Caleb, that was a fantastically-written article.
Enjoyed it greatly.
Colorado Rockies' Prospects Report (google)
Rockies' Analyst (google)
By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
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Moyer didn't just track hitters, either. He studied other coaches — the Minnesota Twins' old manager Tom Kelly, for example, who Moyer says would always try to steal a base on the first pitch after his team had just gotten a big hit late in the game — and pitchers, too.
At the age of thirty, Moyer went 12-9 for the Orioles and, with the exception of one lone rehab start later in his career, officially ended his life as a minor-league pitcher. Three years later he was traded to the Mariners, where he pitched for the next ten years, became the club's all-time leader in wins, made his first All-Star team, and met pitching coach Bryan Price. The night before Moyer pitched against Kevin Appier and the rival Oakland A's — at the time, the A's and Mariners were taking turns winning the American League West — Price and Moyer were talking about how while most pitchers liked to kick a hole in front of the rubber in order to get a strong foothold, Appier practically excavated an archaeological site. "So Jamie says, 'You know what? I don't want him kicking out that hole,'" remembers Price. "'I think it'd really set him off.'" Moyer then went in search of the Mariners groundskeeper. Price isn't sure what happened next — he thinks the groundskeeper applied some sort of extreme heat to the clay in front of the rubber, while Moyer insists the man simply didn't water it the way he normally would — but remembers what he saw the following day, when Appier first went out to the mound and tried to dig his hole. "He was kicking so hard," says Price, "that I swear I saw sparks coming off of his cleats."
In Seattle, Moyer finally became the pitcher he always knew he could be. He also did some things that ex-teammate Sele says he'd never seen before, or since. Like the at-bat against David Justice. At the time, Justice, who played for the Cleveland Indians, was one of the league's premier hitters. With the Mariners holding a large lead and Justice fouling off pitch after pitch, Moyer walked halfway between the mound and home plate and yelled, "Where do you want it?" After asking Moyer's catcher if his teammate was for real (he was), Justice held his bat up about waist high, exactly where Moyer threw the next pitch, which Justice hit for a home run. "One of Jamie's key things is getting guys out in as few pitches as possible," says Sele. "He knew at that point in the game that a homer might hurt him less than throwing five more pitches and letting the other team get their timing."
Years later, author Michael Lewis would witness a similar scenario while writing his blockbuster book Moneyball. Moyer once again stepped off the mound — for only the third time in his career, he insists — and asked the batter where he wanted him to throw it. To Lewis, it was a white flag, a sign of a pitcher conceding defeat. But for Moyer, who worked so hard thinking himself into the game that he's never left, it was simply another in a long line of strategic plays. "Anything to get an edge," he says.
Two years after being traded away from Seattle, Moyer realized two childhood dreams: playing for his hometown team and winning the World Series. Up until that point, he had been snakebitten when it came to the post-season. In 1997, he'd been forced to leave a playoff game against the Baltimore Orioles after only four innings because of an elbow injury. Three years later, Moyer suffered a freak kneecap fracture a day before he was to make his first start in the playoffs against the New York Yankees. (The Mariners would go on to lose both series.) It wasn't until 2008 that Moyer, after 22 years in the major leagues, finally won his first ring. The championship meant so much that he asked the Phillies grounds crew to dig up the pitching rubber for him, a trophy he now keeps in his bedroom.
Then in 2010, Moyer's elbow started acting up again. He had to end his season in July and was granted free agency by the Phillies at the end of the year. Temporarily out of work and 48 years old, he accepted an invitation to start his comeback with a winter-league team in the Dominican Republic, where he lasted only three games before throwing the pitch that tore two ligaments in his elbow. Dick Pole, a former pitching coach who had flown from his home in Florida to watch the game, remembers that his former pupil had a lump the size of a tennis ball on the inside of his left elbow. "We're sitting in the locker room," says Pole, "and he asks the trainer, 'How long is it going to take me to rehab?' And the trainer just looks at me like, 'Is this guy serious?'"
After Tommy John surgery that December, Moyer says he spent a few too many months sitting on the couch. "I got fat," he says, explaining that he weighed 200 pounds, fifteen more than normal. "Karen could see I was feeling down, so she and Jim (Bronner, his agent) started working on me about coming back." In a reverse of how his career started forty years ago in Souderton, Moyer began his comeback by playing catch with his kids at the family's home in San Diego. When he felt strong enough to audition, he invited teams to watch him pitch off of a mound in a friend's backyard. The scouts who came to see him wrote to their teams the same kind of glowing reports that Billy Blitzer had thirty years earlier. Rockies General Manager Dan O'Dowd sent three. "All of them said the same thing: He's still the same guy he was at 47," says O'Dowd. On January 17, the Rockies signed Moyer to a minor-league contract. On March 24, in what may be another first, O'Dowd's son's Dartmouth baseball team lost to a University of California-Irvine team that featured Moyer's oldest, sophomore infielder Dillon. Six days later, and apparently carrying no ill will from the loss, O'Dowd informed Moyer that he had pitched well enough to make the Rockies' starting rotation.