Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Ancient Mariner Keeping Phils Afloat

Jamie Moyer was born on November 18th, 1962, just two days short of my own first birthday.

John F. Kennedy was the President of the United States and dealing with the Cuban missile crisis, West Side Story was highlighting the motion picture scene, television was still in black & white and had only three channels available, and Richard Nixon had lost the California gubernatorial race stating famously "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore!"

In the preceding months, Hall of Fame athletes Jerry Rice of the NFL, Patrick Ewing of the NBA, Grant Fuhr of the NHL, and boxing champion Evander Holyfield were all born. All are long retired from their respective professional athletic careers. Meanwhile, Jamie Moyer continues at age 45 to slip low-80's fastballs and an assortment of breaking pitches past hitters in Major League Baseball.

The team that he now pitches for is my team, and his hometown team, the Philadelphia Phillies. So far in 2008, the Phillies have been an underachieving squad that has alternated between first and second place in the National League East Division.


They were supposed to have a prolific offense, and they remain among the top five scoring clubs in the league, but they have been maddeningly inconsistent, scoring 20 runs one night and then going a week without scoring twenty total over five or six game stretches.

The starting rotation was supposed to be solid, with budding young ace Cole Hamels and returning member Brett Myers leading the way. Hamels has been okay, sometimes dominant, sometimes struggling. Myers was a disaster until a mid-season demotion to the minor leagues may finally have turned him around.

Through all the drama of a team trying to win its second straight divisional title, trying to make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1980-81, the one consistently dependable character has been Jamey Moyer.

Last night in San Diego, Moyer pitched 7 innings of shutout ball to win a 1-0 duel with future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux. The win kept the Phils within one game of the front-running and suddenly hot New York Mets.

Moyer is now 11-7 on the season, with a strong 3.64 ERA, and has logged 151 innings over 25 starts. In short, Jamie Moyer has been a godsend for the Phillies.

Moyer was born in the area, in Sellersville, PA, and attended Souderton High School and Saint Joseph's University, making us fellow Hawks.

He even made his Major League debut in 1986 for the Chicago Cubs against the Phillies. That's right, he made his debut in 1986! After a promising first few seasons with the Cubs he was dealt to Texas where injury and inconsistency led to his bouncing between there, Saint Louis, Detroit, Chicago again, Baltimore, and Boston in both the Majors and the minor leagues.

Finally, in 1996, ten years after making his debut, Jamie was dealt to the Seattle Mariners, a move that would change his career and his life. Jamie got to Seattle at a great time. It was the heyday of the Ken Griffey Jr, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson days in the Emerald City, and he took off professionally.

For the next decade, from 1996 through 2006, Moyer became a consistently strong starter, winning 145 games while losing just 87, and producing a pair of 20-win seasons. As he aged into his forties and continued to win there, Jamie gained the nickname 'The Ancient Mariner', and was a local icon in the Seattle area.

During the 2006 playoff race, Jamie was dealt to the Phillies and pitched strong, going 5-2 for a Phils team that fell short of the playoffs. But in 2007, the Phils finally won the NL East on the final day of the season.

Who was on the mound on that final decisive Sunday but one Jamie Moyer. He pitched 5+ shutout innings that day, and the Phils moved into the playoffs for the first time in 14 years.

Once again this season, Jamie Moyer continues to defy the skeptics and Father Time, and continues to find MLB success. With the last two NL MVP's in Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, MVP caliber 2nd baseman Chase Utley, longtime slugger Pat Burrell, revitalized closer Brad Lidge, as well as rotation-mates Hamels and Myers, the Phils are loaded with stars who apparently have more talent than Moyer.

But 'The Ancient Mariner' may in the end be the single most valuable player on this Phillies team. He just keeps confounding hitters, winning ball games, and keeping the Phillies close in the standings in this once again tight race.

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