There are some athletes, most famously Jim Brown, who walk away from their sport at the height of their ability. These players, of course, are the exceptions.
Most players have to be dragged away kicking and screaming, and it's hard to blame them. After all, you work most of your life to get to the big leagues, and careers are pretty short as it is, why not play as long as you can? Jamie Moyer is clearly of this mindset, as he has kept pitching long after anyone could have possibly expected. The fact he came back to pitch this season at age 49 after missing all of the 2011 season recovering from elbow surgery, well, that was a great story.
But after getting knocked around for seven runs over five innings on Sunday against the Cincinnati Reds, Moyer has now allowed 28 runs in his past 30 innings, and it's looking like it might be time for Moyer to hang 'em up. If he doesn't, the Rockies are going to have to ask him to.
I hate to rain on the parade of this fun story, but facts are facts: Not only has Moyer been brutal this year, he hasn't been an effective pitcher since 2008. His ERA+ -- a stat that adjusts for park and 100 is average -- was 85 in 2010 and 84 in 2009. (In this case, lower is not better.) I hate to say it, but he's pretty much a novelty act. If you saw a Triple-A pitcher with Moyer's repertoire, there is no way you would think he was worthy of a major league job, yet Moyer is still employed. Yes, he has a track record of success, but as noted he hasn't been particularly effective for years.
After their loss on Sunday, the Rockies are now 14.5 games out in the National League West, and it looks like the 2012 season is a lost cause, so keeping Moyer on the team won't really make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. But think about the message this sends to the players in your organization. Players are led to believe that baseball is a meritocracy, and if you perform, you will get your chance. But right now, there is no reason that Moyer should be on the team based on merit. Imagine you are Carlos Torres, who is a 29-year-old right-hander for the Rockies' Triple-A affiliate. He's not a big prospect by any means and will likely never amount to anything in the majors. But he's striking out nearly a batter per inning at Triple-A while putting up a 2.45 ERA. What does Moyer's spot on the team say to a guy like Torres, a minor league lifer just looking for a chance?
I realize you could make an argument that a few Rockies starters don't deserve to be in the majors right now, but most of them -- such as Christian Friedrich and Alex White -- are theoretically part of the club's future. Moyer, obviously, is not. And if Moyer was coming anywhere close to holding his own, maybe the intangibles he brings would be worth keeping him around. However, he's basically up there throwing batting practice.
Maybe Moyer will turn things around and begin to give Colorado some quality innings, but based on his age and that he's been a well-below-average hurler for a few years, there is no reason to expect that to happen. It seems the end is nigh for Moyer, whether he likes it or not.