Post number 300

I previously wrote a little bit about Jamie Moyer here, although my purpose for writing was more to describe something on one of his old cards than to talk about him. So now, on the occasion of my 300th post on this blog, I’ll return to Jamie Moyer for a few more comments.

This would be considered Jamie Moyer’s rookie card because it’s the first time he ever appeared on one of these things. He made his major league debut a few weeks after I graduated from high school, back when Ronald Reagan was president. This means that before anyone named George Bush had ever been president, Jamie Moyer was pitching in the major leagues.

I like the idea that somebody who was in the big leagues during that transitional summer when I couldn’t wait to get out of my parents’ house could still be playing the game. Everybody else from the pre-steroid era is long gone from the game, but Moyer still pitches on, possibly.

Moyer had elbow surgery and missed all of the 2011 season, and he’ll turn 50 at the end of this year. Yes, Jamie Moyer is presently 49 years old. But if he gets an offer from a big league team, and he is reported to be working towards one, then he gets back in the game needing just 33 wins to get to 300 for his career.

What’s so important about that? It’s pretty simple: win 300 games as a pitcher, and you’re in the Hall of Fame. No debate, no discussion, nobody bringing up stats like ERA+ or WAR, which didn’t even exist when Moyer began his pitching career. Moyer won’t get to 300 wins, which would take three or four seasons to accomplish. But it’s fun to think about it anyway, especially since we won’t see another pitcher approaching 300 wins for a long, long time.

Moyer has more wins than several pitchers who are in the Hall of Fame right now, including Bob Gibson. With one more win, Moyer will match Jim Palmer with 268 career wins. But Palmer is enshrined in Cooperstown already, while Moyer won’t get a whiff of the place unless he reaches 300 wins.

Wins and losses for a pitcher are the easiest stat to understand. That’s what baseball is all about, isn’t it? 18 players take the field, with umpires keeping watch over the game and fans in attendance in the grandstand, not to see who can hit the most doubles or record the most putouts in the outfield. The bottom line, for every baseball game ever played, is who scored more runs than their opponent did. Some pitcher’s going to take the win for that game, and some other pitcher is going to take the loss.

It has taken Moyer a quarter of a century to pile up 267 career wins, and only 35 men who have ever played the game can lay claim to having more wins than Moyer does. And yet, somebody somewhere made winning 300 games the bright line between an automatic Hall of Famer and somebody who we’ll have to argue over ad infinitum.

I hope Moyer does sign with somebody this year, and gets a spot in their starting rotation. I’d love to go to a game and watch a 49 year-old do battle with players who weren’t yet born when he made his big league debut, such as the Cubs’ Starlin Castro and the Braves’ Jason Heyward. And the closer he gets to 300 wins, the more foolish that arbitrary line will appear. If you can still pitch at age 49, that’s a pretty remarkable feat, Hall of Fame or no Hall of Fame.

Countdown to #Cubs #DoubleTriple now at 43 losses

No big league baseball team lost 100 games in 1968. The closest any team came was the Washington Senators, who lost 96 games that year. But I still feel the need to riff on 1968 for a bit, anyway. So here goes:

A lot has been written about all of the things that happened in 1968. I can’t add too much to that, except to say that it was also the year I was born. So if I find a penny on the sidewalk, I always pick it up for good luck (I’m superstitious that way). And if it’s a 1968 penny, well, good things will follow me all day long. That’s how it’s supposed to work, isn’t it?

In baseball, 1968 is known as the “year of the pitcher” because Bob Gibson had a 1.12 ERA, Denny McLain won 31 games, and Carl Yastrzemski won a batting title by hitting .301. We may never see any of those things happen again, because the pitcher’s mound was subsequently lowered to give the batters a better chance at hitting the ball. But before that, the Cubs also had one terribly bad week, which happened to coincide with the moment of my birth.

Some personal background is needed first. I was born on Friday, June 14, 1968 at a few minutes past 12 noon. My weight and length are not important to this story.  According to baseball-almanac.com, the Cubs welcomed me into the world with a 2-1 victory in Atlanta. So far, so good.  The team I would one day call mine was undefeated, so far as I was concerned.

The next day, while still in Atlanta, an outfielder named Lou Johnson drove in 2 runs in the second inning, and the Cubs got out to an early 2-o lead. And then, things suddenly took a turn. It was about as bad a turn as could be imagined, as if a group of grown men got together and decided to prove to all fans–both present and future–just how hard it is to follow the Chicago Cubs. Brace yourselves for what comes next.

The Cubs didn’t score again that day, and lost 3-2 in 10 innings. That’s how it goes, c’est la vie, you can’t win ’em all, etc. You can imagine the cliches that were being used at the time. One loss is nothing to get too excited about.

For the final game of the Series in Atlanta, the Cubs’ ace, Fergie Jenkins, was pitching against Phil Niekro for the Braves. Jenkins pitched 10 innings (yes, 10) of shutout ball, but took the loss after Joe Torre singled home Hank Aaron in the 11th inning. A hard luck loss, of both the game and the series, but the worst was still to come.

After an off day for traveling, the Cubs opened up a three game series in St. Louis. Had I been able to understand, it could have been explained to me that baseball teams don’t stay in one place very long, and they have to move around from one place to another in order to play games. But I would have just  stared blankly at you, or maybe soiled my diaper, so it would have been a waste of both of our times.

The Cubs began the next series with another 1-0 loss. They had now gone 28 innings without scoring a run, which isn’t good but certainly wasn’t cause for alarm. But the next day they faced a young lefty (and future Hall of Famer) named Steve Carlton. Carlton allowed a 4th inning single, hit a batter, and had one of his fielders make a harmless error. And that was it. The scoreless streak now stood at 37 innings, and counting.

The Cubs had only one real chance to tally a run before leaving St. Louis the next day. Bob Gibson was on his game for the Cardinals, and the Cubs had only one runner reach 3rd base, and couldn’t get him in. So the Cubs left town oh-for-St. Louis, in wins and in runs scored.  I’m certain that the next series in Cincinnati couldn’t come quickly enough.

By now, 46 innings had come and gone without any runs scored by the Cubs. I was not yet a week old, and the Cubs were on the verge of setting a record for offensive futility. The record, by the way, dated back to what was called the dead ball era in baseball. It appears the Cubs were doing their part to usher in a new dead ball era of their own.

The next game, on the first full Friday of my days here on earth, the Cubs broke through with a run in the third inning. The Reds’ pitcher walked the bases loaded, and Billy Williams hit a flyball deep enough to score a run. The record had merely been tied, at 48 consecutive scoreless innings. And no big league team has come close to matching that feat since.

The Cubs went on to win that game, 3-2. They finished the season at 84-78, and were poised to make the next season, 1969, into something special. People still talk about it to this day in Chicago. But no one ever mentions the 1968 season, and particularly that one bad week in the middle of June. And if I hadn’t been born during it,  I would try to ignore it, too.