Catching Up With Jamie Moyer Makes One Man's Bucket List
By Jim Henneman
This one is about a couple card-carrying AARP members dealing with, and trying to justify, bucket lists. If it violates one of the cardinal column rules by getting a little personal, so be it. Blame it on experience (aka old age).
At this stage of the game, there's not much left for Jamie Moyer to accomplish as a MLB pitcher, inasmuch as he already leads more oldest-to-do-such-and-such lists than even he cares to remember. What more can he accomplish? What is the point?
There have been times when people, usually in a polite manner, have asked me a similar question. What are you trying to prove? Sometimes, I even tend to agree with them. Not to compare myself with someone that has found a way to last 25 years in the big leagues, but my guess is that we do what we do for the same reason -- because we still have the desire. Presumably, we both have bucket lists.
This, also presumably, is why at the age of 49, Moyer agreed to return to the minor leagues for the first time in 19 years (not counting a one-game rehab in 1997). When he signed a minor league contract with the Orioles, who seemed intent on trying out any pitchers with a reasonable record and blood pressure reading, I have to admit it got a little personal, because Moyer has had some involvement with an item on my bucket list for a few years now. More on that later.
All Moyer did during his first effort with Triple-A Norfolk was pitch five near-perfect innings, allowing one hit, no walks and striking out four, which I'm certain got the attention of Orioles general manager Dan Duquette, and for sure tweaked my interest in this comeback attempt. That effort was tempered somewhat by the fact that the opposition, the Buffalo Bisons, had managed only 2.5 runs during the previous 10 games, according to manager Wally Backman, who was hard-pressed to suppress a chuckle when asked whether he thought he could hit against Moyer.
"Nah … I think I was 1-for-3 with a walk against Jamie," said Backman, a former Mets infielder. "You have to give him credit -- he's doing what he loves to do."
Moyer no doubt is going to continue to do it for as long as some team is willing to give him the opportunity. Moyer is one of the most popular players ever to pass through the Camden Yards clubhouse, though his career actually took off after he left Baltimore. The person that may have benefited the most from his stunning success is Pat Gillick, who ironically was the general manager here when Moyer was allowed to walk the free agency route.
As Gillick came in the door before the 1996 season, Moyer (25-22 the previous three years) was going the other way, signing with Boston as a free agent and then being traded to Mariners. By the time Gillick got to Seattle after his three years in Baltimore, Moyer was an established starter, who outlasted the GM. When Gillick eventually turned up in Philadelphia in 2006, one of his key moves was to bring Moyer aboard and the soft-tossing left-hander (you have to love that kind) went 16-7 during the Phillies' run to the World Series championship.
Moyer had a 34-54 big league record before coming to Baltimore, but seemed to reinvent himself with minor league stints in Toledo (where he was a teammate of ex-O's pitcher and current radio analyst Dave Johnson) in 1992 and Rochester in 1993. His career record of 269-209 includes a 210-133 record after leaving the Orioles -- and 123 of those wins (and only 71 of the losses) have come while pitching for Gillick-affiliated teams.
Longevity has long been the trademark of Moyer's career, and along the way he has managed to reach some interesting and incredible milestones. He has appeared in games in 50 different major league parks, a record that may rival some of the so-called "untouchables." He has gone through two expansions, taking the total of MLB teams from 26 to 30, and six of the parks he has played in are no longer MLB stadiums. The new-stadium fad seems to have run its course, making it virtually impossible to imagine any player seeing 50 different parks during a career.
Moyer has given up what, at first glance, seems to be the astounding number of 522 home runs. It will come as no great shock that's more than any pitcher has ever surrendered in the history of the game. That works out to an average of almost 21 per year, which would make him frugal in some comparisons.
Here's where it gets interesting -- and where my bucket list comes into play. Of the 50 parks he has played in, Moyer has allowed home runs in 43. Six of the other seven are no longer in existence -- at least for MLB (Washington's RFK, Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, Chicago's original Comiskey Park, Cleveland's Municipal Stadium, the Houston Astrodrome and San Francisco's Candlestick Park). Busch Stadium in St. Louis is the only surviving park where Moyer has pitched and not allowed a home run.
It was that last statistic (parks christened with Moyer-related homers) that intrigued me when it came to my attention a few years ago. One of the notes veteran traveling beat writers used to compare back in the day was the number of major league stadiums they had visited during their careers. This was well before the new-stadium-in-every-city era, but some of the old-timers put up some impressive numbers.
When I first researched it, I had a comfortable lead on Moyer. I think it was 41 appearances for me and 34 for the number of parks in which he had allowed a home run. I started thinking about a bucket-list item that would have me in as many different press boxes as pitching mounds Moyer had occupied, but he has extended his traveling career longer than I have mine. When Giancarlo Stanton hit a grand slam off Moyer in the new Miami Stadium earlier this year, not only did Moyer pitch in his 50th, his home-run parks exceeded my press-box visits by one, 43-42.
Because there are so many reasonably close new parks I haven't seen yet (two in New York, one in Philly, Atlanta and Miami), I might still have an outside chance of catching Moyer. But I'm thinking now I should just settle for the home-run parks, rather than the big number.
Now that this latest comeback effort has taken on a local hue, there is one thing that is really starting to get my juices flowing. Target Field in Minnesota is the only active park in which Moyer has never played. Duquette has said the O's would look at Moyer two or three times and make a decision about whether he might help as a fifth starter. I'm not making any predictions here, but ...
One week after the All-Star break, the Orioles are scheduled to play four games at Target Field. If Moyer pitches one of those games, I swear I'm going to have to check the bus schedules.
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com.
Issue 174: June 2012