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Nick Cafardo | Baseball notes

They still have something left

Glavine and Moyer are wise old hands

TOM GLAVINE A passion to pitch TOM GLAVINE A passion to pitch
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / May 18, 2008

The 40-something lefthanders were positioned at opposite ends of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, but you'd swear they had telepathy. Tom Glavine, the Brave, Jamie Moyer, the Phillie, shared common concerns and outlooks.

Asked if he'll play next season, Glavine said, "I'm taking it year to year, but the way I feel right now, I don't see why not. I'm home again [in Atlanta], and the wear and tear of the travel and being away from kids isn't there as much. It's been great coming back home again."

And Moyer: "I assess everything at the end of the year. At the end of last year, I saw how my body felt and it felt great. I loved how exciting our season was at the end, and I said, 'Why not?' "

Glavine is 42, a 304-game winner, and a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Moyer was a spot starter and reliever in Boston for part of the 1996 season until the Sox traded him to Seattle in late July for Darren Bragg. As a Mariner, he blossomed into one of the game's best lefties. He's 45, has won 232 games (two 20-win seasons), and though he's off to a tough start (2-3, 5.02), nobody seems worried.

Asked if he will play as long as Moyer, Glavine said, "Isn't he amazing? I have so much respect for what he's done and that he's pitching at such a high level this late. Maybe us old guys aren't so bad after all."

Sitting in the spacious home clubhouse before Thursday's game, Moyer took the time to respond to fan letters with a hand-crafted message. He often does it out in the open so younger players will realize that part of the responsibility of being a ballplayer is to give back. His Moyer Foundation, which raises money for distressed and underprivileged children, also is proof of that.

Is he sick of answering age questions?

"Whether I'm sick about it or not, I don't look at it as a negative," Moyer said. "I feel like this is an honor to have played this long. I've learned to appreciate this game more. The opportunity that I have and knowing that any day could be my last day is something I always think about. That's true when you're younger, but more so now as an older player.

"But I enjoy the camaraderie. I enjoy the competition. I have an expectation level myself. And I expect to go out there and perform and to perform consistently. So far I haven't done as well as I would have liked, but . . ."

While age may play havoc with their bodies, it gives Glavine and Moyer a mental advantage.

"In some respects, it might be a little bit easier because I've done this for a long time, I know how to do it," said Moyer. "But on the other side, yeah, it's a little bit harder physically. Some days you don't feel as good as other days. But I feel like I know how to get through it."

Moyer spent almost 10 years trying to become a full-time starter.

"At the time I hated it," said Moyer. "As I look back on it, I'd say maybe now it was beneficial. I probably learned more about myself, getting myself prepared not only for the pitching side of it and learning and respecting what it takes to pitch out of the bullpen. And it's not an easy job.

"I've never been a stat type of person. As I've gotten older, I've been reminded of my age and 'I've done this or I've done that.' I personally don't think I've done anything that dramatic in this game except play into my 40s. Hopefully, I can recognize when my talent isn't allowing me to do it or my body or my mind isn't allowing me to do it."

Glavine, the Billerica native who played five seasons with the Mets, would have likely retired if he hadn't been able to return to Atlanta this year.

Glavine has four children, Moyer seven.

"My oldest is a high school sophomore, and I haven't seen one of his school games," Moyer said. "I really try to listen to what's going on at home. I try to have conversations with the kids and try to be respectful to what they're doing.

"I point-blank asked my kids, 'Do you think I should continue to play?' And for the most part they say, 'We want you to continue.'

"I don't think they're telling me what I want to hear. I think if they wanted me to be home, I think they would tell me.

"There's a lot of good things that go with this profession, but there are some other things that aren't so good. But I did have the good fortune that for almost 10 years I lived where I played [in Seattle]."

Glavine spent his first stint on the disabled list this year, and he didn't like it. On any given night, he can still live on the black and frustrate hitters to no end. As long as he can - and he said, "I still have the passion to compete" - he will persevere.

Just maybe not as long as Moyer.

Keeping up with Jones

A few questions for Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, who is batting .412 this season:

Is this the best stretch you've ever had?

CJ: "The only reason we're even talking about it is because it's come at the start of the season. I've had 20-, 25-game stretches where it's probably even been a little better. But I guess timing is everything."

How much of your success can be attributed to staying on one team?

CJ: "It's big. It's great having Bobby Cox here for so long. When the manager puts down the lineup, I know where I'm going to be hitting and I know where I'm going to be playing. Comfort level has a lot to do with it."

Do you feel for your ex-teammate, Andruw Jones, and his struggles with the Dodgers?

CJ: "I do. I know he's a lot better player than what he's shown. I think a lot of the weight issues have been blown out of proportion. But I guess that's a big name playing in a big market, rather than a big name playing in a smaller market. It's a little bit tougher in a bigger market when you get off to a slow start and you get paid a lot of money and you struggle. It's also his demeanor. He's one of those guys who's not going to get upset. He walks around with a smile on his face regardless of whether he goes 4 for 4 or 0 for 4. Some people don't like that trait.

Think you could ever dream of hitting .400 for the season?

CJ: "No, I really don't. Not in this era of specialty pitchers. If I come up in the seventh or eighth, I see a J.C. Romero or a Mike Myers, some nasty lefty coming in, and then in the ninth you're going to see some team's best closer. Back in the day when starting pitchers threw 300-350 innings, you'd be guaranteed to see that pitcher four or five times, so it's easier to make adjustments against one pitcher than three or four of them in a game.

Any superstitions about talking about this?

CJ: "No, I keep it in perspective. I've had a great start but I'm not naive enough to think I might keep this pace up all year. I like what I've done so far, but let's leave it at that."

How long do you want to play [he's 36]?

CJ: "I think everybody's magic number is probably 40. I still have the competitive edge to play. All of the stuff outside the game I could do without. I'll get to 40 and then reassess things. I can't imagine playing anywhere other than here. It would be pretty selfish of me to go somewhere else just to accumulate some numbers. I wouldn't want to be away from my family just for that."

The Great Debate

Is there a one-in-.400 chance of it happening?

Will anyone ever hit .400 again?

Charlie Manuel, Phillies manager: "It'll be tough, but I think it can be done. A guy would have to have a perfect kind of season. I think scouting reports, video systems have helped the hitter know who they're facing. It does hurt a guy because these bullpens are changing year to year. I think that could hurt a guy if he's only seen a guy once or two or three times a year. A guy who hits .400 is going to be a guy who is patient, who can take his walks and can be a hitter like a Wade Boggs."

Terry Pendleton, Braves hitting coach: "There's two guys when I played I thought would do it and didn't: George Brett and Tony Gwynn. It's hard for me to believe that anybody else could. You'd have to be able to bunt and leg out some hits and do some extra things. I don't know if there's a player in either league who can do that, and that's not taking away from the great hitters we have in the game today."

Gary Matthews, Phillies broadcaster: "It might be easier to do if you're losing, but if you're winning, you make sacrifices to win. You're moving the runner over, giving yourself up a lot. You have to have a lot of luck. A guy like Ichiro, he doesn't walk that much; he puts the ball in play. The other thing is the guys hitting in front and in back of you also have to have career years."

Etc.

Touching the bases
Apropos of nothing: 1. Larry Beinfest of Florida is the most underrated general manager in the game. Both the Josh Beckett and Miguel Cabrera dumps have turned to gold; 2. Sad to report Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur canceled his Red Sox MasterCard; 3. Cecil Cooper seems to be getting a lot out of a little in Houston; 4. Bad feeling about the maple bats many players are using. They are going to seriously injure someone; 5. Remember when you mixed the wrong ingredients in chemistry class? Reminds me of the Mets.

Bad call at second
There are many stories like this out, but one scout admitted that the majority of his team's staff laughed during the June draft a few years back when Dustin Pedroia was discussed as a first- or second-round pick. The scout said he went back to them recently and asked, "What do you think now? Really, our guys hated his long swing. The only thing anyone liked was his competitive nature. I think the experience taught us a lot about what we do and how we evaluate and that sometimes other things besides those eye-popping skills make a great player." Amen.

Vis-a-vis Vizquel
Omar Vizquel is an intriguing name floated by ESPN's Peter Gammons for helping solve Boston's shortstop problem if Julio Lugo's defense doesn't settle down. Vizquel is quite fond of Boston but would be interested only if he were a starter. He has a close relationship with Manny Ramírez from their Cleveland days. Vizquel still has a terrific glove and can hit.

An Angel above them all
Former Red Sox shortstop Orlando Cabrera has played for some pretty good managers: Felipe Alou, Frank Robinson, Terry Francona, Mike Scioscia, and Ozzie Guillen. But he told reporters in Anaheim, "With all due respect to managers around the game, I think that Scioscia is on another level. This guy dominates the opponent, the thinking, all the things that they do, the scouting reports. He has an advantage. I think he's the smartest guy in the game right now, no doubt."

Startling pitcher
Loved Cleveland pitching coach Carl Willis's line about what he's done to contribute to the incredible streak his starting pitchers have gone through: "Mostly, I'm just sitting there eating seeds." A few Cliff Lee facts: 1) He has held the opposition scoreless in 51 of the 53 innings he's pitched. 2) In his first six starts, he faced a total of 156 hitters and went to a 3-and-0 count on three of them. 3) He has faced the minimum three batters in 36 of the 53 innings he's pitched. 4) According to Elias, only two pitchers since 1948 have had a lower ERA than Lee's 0.67 after seven starts: Fernando Valenzuela (0.29 in 1981) and Mike Norris (0.45 in 1980). 5) He takes a scoreless string of 16 innings into today's start. He's already had a 27-inning scoreless streak this season.

Taking a position
There's some talk in baseball that George W. Bush will get back into the sport, perhaps at an ownership level, when his presidency expires. We'll see. Bush was principal owner of the Rangers for many years and loves baseball. He was asked by Politico.com about ballplayers and commented that if he were starting a team, the guy he'd chose first would be Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley. "There's nothing better than having a good person up the middle that can hit," Bush said. I asked Phillies manager Charlie Manuel about that, and he said, "I've managed a lot of players over the years, but I've never seen a guy who comes more prepared physically, emotionally, and mentally to play that night. This guy loves to play and he takes it very seriously. It's no accident that he's a great ballplayer."

A Safeco return?
Is an aging superstar really what the Mariners need? For better or worse, it sure looks as though Ken Griffey will end up back in Seattle, but likely not before he hits his 600th home run. The Mariners are one of the most underachieving teams in baseball, and attendance at their beautiful ballpark has been abysmal. Griffey would get the fans back, though he would likely have to DH, which is something he has never embraced. It appears he really wants out of Cincinnati, even though the chances of winning are not much better in Seattle.

Hard on himself
Ryan Howard looks up to David Ortiz as a mentor, and seems to exhibit the same traits as Ortiz when he's going bad: a feeling that he's letting the team down. "It's just your competitive nature," said Howard. "You want to be getting the job done, and at times it feels like you're not getting it done. It seems like everything you hit hard, you hit at somebody. But while it's tough, that's the game. Luckily, it's six months. So you've got time to try to turn things around and get some things to fall in."

Short hops
Vitaminwater and Big Papi donate $300 for every home run he hits to the David Ortiz Children's Fund . . . One of the most underappreciated Red Sox players of all time, Dom DiMaggio, will be honored at the Sports Museum's annual fund-raiser June 24 from 5:30-9 p.m. at TD Banknorth Garden. DiMaggio's tribute will be presented by Dan Shaughnessy. Others being honored are John Havlicek (presented by Bobby Knight), Cam Neely, Peter and Abigail Fuller, Darryl Williams, Irving Fryar, and Bob Lobel. Tickets are available at sportsmuseum.org or by calling Rusty Sullivan at 617-624-1237 . . . Happy 37th birthday, Rich "El Guapo" Garces.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com

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