Every sport has its modern Methuselah: football has its Kurt Warner, basketball its Shaquille O’Neill, swimming its Dara Torres.
But in baseball, there may be one of the most amazing current performances of all: the strange yet wonderful accomplishment of Jamie Moyer. Any discussion on ancient athletes must pause to recognize the achievement of Moyer.
Moyer, who came up to the majors in the '80s (1986 to be exact), has conquered not only hitters who face him with a matchless courage, but also the master of all men—time.
At 46, Moyer signed a two-year contract in the offseason that will extend his mark as the oldest player in the game. He would be the oldest player in the top four US Sports (NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB) if the Red Wings’ Chris Chelios didn’t beat him by 307 days.
Defying logic and age, Moyer continues to play with the intelligence, wisdom and craft that allow him to march deeper into the record books as he pursues his art. Although he doesn’t knock a fan over with his stats, he still posts remarkable numbers that go beyond his lengthy tenure.
Take for example, his strikeout total. With the help of the retirement of Greg Maddux and Curt Schilling this offseason and if Pedro Martinez can’t find a job, Moyer will move up to No. 4 on the active strikeout list behind fellow codgers Randy Johnson (45), John Smoltz (41), and Tom Glavine (43). All, like Moyer, hold these records by virtue of their long time in the game.
Interestingly enough, Moyer keeps this same company among active wins leaders, moving ahead of Smoltz for the number-three spot with 246.
(In fairness, this is probably more due to Smoltz’s stint as a closer for Atlanta between 2000 and 2004 than Moyer’s prowess as a pitcher.)
Moyer enjoys a well-known reputation for mentoring younger pitchers, particularly rising stars. With his wise style and deep experience, it’s not surprising Phillies pitchers like ace Cole Hamels and rising wunderkind J.A. Happ look to Moyer for advice and opinion.
What keeps Moyer in the game? Even as some may point to modern medicine keeping a larger number of old-timers around, it may be Moyer’s training regime along with his work ethic that brings him up the mound every fifth day to baffle hitters.
But beyond the physical element of Moyer’s training, it may be his mental mindset that delivers his conditioning to excel in a field that belongs to mostly younger men.
Also Moyer employs a cadre of cunning pitches that make batters lose it. Using both sides of the plate, he mixes it up like a hardware store paint can shaker, utilizing a low speed fastball with late movement, a circle changeup, a cut fastball, a curve and a two-seamer.
Control is the key here. Where he’s lost velocity on his pitches, he makes up for it by locating inside and out when the batter least expects it.
Plus, he’s not afraid to take something off—while a blazing fastball can be devastating, the changing the speed will confuse and confound as well. Moyer stands as the master of putting the pitch where it can do the most damage.
At no time did this become more apparent than in last year’s World Series when Moyer won Game Three. That, and his team-leading 16 wins, solidified Moyer’s status among the pitching elite.
At least among old men.