A Sad Sunset on Jamie Moyer's Horizon?

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A Sad Sunset on Jamie Moyer's Horizon?

The Philadelphia Phillies, the defending World Champions, are without a doubt a team loaded in talent. From top to bottom, the Phillies have guys who are considered among the best at their position. 

There is Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez's power, Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins' speed, Cole Hamels (and now Cliff Lee's) pitching, and Chase Utley's all around brilliance. 

But if you ask me what I most look forward to watching when it comes to the current Phillies team, I would have to say watching Jamie Moyer pitch. Sure, he gets rocked from time to time, but what No. 4/5 guy in a rotation doesn't? 

There is just something about watching Jamie Moyer pitch that brings out the kid in me.  When you watch Moyer throw, you think to yourself, "Hey, if he can do it, I could have too". 

Of course none of us could, but watching a six foot, 185 pound, 46-year-old makes you think you'd have a chance. 

I can't think of a guy that has done so much with so little noticeable talent. And when you combine all of that with the fact that he is one of the classiest guys in all of sports, and a hometown hero, he simply blows me away. 

I dare you to go onto the Moyer Foundation's website, spend a few minutes on it, and then tell me Jamie Moyer isn't one of your favorite guys in all of sports.

As I watched Jamie Moyer drive by in the World Series victory parade this past October, all I could think was "there is a guy that deserves to be up there." 

And that is what makes writing this article so hard.

Now I can't imagine Jamie doesn't make it through the year in the rotation (barring injury). He will certainly get knocked around a few more times, but even with his high ERA he still leads the team in wins. 

I'm sure its just a coincidence, but the fact that he leads the team in wins with an ERA above 5.5 makes me think the offense trys just a little bit harder when Moyer takes the hill. 

But with Ruben Amaro Jr. announcing that J.A. Happ will remain in the rotation through the season, and with the positive signs about Pedro Martinez pointing toward a spot in the rotation for him, you have to wonder, what happens to Jamie?

It is not out of the question that the Phillies go to a six-man rotation. At least it isn't according to Amaro Jr

I can't imagine, at this point in a season, a full six-man rotation is an idea that is worth, or even smart, trying. Sure, it will help a guy like Happ who is throwing more innings this season then he ever has before, and it will probably be good for Pedro Martinez who won't be able to throw a whole lot of innings before he gets hurt again, but it probably hurts just about everyone else. 

Pitchers, like most baseball players, are creators of habit. At this point in the year, guys are used to, expect, and want to pitch every fifth day. If you mess with a pitcher's routine, you mess with his confidence—and when a pitcher's confidence goes, they go into long, seemingly inescapable death spins (just ask Brad Lidge). 

Recently, Cole Hamels has shown some definite signs of fatigue, so for sake of argument, let's just assume that the Phillies brass decides to go to a six-man rotation to give Cole some extra rest. And let's also assume the Phillies don't pull a Flushing Meadows Special and forget how to win the last month-and-a-half of the season.

With the Phillies in the playoffs, what happens to Jamie Moyer?

He certainly won't pitch out of the bullpen. If you want to talk about a guy who has earned the right not even to be asked to pitch out of the pen, its Jamie Moyer. And the Phillies won't ask. Not just out of respect, but because he probably wouldn't be all that effective. 

Moyer is the type of pitcher that sets guys up at-bats in advance. He works a lineup from top to bottom the entire game, and while doing everything he can to get the current batter out, he is also thinking a few batters ahead.

It's like asking a great chess player to come into a game you've been playing, asking him to make one move, and then expect good results. That's just not how it works, and that's not how Jamie Moyer pitches. 

So, with that out of the picture, you look as his bread and butter—the rotation. I'd imagine the Phillies will start the playoffs with a four-man rotation like they did last year. 

Obviously Hamels and Lee are in there, so you're left with two spots. Blanton gets in because he eats innings, has been pitching great, and is right handed. So the last spot comes down to Martinez, Happ, and Moyer. Certainly not an easy choice. 

It's easy to assume Happ is going to continue to put up phenomenal numbers the rest of the year, and if he does, the choice is easy. But odds are he'll get tired as the innings pick up, and the choice won't be so clear. If a healthy, rested Martinez pitches great, he could end up making it a one-man race as well.

What seems to make the most sense is the Phillies pitching either Martinez or Happ—depending on the starting match-up—and keeping the innings short using the other man out of the pen as the match-ups change. 

Happ has already proved he can be effective as a starter and a reliever, and Martinez has incentives built into his deal that specifically refer to bullpen work, so it's not something he is completely opposed to. 

So where does that leave Jamie? Do they give him a roster spot in case of an emergency? I would have to guess that they wouldn't—especially if the "Brett Myers is way ahead of schedule" rumors are true. 

If they're going to have a guy like that in the bullpen, it would be Brett before it would be Jamie. So, he's out of the rotation, and the pen isn't happening, and that pretty much leaves us out of options. 

All is not lost. Jamie still has another year left on his contract, but its not a lock that he would return—especially if he were to be left off the playoff roster. 

It's also not a lock that the Phillies will have room for him next year. Hamels, Lee, and Happ are locks for a spot, and I can't imagine the Phillies will let Blanton go without signing another right-handed pitcher first. 

So that takes up four spots. The final spot is the one that is up in the air. I can't imagine the Phillies wouldn't give super-prospect Kyle Drabek a shot after the fuss they made about hanging onto him. And if that is the case, I'm not sure if Moyer is willing to spend a spring competing for a spot on the team. 

Which is why I think all signs point to retirement. As sad as it is to say, I just don't see Jamie coming back. There has also been all kinds of talk about how great of a pitching coach Jamie would be, as he practically takes on that responsibility to a lot of the young arms now, but Jamie has never said he wanted to coach. 

In fact, he has almost said the opposite. Jamie seems to be looking forward to a long retirement in Seattle, where he and his wife can watch their kids grow up.

No matter how it ends, the legacy of Jamie Moyer won't be tainted—mostly because Jamie won't let it. If Moyer is left off the playoff roster, is told he will have to compete for a spot in the rotation next year, and decides to retire instead, he won't hold a grudge. He's too classy of a guy. 

He knows how the game works, and he is committed to doing what is best for whatever team he plays for—even if that means he needs to step aside. 

So if next year Kyle Drabek (or anyone for that matter) replaces Jamie Moyer in the Phillies rotation, let's not just hope we replace a great pitcher with another one, let's hope that the replacement has half the class as the man he replaces.

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