There has been a certain recurring series of events around Birdland this season. It goes a little something like this: first, the Orioles are linked to signing a player who is perceived to be old and washed up. Second, O's fans, who remember last year's Vladimir Guerrero experiment that only ended because the season ended, maybe freak out a little bit because it's now ingrained into our psyches that signing washed up veterans for too much money is a thing the Orioles do. Third, the Orioles do sign the player in question - Miguel Tejada, Lew Ford, J.C. Romero, whoever - and send them to AAA Norfolk.
If you're lucky, the next step is you forget all about them, because the O's haven't gotten around to calling up any of those guys yet, even with a revolving door of failure at the third base and left field positions. If you follow them on Twitter, you will see one beat writer or another dutifully retweeting the official Norfolk Tides Twitter with the latest Lew Ford stats, and occasionally every time Tejada gets a base hit. You can probably suppress Tejada-related dread. He's batting .248/.326/.265 for the Tides. Ford, on the other hand, has a .378/.444/.613 over 29 games. He is 35 years old. I don't know what he looks like in the field, but as a baseball player I suspect he has more to contribute than Endy Chavez. Maybe I should stop dreading him.
Yet it seems whatever adventures occur in the field or at the plate with the likes of Chavez, Steve Tolleson or Ryan Flaherty, these guys are stuck in Norfolk. I'm okay with that. One exception to all of this may be the ageless wonder, Jamie Moyer, who, after putting up a 5.70 ERA for Colorado at the age of 49, found himself designated for assignment. For many, this might have been the sign to retire, but Moyer is not many and he, too, found his way to the retirement home that is the Tides.
You might have expected him to get lit up even by AAA competition. This is not the case. As the beat writers relayed the stat lines from each Moyer start along with their best old person jokes like, "He probably got pulled early so he could get to the dinner buffet" and "He couldn't stay in the game past his bed time," they added up to something good: 11 hits, no walks, a 1.69 ERA and 0.69 WHIP over three starts. Now, MASN's Roch Kubatko tweets that the Orioles need to make a decision about Moyer because he can opt out and find his way elsewhere. I hear they need some starters in Toronto.
So it looks like you may have to get ready for the idea of Moyer in an Orioles uniform again. At this point, why not give him a shot? Are you ready?
Moyer's long big league career has spanned 25 seasons and over 4,000 innings. He was an Oriole once, when he was 28-30 years old. He had one good season, one decent one, and one not-so-good one and then he moved on. That was 1995. The #1 song on the Billboard 100 when Moyer last pitched for the Orioles was Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise. Moyer is so old that he pitched on two above-.500 Orioles teams that did not even make the playoffs.
If the Orioles rotation was firing on all cylinders and strong from top to bottom, then I wouldn't want to see Moyer and I'm sure the O's wouldn't want to promote him either. If Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta were performing well, if Zach Britton was forcing his way up from Norfolk, if Tommy Hunter was eating innings while giving up three earned runs per game instead of five, there would be no room for Moyer. You and I both know these things are not the case.
The Hunter experiment, in particular, seems to be a failure, at least for this season. Matusz and Arrieta are frustrating pitchers, but there have been flashes where they have shown their potential, tantalizing us with the possibilities of what it might be like if they could duplicate that level of performance more often. We've never seen this from Hunter, twice-optioned to Norfolk though fluke injuries keep getting him to find his way back. The best we can ever hope for from Hunter is a tolerable #5 starter, and he isn't.
Hunter is a contact pitcher in front of a patchwork defense. Then again, so would be Moyer. Hunter has accumulated a 5.70 ERA this season - which is also the same as Moyer's effort in Colorado. Hunter's HR/9 rate is 2.09; Moyer's is 1.84. Both have performed better home than away in MLB this season. I mention all of this to say that it's not like it's a guarantee that Moyer will be an upgrade over Hunter. As pitchers they may even have a lot in common, except Moyer is left-handed and has those 4,000 innings of cagey veteran savvy.
Hunter in the rotation is not working out, and if the O's are going to make a change, why not try Moyer? Worst that can happen is their fifth starter gets lit up every five days, which is already occurring.
The other thing about a potential Moyer promotion is that they would need to clear a roster space for him. Hunter could be optioned for the third time (still costing only one option year), but there is also the 40-man roster to consider. There's less dead weight on this than there once was. There are no candidates for transfer from the 15- to 60-day disabled list. There aren't any old players with no potential whatsoever. There is Ryan Adams and Joe Mahoney, bumped down the depth chart with the acquisitions of Tolleson and Steve Pearce. Both of these guys are OPSing .649 at Norfolk, both are 25 and may still prove to be late bloomers, but don't seem to have any value to the club in the near future as either players or trade chips.
The Orioles may still decide it's not worth shuffling their roster around to make room for Moyer. While he's gotten nice results in his limited AAA action, none of the Orioles press saw any of his games with their own eyes, and it may be that the Orioles evaluators won't feel he has enough left to contribute at all in MLB.
If they do feel he can contribute, though, then an MLB career that began in the era of this song and last passed through Baltimore in the days of this song could get another chapter in the time of this song. Hey, Orioles, you just signed him and this is crazy, but he's in Norfolk - call him up, maybe.