Although he doesn't think so, Jamie Moyer is one of the marvels of sports. He is an every-fifth-day magic act. An example to teenagers and grizzled veterans alike that there is more than one way to get out a big-league hitter.
NEW YORK — At this point in his life, the physics of baseball should have caught up with Jamie Moyer.
He should be long retired, throwing batting practice at the local college, or coaching his kids.
Or maybe he should be in a TV booth, raving, like so many others, at the muscular stuff of rookie Stephen Strasburg. Or he should be spending all of his time managing the many good deeds of his family’s Moyer Foundation.
I mean, he’s 47 years old. He is facing hitters young enough to be his sons. And, on a good day, his fastball tops out at a molasses-like 82 mph.
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Since he turned 40, he has gotten lit up at least a dozen times and many of us thought that, finally, we were witnessing the beginning of the end of his remarkable career.
But then something like Wednesday happens. And Moyer, facing the highest-scoring team in baseball, the daunting pinstripes of the New York Yankees, in their two-year-old launchpad, Yankee Stadium, silences their bats with his prestidigitation.
Coming off the worst start of his career in Boston, where he allowed nine runs in one-plus frightening innings, Moyer toyed with the Yankees.
He lured Mark Teixeira with fastballs that crept closer to the inside black of the plate, before freezing him on a called third strike with a pitch that just nicked the outside corner.
In eight innings he allowed only three hits, one of them an infield single. He pitched from the stretch only twice. He struck out five, including three looking. He allowed a mammoth home run to Robinson Cano in the second, then made Cano look silly on a swinging strike three innings later.
I sat in the stands and watched the 265th win of Moyer’s career, his seventh win of the season and his 680th regular-season appearance, and listened as Yankees fans grumbled, refusing to believe what they were seeing.
The opposition’s frustrated grumbles have become the soundtrack of Moyer’s career.
Although he doesn’t think so, he is one of the marvels of sports. He is an every-fifth-day magic act. An example to teenagers and grizzled veterans alike that there is more than one way to get out a big-league hitter.
Moyer is like the country-club champion who beats his younger, stronger challengers by hitting the golf ball straight and making his putts. He is the gray-haired guy in the gym who always seems to hit the game-winning shot that keeps his team on the floor.
He’s maddening and marvelous.
In a much different way from the power pitchers in the game, Moyer is thrilling to watch because his margin for error is so small. There is no wiggle room when you’re mixing 80 mph fastballs with 75 mph change-ups.
Moyer practically has to be perfect, and when he is — when he makes hitters like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez look helpless — what he does is every bit as impressive as one of Ryan Howard’s 450-foot home runs.
There’s no reason to scout Moyer.
Nothing about him changes.
Hitters know what’s coming.
Imagine Colts quarterback Peyton Manning coming to the line of scrimmage, telling the defense what play he is calling and then completing the pass.
That’s pretty much the way Moyer pitches.
His manager, Charlie Manuel, calls him amazing.
He is proof that intimidation doesn’t always come in the form of a triple-digit fastball.
In the cacophonous world of professional sports, Moyer is Mozart. In a culture that honors youth and muscle, he reminds us there is a place for experience and precision.
Part of baseball’s brilliance is that it can accommodate both the will-sapping heat of Ubaldo Jimenez and the taunting guile of Jamie Moyer.
At times in his career, Moyer has been known to be a bit prickly with reporters and now he often prefaces his postgame remarks with phrases like, “Regardless of what people say … “
This season he already has become the oldest pitcher to throw a complete-game shutout. His win Wednesday made him the oldest pitcher ever to beat the Yankees.
No matter what people say or write, or think, he refuses to go away. And watching him win at the new Yankee Stadium, the 49th big-league park in which he has pitched, Jamie Moyer gave us no reason to believe he can’t go on and on and on and …
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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