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Time. Our lives are measured in time. It governs our every day, from the minute details of everyday life to the growing notion in our heads that tells us that time is finite. It is something we are oblivious to when we are children. That is probably life’s greatest gift to a child. It is that feeling of invincibility and the powerful belief that nothing will hurt us that allows us to boldly navigate our childhood. Then, somewhere in our mid-20′s, we start to realize that we’ve had it all wrong. We won’t live forever. Maybe it’s because we see our parents getting older. Maybe our grandparents, for the first time in our lives, look like old men and women. At some point, invincibility gives way to vulnerability. We know that time is running out.
Baseball isn’t governed by time. It is what separates it from the other sports. Theoretically, a game could go on forever as long as a team doesn’t make a third out. It is that romanticism that binds use even further to the game. But, reality is always different from romance. The reality of an athlete is that time is always ticking. A Baseball player will have his peak during his later 20′s and will have finished by his early 30′s. He’ll near retirement before his 40th birthday. For an athlete, time is one thing that he doesn’t have.
That’s why fans don’t like seeing their players grow old. Older players remind us of ourselves and what we once had. We’d prefer to remember Junior as the backwards hat wearing 20 year old who was scaling walls with ease rather than the version who played for the Chicago White Sox. It’s why Willie Mays is sometimes remembered with some sadness. It’s also why we look at Mariano Rivera with amazement. As our players age and gradually leave the game, it is another reminder about time in our life. We are no longer that teenager watching Griffey and Mattingly battle it out in the playoffs. We are no longer running around a baseball diamond imitating our baseball heroes. Instead, we are reminded of our age and realize that the romanticism in baseball is best experienced when we were invincible teenagers.
But, then there’s Jamie Moyer.
Jamie Moyer was never a star. It actually took him 10 years before he stabilized himself into being a solid Major League pitcher. He debuted in the Major Leagues on June 16, 1986 as a member of the Chicago Cubs. As a 23 year old, he made 16 starts and pitched to a 5.05 ERA. That wasn’t too bad for a rookie left hander who didn’t have a fastball. He made 32 starts in 1987, winning 12 games, pitching 201 innings, and throwing to a 5.10 ERA. He improved in 1988, posting a 3.48 ERA in 202 innings. After the 88 season, he was traded to the Rangers along with Rafael Palmiero and never would get a chance. Two years later, he would be in the Minor Leagues again. After being released by the Rangers and Cardinals, Moyer would sign with the Baltimore Orioles. After dominating triple-A, Moyer was promoted, at age 30, to Baltimore where he would go on to post his best season to that point. Then, it all went away again. Two seasons later, he posted a 5.21 ERA in 18 starts.
The Red Sox gave him a chance in 1996. Moyer would post a 7-1 record with a 4.50 ERA in 23 appearances and 10 starts. The Red Sox, needing outfield depth, traded the 33 year old southpaw to the Seattle Mariners for Darren Bragg. Finally, Moyer had a team that would give him a chance. Finally, he found the place where he belonged.
At 34 years old, Moyer would put it together. Never a hard thrower, he now had mastered his stuff. He was able to mix speeds and keep hitters off balance. In a game filled with power, Moyer was using an 80 MPH fastball to go along with his 68 MPH curveball, and a 70 MPH change up. That arsenal would never get Moyer drafted today, but with it finally mastered he began his prime seasons at the age of 34. He would have the occasional hiccup season in terms of ERA (2000, 2004, 2007) because his game was predicated on batters making contact. Sometimes, there was too much contact. But, over the next 11 seasons he would compile a 147-85 record with a 3.97 ERA in 323 starts. He’d average a hit per inning and just 5.6 strikeouts per nine innings, but during those years he would finish in the top six in Cy Young Award voting three times, win 20 games twice, and make his one All-Star team in 2003 at the age of 41.
He would be acquired by the Philadephia Phillies in 2006 and would win 56 games with a 4.50 ERA during his 118 starts. In 2008, Moyer would pitch 6 innings and allow 3 runs in the lone World Series appearance of his career. The Phillies would eventually beat the Tampa Bay Rays to secure the title and give the then 45 year old his only World Series ring. It would figure that Moyer would retire after that season, but he came back for more. He’d win 12 games in 2009 and additional 9 in 2010. But, then it seemed like time finally caught up with him.
An elbow injury forced him to miss most of the second half of the 2010 season. While pitching in the Dominican League later that winter, he injured his elbow again. This time, Moyer chose Tommy John Surgery. At 48 years old, Moyer was rehabbing. He would miss the entire 2011 season. It was thought of as an ending to one of Baseball’s most interesting careers. After waiting until he was 34 years old to become a full-time member of a rotation, Moyer has won 267 games with a 4.24 ERA in 628 starts. Along with his velocity and age, his statistics actually defy success. He has struck out just 5.3 batters per nine innings. That number doesn’t ordinarily allow for long term success. But, he’s defied that conventional wisdom during a time in his life when players are really ex-players.
And now, Moyer is trying to beat time again. Instead of becoming a full-time analyst, Moyer has signed a Minor League deal with the Colorado Rockies in the hopes of completing his comeback. The signing with the Rockies is actually typical of his career. No pitcher ever really chooses Colorado because of its difficult environment. Yet, Moyer will attempt an improbable comeback at the age of 49 with the Rockies. It is still a long shot and there is still quite a long way to go, but through two starts, Moyer has allowed 4 hits and 1 run through 5 innings. He hasn’t walked a batter and has struck out three.
Whether or not Moyer makes the Rockies rotation isn’t all that important. If he pitches well, they will give a spot. And, judging from his track record, he’d probably defy common knowledge and excel. But, Jamie Moyer gives each of us a little bit of hope. He gives us the hope that even for a brief moment we can defy time and do something we love. As we get older, it means that we have to give up things. We give up innocence. We give up some dreams. We give up the things that can only be done with the eyes of youth. We lose people and we lose some battles. We look back with fondness and sometimes wish for just one moment to relive something from that time. But, for the most part, time cannot be defeated. The best we can get are glimpses and fleeting moments.
Then we see Jamie Moyer. He’s 49 years old–not remotely old by regular standards, but downright elderly by baseball standards–and still on a Major League mound. He’s not supposed to be there. He wasn’t supposed to be there at age 33 let along 49. He’s beating time by just taking the mound and competing for a job with guys 25 years younger than him. He gives us all hope that maybe, just maybe, we can do the same thing and stop time, even for just a quick moment.
Topics: 40th Birthday, Amazement, Baseball Diamond, Baseball Heroes, Baseball Player, Chicago White Sox, Everyday Life, Grandparents, Griffey, Invincibility, Live Forever, mariano rivera, Mid 20, Minute Details, Old Men, Rea, Romanticism, Sadness, Time Time, Willie Mays