Thursday, January 13, 2011
Even without comeback, Moyer's Amazing
Earlier this week, Joe Sheehan handed off his newsletter -- again, well worth your subscription money -- to Will Carroll, who wrote a long and intriguing column about Jamie Moyer and his non-retirement plans. Just a bit from the middle:
Moyer could, with a year out of baseball, take an intriguing step, one that seems out of character with his reputation on the one hand, but in line with his noted desire to return. What if Jamie Moyer started using HGH or other banned substances to return from his injury? At his age, getting prescriptions for HGH and testosterone would be easy. MLB had no problem allowing testosterone to be advertised during its playoffs last year, despite the fact that it was a substance that caused it no end of problems over the last two decades. There is a waiver policy that would allow for the use of banned substances, but as a free agent, Moyer would not need to have this waiver. Moyer is free to do anything his doctor prescribes. He might need a waiver when returning, if he's taken any substance that would cause a positive test, but most of what is used medically has a fairly short detectable period.
Would anyone begrudge Moyer if he decided to use a legal, effective substance to help in his return? Each week, some pitcher or another takes an injection of cortisone. The injection, usually mixed with a painkiller, is a quick fix, but a dangerous one. Corticosteroids can have an almost acidic effect on structures, doing long-term damage while allowing a player to come back in the short term. Many of these pitchers make a choice: take the spike and pitch, or don't and don't. Finding someone who declines takes quite the search; if someone does, they'll often end up with a reputation or that tag of "bad teammate" or worse, "soft." Moyer's never been those things, so given a chance, would taking another kind of injection be wrong? Moyer fought through multiple surgeries prior to the 2010 season, including a nasty infection that could have been deadly, so he's a fighter, a struggler ... but could he go this far?
I offer this for two reasons. One, because it's a fascinating question, one that I would love to hear a couple of smart but disagreeable BBWAA members debate. And two, because Jamie Moyer is my next nominee for the Wing of the Amazing.
Jamie Moyer has won 267 games, and lost 204. This does not qualify him for the Wing of the Amazing. Standing alone, 267-104 qualifies Moyer to be excluded from the Hall of Fame, just as Jim Kaat and Tommy John and Jack Morris have been. While it's true that the great majority of pitchers with more than 250 wins are in the Hall of Fame, some of them don't deserve to be there and nearly all of them were (quite frankly) better pitchers than Jamie Moyer.
Remember, though, the Wing of the Amazing isn't for every player who's not quite good enough (or impressive) enough for the Hall of Fame. It's for players who probably (or definitely) don't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, but did things on the field that really were amazing and deserve to be remembered.
Bill Mazeroski's in the Hall of Fame. When he was elected by the Veterans Committee 10 years ago, I thought it was a decent enough idea, because Mazeroski was the Ozzie Smith of second basemen. Now, I don't really think so. Now, I think he just didn't play enough, considering his poor hitting. But if the Veterans Committee hadn't elected Mazeroski -- an exceptionally vivid possibility -- he would be one of my first nominees for the Wing of the Amazing, because everybody who saw him really was amazed by his ability to turn the double play. (And yes, if you want to give him a couple of Bonus Amazing Points for 1960, you may.)
Hey, maybe someday Tommy John and Jim Kaat and Jack Morris will all be in the Hall of Fame, and if they're in it'll be awfully hard to keep Jamie Moyer out. For the moment, though, I'm going to hope for the best ...
Amazing Things About Jamie Moyer:
• Moyer won 27 games before he turned 30. Since turning 30, he's won 233 games, more than every pitcher in major league history except four Hall of Famers, including a knuckleballer (Phil Niekro) and a spitballer (Gaylord Perry);
• Moyer is one of only two pitchers (Phil Niekro's the other) to win more than 100 games after turning 40;
• Moyer is 47 years old, and recently had a surgery so he can pitch in the major leagues when he is49.That's enough, isn't it? We could go into more detail, and write lovingly of his ability to fool the planet's greatest hitters with the same two nothing pitches, year after year after year. Moyer is almost certainly the greatest change-up artist ever -- Jerry Hairston once described it as a "double change-up" -- and that's pretty amazing, too. But like a lot of guys who are going to wind up in the Wing of the Amazing, Moyer's numbers -- the wins and the birthdays, mostly -- are enough.
If Moyer never pitches another inning, he's an obvious choice for the Wing of the Amazing. But if he does come back and pitch again, at the age of 49 after a major surgery, we might have to rename the damn thing for him.