ever play Baseball.

Above is a portrait of the control artist as a young man, probably looking off to the distance to then-teammate Greg Maddux and almost (almost) biting his bottom lip, as if in anticipation of how he'll measure up to the first-smartest pitcher to ever play Baseball.

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