Jamie Moyer's America

Publish date:

The following is the completion of an aborted Jamie Moyer column written sometime after midnight on Saturday night. One of the fun parts of being a newspaper columnist is, because of the absurdity of deadlines, we often get to start columns on spec. With a drop-dead 1:30 a.m. deadline for a game that, very clearly, would not be over at 1:30 a.m., the key is to guess who might be the hero and start writing that as if he IS the hero. Then, when he becomes somewhat irrelevant -- as Philadelphia starter Moyer became after Tampa scored four runs to tie the score -- you throw out the column and begin again.

Now, because of the magic of blogs, we can (at least) recycle those lost columns. Here you go:

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PHILADELPHIA -- Jamie Moyer is wily. No, wait, that's not the right word. I was thinking of some other word, one that... what is that word? You ever had that, where the word you're thinking of doesn't come right to, um, you know, um, mind? Jamie Moyer is not wily, no, he's tricky. No, he's canny. No, that's not it. Where's the computer thesaurus? Here we go. Right, he's cunning or sly or shrewd. No, none of those are quite the right word to describe a 45-year-old lefty (almost 46) who throws an 82-mph fastball and made the Tampa Bay Rays melt away like an ice cream cone on a sidewalk in the World Series.

There should be a word for it, you know, a word for slow-throwing left-handed pitchers who get batters out and make them bang the bat like Bam-Bam in frustration -- a word, you know, a simple word to describe Jamie Moyer.

"Crafty," Florida Marlins right fielder Cody Ross said.

"Crafty," Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre said.

"Very crafty," Milwaukee manager Dale Sveum said.

"Moyer is so crafty," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel says.

Right. He's savvy. No, wait, um, what was that word again?

"Crafty," catcher Paul Lo Duca said.

"Crafty veteran," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

"Crafty lefty," briefly crafty lefty Terry Mulholland said.

"The best definition of a crafty lefty," former Royals star Mike Sweeney said.

"He's crafty," former teammate Jay Buhner said.

"Crafty," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.

"Classic crafty lefty," former slugger Rafael Palmeiro said.

Oh, right. The first person to call Jamie Moyer crafty in print, best I can tell, was Buck Rodgers back in the 20th century. He was manager of the Montreal Expos then. The historic date was July 2, 1986. That was, as it turned out, the very day that Lindsay Lohan was born. Let's face it: If I had any idea how to run a blog, this obviously would be a very good place for an utterly gratuitous photograph. Let's give it a try (at right):

You could argue, pretty persuasively, that I have no idea what I'm doing.

Anyway, that day, a 23-year-old version of Jamie Moyer threw 6 2/3 innings and allowed four runs. He struck out eight, which seemed rather un-crafty of him, but Buck Rodgers always could see into the future. "He had a good motion," Buck said.* "He is a crafty left-hander."

*So, you now ask: If you name your son Buck, what are the odds that he (or she, if you are so inclined) will become a big league manager or a country singer? This is why we have statisticians working around the clock, 17 to 22 hours a day, depending on how much homework they have. The correct answer.

Chance that your son will become a manager: 74.3%

You have Buck Martinez, Buck Showalter, Buck Rodgers, Buck Ewing, Buck Herzog and also the Buckies -- Bucky Walters, Bucky Harris and Bucky Dent. John Buck, though his name does not fit precisely, could become a manager someday, and Al Buckenberger did manage at the turn of the last century.

Chance that your son will become a country singer: 12.5%

Back to Moyer. Players and managers appreciate his craftiness, but not nearly as much as us sportswriters. Over the years, in newspapers across our great land, Moyer has been called a crafty veteran, a crafty lefty, a crafty Southpaw, a crafty left-hander, the definition of a crafty left-hander and, my favorite, the stereotypical crafty left-hander. Wonder who stereotyped him. At some point he became so much of a craftsman that he created his very own category, the "Jamie Moyer type," which is fairly odd because, to be honest about it, there has never been anything quite like him. This year, at age 45, he won 16 games. Everyone here knows how I feel about pitchers victories, but for the point of simplicity lets go with those:

Lefties who have won 15 games (or more) at age 45 (or older)1. Jamie Moyer.2. Nobody.


Lefties who have won 12 games (or more) at age 45 (or older)1. Jamie Moyer2. Nobody.


Lefties who have won 10 games (or more) at age 45 (or older)1. Jamie Moyer2. Nobody.

So it goes. Tommy John, who no doubt unleashed some craftiness on the masses in his own bionic way, won nine games when he was 45. Also ... Jesse Orosco won two games when he was 45.

Anyway, a quick scan of the Internet gives me 14 players who, recently, have been called Jamie Moyer types -- some young, some retroactively, some I've never even heard of, and that means it's time for:

The Ballad of the Crafty Lefty (using players on the Internet who were called "Jamie Moyer types"):

Jamie Moyer's no destroyerClear his craftiness is more than hypeBut every season, none dare call it treasonThere's a brand new harvest called "Moyer type."

Jeff Fassero, wing and prayer-oKenny Rogers, Jimmy KaatGlendon Rusch throws liver and mushDoug Davis throws all that he's got

Andy Pettitte doesn't sweat itKenny Rogers speaks with his fistBarry Zito's incomplete-oJon Lester doesn't belong on this list

Matt Maloney waits by the phone-yWho is Adam Pettyjohn?*Gabbard Kason is a slop basinYes his name is upside down.

Also Lenny DiNardo

*As brilliant reader Andy points out: "You should read up on Adam Pettyjohn. He was devastated by ulcerative colitis and missed three years right after he broke through to the bigs and finally got another shot this year. A great story." I have no doubt. I really just needed a rhyme, and to be honest, Pettyjohn and upside down really is not all that great a rhyme.

The question, mirror, mirror: Is Jamie Moyer the craftiest of them all, y'all? Well, of course, it is time to get those statisticians away from this week's spelling words and have them work out an utterly incomprehensible formula to figure it out. The formula, I can tell you, uses victories, strikeouts, ERA+, WHIP and various other mathematical atrocities in an effort to bring clarity to this foggy question and, more importantly, bring an end to this column that should have died long ago:

10. Rube Walberg, 80.7 on the Craftiness ScaleComment: Star for the Philadelphia Athletics for a while -- won 20 games in 1931 -- there are two good bits of trivia about him. One, he was traded to Boston in 1933 along with Hall of Famer Lefty Grove. And two, according to Baseball Reference he gave up more than 10 percent of his home runs to Babe Ruth. That lefty-lefty matchup didn't work out so well. Walberg gets bonus points for being named "Rube."

9. Clarence Mitchell, 84.7 Comment: Lefty from Nebraska crafted his away around the big leagues for 18 years and six different teams despite striking out a rather stunning 2.2 batters per nine innings.

8. Larry French, 95.6Comment: Won 10 or more games for 11 straight seasons from 1930 to 1940, and then was excellent on the sitcom Family Affair.*

*Of course that was really Sebastian Cabot as Mr. French on Family Affair, which allows me to mention that Sebastian Cabot was also the narrator's voice for the Winnie the Pooh movies.

7. Kenny Rogers, 107.5Comment: Should have been the craftsman of his time, but instead is often called a "Jamie Moyer type" even though he's just two years younger than Moyer and probably achieved craftiness at about the same time. Moyer's first true crafty season was probably 1993. Rogers had his first crafty season that same year. It's all very confusing. Maybe you can't be crafty and throw a perfect game and shove cameramen and share names with the guy who sang Lady.

6. Curt Simmons, 111.5Comment: Had a classic crafty-lefty year when the Cardinals won it all in '64 -- went 18-9 with 3.43 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 244 innings. Unlike Moyer he could not maintain that craftiness.

5. Jerry Reuss, 118.6Comment: Crafty and underrated lefty, which is tough to do, he won 14 games when he was 22, he won 13 games when he was 39, and he won double digits 10 times between. Reuss wasn't really crafty as a young pitcher -- he threw pretty hard and he was very wild. The craftiness came later, as it so often does.

4. Tom Zachary, 124.8Comment: Pitched just after Deadball, my favorite thing about him is that on his Baseball Reference page they list his name and follow it with "a.k.a. Zach Walton in 1918." What the heck happened there? That was his first year in the big leagues. So that means he showed up, a kid from North Carolina, and said, "Call me Zach Walton. I like that name. Zach Walton. Sounds tough." And then the next year, he goes, "Um, my real name is Tom Zachary, let's go with that from now on."

Zachary is also the answer to two trivia questions: 1. Who gave up Babe Ruth's 60th homer in 1927? 2. Who had the most victories in a season (12) without a loss? If you guessed Tom Zachary on both of those, congratulations, you're a winner.

3. Earl Whitehill, 124.9Comment: They called him The Earl because, you know, it was like a play off his first name. Wikipedia, which is always right, has a classic crafty story about Earl getting mad at Ty Cobb because Cobb ran in from center field to tell the The Earl to throw curveballs. Whitehill also knocked out Lou Gehrig with a pitch, which would seem to take away from his crafty credentials. But a guy who wins 218 games has a 4.36 ERA and walks more than he strikes out has to be pretty crafty.

2. Jamie Moyer, 126.2Comment: Not the craftiest?

1. Herb Pennock, 163.8Comment: Nope. Pennock wins by landslide. He's in the Hall of Fame on sheer craft (his 9.83 hits per nine innings is, I believe, the highest for any pitcher in the Hall) and his ability to tell some good Babe Ruth stories. He won 240 games and struck out only 1,227 batters. He was, as you know, a Jamie Moyer type.