Bill Conlin: Jamie Moyer a Hall of Famer?

Jamie Moyer: 33 W's from 300
Jamie Moyer: 33 W's from 300
Posted: June 29, 2010


BERT BLYLEVEN, the Flinging Dutchman, missed Cooperstown last winter by five votes. It was his 13th chance to nail the required 75 percent of the BBWAA vote. He got 74.2. So, the author of a 287-250 record over a 22-year career should be on the Hall of Fame podium next summer. It is a game of inches - and fractions.

In the latest chapter of his 24-season pursuit of Methuselah and title of oldest pitcher to ever (add your own category), Jamie Moyer left the mound Sunday after working a scoreless seventh inning against the Blue Jays, soon to be 9-6. He left behind 4,005 innings pitched and more home runs, 506, than any man who ever hung a curve or grooved a fastball to Chris Wheeler's Land of Middle In. His 267-201 record is a body of work in progress.

Moyer is only 33 wins short of what used to be the HOF automatic total of 300. But giving the 47-year-old marvel a conservative six more W's this season, bringing him to 273, it probably would take Jamie until age 50 to edge into the shadow of 300. That becomes a variable dependent on health and having a job in somebody's rotation.

This is the final year of the free-agent contract GM Pat Gillick gave him in 2008. He will make $6.5 million as history's highest-paid 47-year-old ballplayer. It seems unlikely the Phillies would offer him anything close to that. Clubs were not lined up to sign him after the 2008 season, so the contract appeared to be more out of reward than urgency. Despite the incessant bleating of the forum posters and commenters, the contract has turned out to be a steal. Approaching the season's midpoint, Moyer's return has been a 21-16 record. At today's obscene rates for starting pitching, he represents a tremendous bargain.

By comparison, Mets ace Johan Santana will earn $39 million over the same period for an 18-14 record. Is there even an argument?

There is an argument that Jamie has been a rotation back-ender his entire career, a 4 or 5. That is not completely true, of course. In 2001, when the Seattle Mariners won a major league record-tying 116 games, Moyer was the No. 3 starter behind our old pal Freddy Garcia and Aaron Sele. But when that amazing season collapsed into an ALCS loss to the Yankees, Moyer had the best record at 20-6. He also earned Seattle's lone victory in the ALCS.

In 2003, he was the Mariners' No. 1 and responded at age 40 with a 21-7 record. Jamie has not always been catching crumbs swept from the end of the banquet table.

Here's another argument one hears for keeping him out of the Hall of Fame. In the 24 seasons, he has won an average of just 11.125 games. You're going to get nailed using that argument. The great Nolan Ryan, who has 324 victories and more strikeouts and no-hitters than anybody has had or ever will have pitched 27 years. He finally hung them up at age 46.

And for those 27 seasons, Ryan won an average of exactly 12 games a year.

That's Jamie Moyer, 11.125. Nolan Ryan, 12. Aside from about 18 mph in fastball velocity, it appears that over the plateaus and canyons of two incredibly long careers, the bottom line is deceptively the same. Meanwhile, Moyer sounds as if he will keep chipping away until either he or hell freezes over. Don't bet on hell.

The other possibly false assumption is that Moyer enjoys the same adulation throughout baseball he enjoys here during his improbable midlife renaissance. Nor is election to the Hall of Fame in the hands of the daily Greek chorus that bethumps cyberspace. It is in the hands of baseball writers arrayed from sea to shining sea and Canada with 10 or more years covering the pastime. The ball writers are a cranky bunch that once wielded considerable clout. They no longer control press-box access they now share with feature writers and various dot.coms. They even have to pay for their press-room meals. There has been no free booze for more than a decade. Most of the old boys, like New York's Dick Young - who opposed women in press boxes and locker rooms and who sometimes physically attempted to keep TV cameras and radio reporters like the early Howard Cosell out of their sacrosanct interview space - are long gone. But for everybody but the obvious first-ballot stars, the climb to the 75 percent promised land can be as daunting for many as it was for Moses - the real Moses, not the outfielder named Wally.

Nellie Fox missed election in 1985, his final year of eligibility, by 0.3 of a point. A sport that routinely rounds a .2995 average to .300 refused to round Fox' 74.7 percent and rejection to 75 percent and election. Nellie, who had passed away in 1975, was finally enshrined by the veterans committee.

Ralph Kiner finally was elected on his 15th and final try. "I wonder what I did that made me a Hall of Famer this year that I didn't do the first 14 years," the Mets broadcaster said.

Jamie Moyer might not make it to Cooperstown. But it appears Cy Old is solidly in the conversation.

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