Monday, August 21, 2006

A Baseball Decision

With the Seattle Mariners, it rarely is one.
Somehow, that makes Bill Bavasi's weekend trade of Jamie Moyer to the Phillies even more repugnant. A veteran lefthander playing in what is likely his final season is exchanged for a pair of Single-A pitchers. It is exactly a baseball decision (and one that, obviously, met Moyer's 10-and-5 approval).
It's one baseball decision the Seattle Mariners shouldn't have made.
In the days following the trade, Mariners broadcaster Rick Rizzs will play the company voice-box, speaking of the need to make "tough decisions" for the "future of the ballclub," acknowledging that sometimes those decision "are not popular with fans." Meanwhile, a single strand of drool will weep a path down the contours of broadcaster Dave Niehaus' sagging jowels. (Fellow broadcaster Dave Henderson will dutifully sop up the mucilage with a handkerchief, then replace the soiled linen in Niehaus' breastpocket.)
Jamie Moyer was a fixture in Seattle. In 11 seasons with the Mariners, he was with few exceptions a steady, enduring presence on the mound. An ace who compensated for his shortcomings with incomparable wisdom, whose book on American League hitters was the stuff of legend. A borderline Hall of Famer (in the sense that the D.C. slums share a border with Capital Hill). A pillar of the local community whose Moyer Foundation has given millions of dollars to support organizations and programs that help children in need (fortunately, the organization will remain in Seattle).
He is the final link to those Seattle teams of the mid- to late-1990s, which saved baseball in the city (though the fact that he arrived too late to be involved in the 1995 season has always seemed to me an incongruous--and inconvenient--truth).
He is larger than Mariners baseball.
His market value is a 23-year-old righthander with a 4.04 ERA in High-A and a 21-year-old righthander with a 2.23 ERA in Low-A, the latter formerly of Redmond, Wash., and Everett Community College (this is not exactly a ringing endorsement).
Fans in Seattle have taken the news with a mixture of shock and profound sadness. As I read a newspaper outside a grocery store in my neighborhood Sunday, an older woman asked what I thought of the trade, I assumed because the boldfaced "MOYER TRADED" header was splashed across the front page. But it was the B Section in my hand, which made no mention of the deal. These days, he is an eminent topic of conversation. We both expressed our regrets.
At the expense of a half-dozen farewell starts from one of the organization's most beloved players, the Seattle Mariners added two Single-A pitchers who might get an opportunity to pitch in the majors.
For once, it was a baseball decision.
In this case, the sentimental should have taken precedent.

Coincidence and Causality, II
During ESPN's telecast of the Dodgers-Padres game, announcer Dave O'Brien said that Los Angeles was 16-2 since acquiring Wilson Betemit from the Atlanta Braves.
In his next breath, he noted that Betemit was hitting .227 in August.


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