It's tough being a sports fan in Seattle. As I'm writing this, he UW and Washington State football teams, the Seahawks, and the Oklahoma City Thunder (nee Seattle Sonics) have three wins - combined. That's out of 25 games. Needless to say, they're all at the bottom of their respective divisions. (In full disclosure, right now the scoreboard shows the Seahawks are way up at halftime.)
I don't follow football or basketball, but those aren't the only basement teams around here. Baseball is my sports addiction of choice, and everyone around here acknowledges the Mariners were bad this year. How bad? Some say the Mariners don't even know how to lose; by winning their last three games, they assured themselves of not having the worst record in all of baseball, which in turn cost them the first pick of next year's draft. But even considering that and the fact that it's been seven years since they've been to the postseason (and won 116 games), I still enjoy following the team. Kind of helps me understand Red Sox and Cubs fans.
That said, last night's Game 3 of the World Series is the one game I've been waiting to watch for several years. Not because of the teams, but because Jamie Moyer got a chance to pitch in the fall classic.
I've watched great pitchers play the game. Pedro Martinez stymied the Mariners when Kellen and I went to watch that game. Heck, the first game I ever attended was the Dodgers' Bill Singer throwing a no hitter. However, while I've always wanted to see Jamie Moyer pitch in person, it's never worked out. Even though he got roughed up a couple weeks ago against the Dodgers, last night he pitched like I remember. He doesn't have a lot of velocity (perhaps 85mph on a good day), he doesn't have youth (just a few months younger than I am), but he has guile. Batters know he's going to throw a changeup, and they still swing early. And after a bunch of pitches which couldn't catch up to me driving on I-90, he'll freeze the batter with an pinpointed 82mph "heater". Gotta love it.
Moyer keeps notes on every batter and is good at getting into peoples' heads. The lefty's changeup is so devastating against right-handed batters that sometimes switch hitters will bat left-handed against him. In one game Carl Everett decided to try that and Moyer showed him a slow, breaking curveball. Shaking his head after getting out, Everett went back to hacking from the right-handed side of the plate.
Showing how much he enjoys the game, Moyer has a great sense of humor; I saw one time when the batter had fouled off so many pitches, Moyer finally asked the batter what he should throw next. The batter was thrown for such a loop he couldn't respond. Moyer also has a great rapport with the umpires. He's willing to ask how he missed the strike zone so he can get a better feel for what the umpire is expecting, and he'll always acknowledge the ump for a fairly called game.
Just because he's in his mid 40s doesn't mean he isn't still a great athlete. In last night's game he went after a bunt and after diving for the ball, glove-tossed it to Ryan Howard. Carl Crawford was called safe by the first base umpire, but the replay showed he was out. Too bad, because that call cost Moyer the win (although the Phillies did end up winning the game).
In these parts Moyer is also respected outside of baseball along with his wife because of their tireless work with the Moyer Foundation. How successful have they been? Over $15 million has been raised since 2000 to support non-profits which help children in distress. After Moyer was traded by the Mariners to the Phillies, they were quick to reassure people that the Moyer Foundation wasn't going anywhere, and that Seattle was their home. It goes without saying they're making it work.
I can't write about Moyer without talking about a couple Mariners tongue-in-cheek commercials. One from quite a while ago showed Moyer pitching. After releasing the ball, catcher Dan Wilson started talking to the batter, trying to get into his head. After about 15 seconds of talking, Wilson reminds the batter that he should swing, but by then the strike has been called. My other favorite commercial is the one where someone is using a speed gun with Moyer pitching and is calling out "98" and "99". It's explained that he got the gun from France since it registers in kilometers per hour. "100!" "Ooh la la!".
By now you probably can tell that Jamie Moyer is my favorite pitcher. To me, he epitomizes the fact that baseball is as much about strategy as anything else. The fact that he's such a well-rounded person (not just athlete) is why he's also the sports figure I most respect.