Words cannot describe how excited I am that Jamie Moyer made the starting rotation for the Colorado Rockies. It’s not just that he’s older than fellow rotation-mates Juan Nicasio and Jhoulys Chacin combined. And it’s not that he’s lived through 10 US Presidencies (and 10 Prime Ministers, including Pierre Trudeau twice) and was alive when Kennedy was shot. And it’s not that he’s just one year, three months, and 14 days younger than President Obama (and just two years, six months, and 18 days younger than Stephen Harper).
It’s his enthusiasm for the game. Look, I’m in my thirties, and my back creaks when I get out of bed, and I’m living with a torn ACL, and I’m out of shape. He is almost 50, and has made more than $82 million in his lengthy career. He could do virtually anything he wants with his time, short of hunting man for sport on his palatial estate, and all he really wants is to keep playing baseball. That’s incredibly endearing.
So I don’t care that his breaking stuff probably won’t work as well in Colorado. And I don’t care that there’s an element of this, on Colorado’s end, that smacks of a publicity stunt. And I could care less that some younger players missed out on a spot in the rotation. Because Jamie Moyer is terrific, and for this week at least, that’s all that matters. And in celebration of Moyer and his accomplishments, we look at today’s ballplayers as obscure Batman villains:
Jamie Moyer is Vandal Savage.
OK, so I may be cheating right off the bat, as Vandal Savage is more of a Justice League villain than a pure Batman rogue. But this just works so much better than the Dark Knight’s resident immortal, Ra’s Al Ghul. Because while al Ghul doesn’t look all of his 600 years, he does age. He simply enters his lazarus pits at regular intervals to maintain his youth. Vandal Savage, meanwhile, is much older and never ages. Savage is a former stone age Neanderthal who was bathed in the radiation of a meteorite, making him smarter, stronger, and halting his aging process. He claims to have actually been Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Blackbeard, Vlad the Impaler, and Julius Caesar (he claims history is wrong and the assassination attempt actually failed), and worked behind the scenes to bring about the Third Reich.
Like Savage, Moyer has seemingly been around since the beginning of time and has been an important cog in baseball history during that span. He was drafted in the same class that included Mark McGwire, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Oddibe McDowell and Cory Snyder. He’s played with Maddux, Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey, Alex Rodriguez, Ichiro, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee. He played with Dennis Eckersley when Dennis Eckersley was a starter. In his Major League debut, he beat Steve Carlton and his catcher was Steve Lake, who is dead (note: Steve Lake is probably not dead). His 2001 Mariners set the MLB record with 116 regular season wins. He helped Philadelphia win its first World Series in 28 seasons. He has pitched in 21 ballparks that aren’t even around or used anymore. And he’s beaten every single team at least once.
Also like Vandal Savage, Moyer’s not going to go into anyone’s Hall of Fame. Savage has no cool superpowers, other than being really old. Likewise, Moyer’s pure stuff is almost certainly the worst in the National League. He averaged just over 80 MPH with his fastball before his year off for Tommy John surgery, and can’t be any faster at this point. Instead, he’ll rely on craftiness and his defense to keep him from falling apart. Which is another reason neither he nor Savage is really an all time great. They are too peripheral, and too content to let others do their work for them. Savage learned that leading empires is dangerous, so he relegated himself to being the man behind the curtain for much of modern DC history, while Moyer has never dominated hitters. Indeed, he’s never had a strikeout rate higher than league average. It’s ok, both still get the job done. But they lack the flash necessary to become immortal in all but the most literal sense.
Jim Tracy is Firefly
There is almost nothing more stupid than a brawl during Spring Training. One of those stupider things, however, is probably Colorado Manager Jim Tracy. As you probably heard, yesterday benches emptied in Scottsdale after Ubaldo Jimenez hit Troy Tulowitzki with his first pitch, and the two former teammates began jawing at one another. It’s unclear whether the pitch was intentional. Ubaldo says it wasn’t, and his lack of control yesterday supports that contention. Tulowitzki was unsure.
Tracy, on the other hand, was quite sure of what happened. He poured gas on a fire that seemed to be settling down, telling reporters, “It’s the most gutless act I have seen in 35 years of professional baseball. I have lost all respect for him. To do something like that and walk down off the mound, and if there’s any suggestion whatsoever that the ball got away, I don’t want to hear any of that shit. He intentionally threw at him. He should be suspended. I am going to be very disappointed if he doesn’t get suspended. He deserves to be.”
Garfield Lynns is a pyromaniac, which works well for him in his day job as a pyrotechnics expert. But at night, he goes out and uses a jet pack to fly and a flamethrower to burn down Gotham City. He’s not actually all that good at it, fortunately. He’s quickly caught by Batman and Robin, and he’s suffered severe burns when he starts a chemical fire and is trapped in the explosion.
And that’s what’s likely to happen with Jim Tracy. I can understand a manager standing up for his guys, but Jim Tracy doesn’t gain anything by pretending he can read Jimenez’s mind. All he’s doing is creating more bad blood and making himself seem like a spittle-spraying jackass. Sure, managers are human, but they’re also supposed to be the adults in the room, and by ramping up the resentment really could get someone hurt the next time the Rockies face Jimenez.
Drew Butera is Kite Man
You may have heard of Kite Man, if only because he was so freaking ridiculous. Chuck Brown (Charlie Brown, get it?) is a supposed master criminal who terrorizes Gotham City with his intimidating hang-gliding skills to, I guess, get away relatively slowly. Think about it. It’s incredibly easy to spot a hang-glider if you happen to be looking for one. And it’s not like a hang-glider is going to be able to outrun the Batjet. Fortunately, Batman was a moron during this era, and decided that, to catch a kite, he had to think like a kite. And use a kite. So he and Kite Man battle above the streets of Gotham in their kites. Because a major metropolitan area is totally a great place to go hang-gliding. Undoubtedly, Kite Man was defeated when he ran into a building, or something. Hawkman apparently was able to defeat him when Brown ran into a tree.
Drew Butera is similarly useless. In 254 plate appearances last year, Butera hit .167/.210/.239. His OPS+ was 24. That, by the way, is the fourth worst single-season OPS+ since 1900 among position players with more than 250 PAs, and the 8th lowest overall OPS. His 33 career OPS+ is fifth worst of all time among players with more than 400 career plate appearances. He apparently has a good arm, and Carl Pavano likes him a lot, which kept him on the 25 man roster all last year and made him the starter when Joe Mauer was hurt.
Fortunately, like Kite Man, Drew Butera is no longer an ongoing tragedy, but a historical punchline. The Twins decided this weekend to send him to AAA Rochester to start 2012 and to go with the far more respectable combination of Mauer and Ryan Doumit. There’s an excellent chance that Butera will never get more than 50 plate appearances in a season ever again. Because there’s absolutely nothing he brings to the table that three dozen other minor league catchers, all of whom will hit better than Butera, can’t provide. That includes JR Towles, who the Twins are keeping around AAA as well. Kite Man has been killed off in the comics (god knows how long that will last though), and we can hope that Drew Butera stays similarly out of the public consciousness so that both Batman and the Twins can seem cool again.