As the winningest pitcher on the 2001 Mariners team that tied a major league record with 116 regular-season victories, Jamie Moyer probably knows better than most the parts needed to make a team successful.
As a broadcaster last season with the Philadelphia Phillies, Moyer watched in mid-August as the Mariners dropped two of three at Citizens Bank Park.
His takeaway: The Mariners have a chance to do something special.
“They probably weren’t playing at their best at that time,” Moyer said Tuesday in a teleconference interview. “Looking at numbers, looking at statistics and watching their on-field play, they have that ability to win a lot and rejuvenate baseball in Seattle.”
Moyer spent 11 of his 25 big-league seasons with the Mariners. He resurrected his career in Seattle. The southpaw mastered a devastating change-up in Seattle. He went 145-87 with a 3.97 ERA during those 11 seasons — including a 20-6 mark in 2001 and a 21-7 record in 2003 — after the Red Sox traded him to Seattle in July 1996 for OF Darren Bragg.
Moyer has a chance to see how his 2015 Mariners prediction plays out Aug. 8 at Safeco Field when he becomes the ninth player inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame, joining Randy Johnson, Alvin Davis, Dave Niehaus, Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson, Edgar Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr. and Lou Piniella.
“This is a huge honor for me, because it honors my personal accomplishments as a player,” Moyer said. “But without my teammates and coaches being around me, the fan support and the Mariners organization trading for me, this never would have happened. It’s an accomplishment for everybody who I have been around in a Mariners uniform.”
The club’s all-time leader in wins, innings pitched (2,093) and starts (323), Moyer recalled Tuesday a conversation he had with Piniella in the visiting manager’s office at Candlestick Park, former home of the San Francisco Giants.
Moyer was struggling “as a pitcher in general” but was hesitant to ask Piniella for advice because of the fiery manager’s player history as a hitter contemptuous of pitchers. Plus, Piniella wasn’t exactly known for being patient with his pitching staff.
However, the conversation helped cultivate what Moyer described as a great player-manager relationship and helped him regain his form.
“He looked at me and said, ‘Look, you’re not throwing your change-up enough.’ I thought, ‘Why did I come in here?'” Moyer said. “That doesn’t make sense. I throw my change-up a lot. Then I went back and looked at some pitching charts. And I started spending more time playing catch and throwing my change-up in the bullpen. Within two starts, things turned around for me.
“From then on, it was like, wow, this guy does know what he’s talking about.”
Piniella was on to something.
Despite throwing a fastball that rarely topped 85 miles per hour, Moyer was named three times the Pitcher of the Year — 1998, 1999, 2003 — by the Baseball Writers Association of America Seattle chapter. He made an All-Star appearance in 2003 and is the only pitcher in team history to twice win 20 games in a season. Moyer, a Pennsylvania native, parlayed that success into a five-year stint with the Philadelphia Phillies (56-40, 4.55 ERA), winning a World Series in 2008.
Incredibly, he pitched in the majors until he was 49, his final season in 2012 during a two-month stint with the Rockies.
Asked Tuesday if he’s tempted to pitch again, Moyer, 52, didn’t deny it. But he had ankle surgery three months ago that’s estimated to take 12-18 months for recovery.
“The good news is I can swing a golf club,” he said.
Moyer has eight kids, four still in elementary school. With his wife, Karen, he has become increasingly involved in the Moyer Foundation, a non-profit organization they established in 2000 to help children suffering from traumatic loss within their families.
He said he won’t return next season to the Phillies broadcast team.
“I do get the itch a little bit (to play), but I do realize too that I’m 52 years old and it wouldn’t be quite that easy,” Moyer added. “I played some catch here at home, threw some batting practice to my boys and I realized that my better days are behind me. If I get into any type of situation whether I can help players, whether it high school, college or professional players, that’s really where I feel like I can make a contribution to the game.”