|Wednesday, May 28
Moyer deal nothing to Bragg about for Boston
By Jim Caple
Who knows? The Red Sox, not the Yankees, might have been the team dominating baseball over the past half dozen years had they not made one terrible decision with a pitcher in 1996.
Boston, not New York, might be such a perennial World Series presence that it includes "celebrating on the mound'' in spring training fundamental drills had they not made a move that should haunt them more than the words, ''Mike Torrez.''
The Fenway Faithful, not the Bronx Zoo, might be the smuggest, most insufferable fans in baseball had the Red Sox not let go of one of the best pitchers in the major leagues.
As Clemens nears his 300th victory, consider these comparisons. Since leaving the Red Sox as a free agent following the 1996 season, Clemens is 107-43 and has been paid $59 million. Since the Red Sox traded Moyer to the Mariners earlier that year, he is 105-50 and has been paid $31.5 million.
In other words, the Red Sox could have a pitcher with more than 100 wins over the past seven seasons and easily have enough money to have signed Pedro or anybody else to front the rotation.
You don't hear much about Moyer. He's never struck out 20 batters in a game. He's never been ejected from a postseason game in the second inning while wearing warpaint. He's never assaulted Mike Piazza with a splintered bat.
All he does is win. And win. And win. Since 1996, he has a better winning percentage than Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson or Greg Maddux. In fact, he has the best winning percentage in baseball during that span (minimum 15 decisions each season).
Granted, that doesn't make Moyer the best pitcher in baseball. But he's the best pitcher who was once released by the Texas Rangers.
No, the Red Sox weren't the only team to underestimate Moyer. The Mariners are his seventh organization since he was drafted in 1984. He once was traded for Mitch Williams. He pitched for Joe Torre -- in St. Louis.
He learned quite a bit about pitching during all those journeys and finally put it all together in 1996. He is the second big-league pitcher to go from as many as 23 games under .500 for his career to 23 games above .500. "He's like a fine wine, he gets better with age,'' said Minnesota third base coach Al Newman, who faced him as a player more than a decade ago. "No, actually, he just gets slower.''
It's true. Moyer can pitch in the mid 80s, but he loves to make batters look ridiculous by throwing curveballs and changeups in the 70s that appear to defy gravity. He throws slop up there so tantalizingly slow that scouts can measure his pitches by counting "One Mississippi, two Mississippi.'' As one opponent said after Moyer made him look silly this year, "He was throwing feathers up there.''
Moyer is as old school as they come -- he still shows his stirrup socks -- and even without a blazing fastball he can be a mean SOB on the mound. He isn't afraid to pitch seriously inside and if a batter crosses him, he isn't afraid to leave a bruise. On several occasions, catcher Dan Wilson has heard Moyer shout at the batter and ask what pitch he would like him to throw next. "They don't know what to make of it,'' Wilson said.
He turns 41 this fall, but Moyer is in exceptional shape and is capable of pitching several more seasons. With 171 career wins, he could very well finish with more than 200. That may not be as impressive as Clemens' final total, but Boston fans wouldn't have minded if a few more of them had come in a Red Sox uniform.
Boxscore line of the week
Torii Hunter, Minnesota's gold glove outfielder who makes his living robbing opponents of home runs, finally had it happen to him last Friday when Cameron leaped and reached waaaaaaaayyyyy over the fence to bring back a certain three-run homer in Seattle.
"The thief got robbed,'' Hunter said. "That's the first time anyone has ever done that to me. Now I know what it feels like. And it sucks.''
That wasn't the only notable web gem by Cameron. With Jacque Jones breaking from second on the ball, Cameron speared a low line drive just off the grass for the second out, then kept running in and stepped on second base to easily double-up Jones for a rare unassisted double play and this seldom seen boxscore line:
"I've never done that before,'' Cameron said. "I don't think anyone's ever done that before.''
Well, yes, they have. Joe McEwing was the most recent to do it, pulling off the trick April 4 of last year.
Lies, damn lies and statistics
From left field
Compared to that, the teams with these active players who at some point this season were on the disabled list have nothing to moan about. Our All-Star All-Hurt team:
Pos., Player Salary C Mike Piazza $15.6 million 1B Mo Vaughn $17 million 2B Craig Counsell $2.5 million SS Barry Larkin $9 million 3B Phil Nevin $5 million OF Sammy Sosa $16 million OF Jeromy Burnitz $12.2 million OF Bernie Williams $12.4 million LHP Randy Johnson $15 million RHP Pedro Martinez $15.5 million
-- sign held up by an apparent Red Sox fan when Roger Clemens failed to get his 300th win.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.