(Jamie Moyer holds the pitching rubber after the Phillies wrapped up the World Series title over Tampa Bay in 2008. Photo by Associated Press).
My blog post yesterday on the possibility of the Mariners taking advantage of Yankee desperation to listen to Felix Hernandez trade offers caused quite a firestorm of reaction. I’m working on a followup piece that I’ll put up some time this afternoon.
In the meantime, I wanted to put this out because it’s timely, coinciding with Cliff Lee’s introductory press conference in Philadelphia. Our newspaper is doing a season-ending package that will run on Sunday, Dec. 26, in which we’ll catch up with a variety of local sports personalities who were in the news in 2010. I talked to Jamie Moyer yesterday afternoon for that project. After discussing his recent Tommy John surgery and his plans to try to come back from the injury and pitch again in the major leagues in 2012 at age 49 (you’ll have to check back Dec. 26 to find out the details), I couldn’t let the opportunity pass to ask him about the Lee signing with the Phillies.
Moyer is in a unique position to reflect on this stunning development. In 2009, Moyer was Lee’s teammate on the Phillies after he was traded over from Cleveland on July 29. Lee pitched great down the stretch to help the Phillies win the NL East, then was sensational in the postseason. Lee, in fact, was the winning pitcher in the only two victories the Phillies had over the Yankees in the World Series.
Not only that, but when Lee was subsequently traded from the Phillies to the Mariners last December — the deal was officially consummated one year ago tomorrow — he stayed in Moyer’s house in Seattle, which the family has kept despite moving to Bradenton, Florida a couple of years ago. In fact, the Moyer abode has become something of a way-station for orphaned Mariner acquisitions — Eric Wedge and his family stayed there while house-hunting following Wedge’s hiring as manager in October.
“You know what? It didn’t surprise me,” Moyer said of Lee’s decision to spurn both the Yankees and Rangers to sign with Philadelphia. “I talked to Cliff the day he got traded to Texas. In fact, it was at my house, where he was staying. I spent time chatting with he and his wife. He obviously knew something was in the works, but he didn’t know what. A few hours later, he found out it was Texas. In talking to him, I realized he truly had a warm spot in his heart for the Phillies.”
And as the negotiations dragged on in recent weeks, Moyer began to ponder the possibility of the Phillies as a destination for Lee.
“When you see the Yankees throw out the offer they did, and Texas throw out the offer they did, and he didn’t jump at either one of them, I felt some other teams were involved, and maybe the Phillies were one of them,” Moyer said.
“I think he had a great experience in Philadelphia, and he understands how close they are to winning. I know he really, really enjoyed the clubhouse there, the professionalism in that clubhouse and being a part of that. Cliff’s a very simple person. It doesn’t take a whole lot to make him happy.
“It was not a financial decision, and I commend him for that. He’s one heck of a teammate and person, a great person. I’m tickled for him.”
In assessing the Phillies new Super Rotation of Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, Moyer said, “Not too shabby. They may win a few games. I’ll put money right now that the Phillies will lead the league in complete games.”
Moyer noted that the addition of Lee will, in a roundabout way, help the Phillies address one of their potential weaknesses, relief pitching.
“Cliff will help fortify the bullpen, believe it or not,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see all seven guys average seven innings. That will shorten the game and take away a lot of useless innings from the bullpen.”
Another beneficiary, Moyer believes, will be Hamels, 26, who has had some rocky times to go with his stretches of brilliance.
“Cole, the way he’s going, is starting to mature into a nice pitcher,” Moyer said. “You’ve got a younger guy like him with three veteran-type of guys, with some leeway for that fifth guy. Imagine being a young kid on that staff. If you can’t learn there, you’ll never learn. I’d love to go back 15 years in my career and be on a staff like that. You’re dealing with four quality people.”
I asked Moyer if he regrets the elbow injury knocking him out of a chance, at age 48, to be the fifth starter on that epic Phillies’ staff in the upcoming season. In four-plus seasons in Philadelphia, after the Mariners traded him there in August of 2006, Moyer went 56-40 and won his only World Series championship ring in 2008.
“I don’t know if I’d have been in that picture, to be honest,” he said, noting that his presence, along with Lee and Hamels, would have made three lefty starters.
He’ll be watching closely from afar, however, as Lee joins what could be one of the greatest rotations in history.