Baseball needs characters. The game is made better by those colorful personalities that live like they’re just lucky to be playing ball for a livin’.
Peter Moylan lived like that because, well, he was a bit lucky to be a professional baseball player. Don’t get me wrong, he was a terrific talent, but sometimes you need skill and a bit of happenstance to make your dreams come true. Moylan signed with the Twins as a 17-year old out of Australia, but after two disappointing seasons and some torn ligaments in his ankle, he was let go. He returned home to work odd jobs - he was a pool plumber, he sold commercial pest control, he tried to get a job with a Japenese security company. He was about a million miles away from ever stepping foot on the mound at Kauffman Stadium.
He decided to give baseball another shot, this time as a sidearmer. He got a break pitching for the Australian national team in 2006 World Baseball Classic, impressing scouts with pitches that danced at the plate, and whiffing big league stars like Maglio Ordonez and Bobby Abreu. The Braves decided to sign him, and by the end of the year he was in the big leagues. The next year he appeared in 80 games, more than all but five other National League pitchers, dominating with a 1.80 ERA and 1.9 WAR.
He went through Tommy John surgery, but shouldered a big workload the next two seasons before he needed surgery on his back and right shoulder. A second Tommy John surgery in 2014 was another setback, and it looked like his career was likely over.
In Janaury of 2016, the Royals decided to kick the tires on Moylan, signing him to a minor league deal. By that time, he was 37 years old, and had pitched in less than 50 big league innings over the previous five years. He didn’t make the Major League roster and was released, only to re-sign and work his way up from Omaha. It wasn’t long before he was one of the more reliable arms out of the pen. He put up a 3.43 ERA in 44 2⁄3 innings, including a 2.25 ERA over the final two months of the season.
Moylan was a popular guy in the clubhouse, the life of the party. As Kris Medlen told reporter Rustin Dodd, “He’s the kind of guy you want to sit at the bar with and just talk for hours.”
One of my favorite teammates of all time. Hell of a career mate. https://t.co/gZsUZKw3J9— Whit Merrifield (@WhitMerrifield) February 28, 2019
In 2017, Moylan got off to a pretty rough start. He gave up five runs in a late April outing against the White Sox. He had another five-run outing in May against the Rays. By Memorial Day weekend his ERA was well over nine. Maybe Moylan had finally run out of chances.
The Royals stuck with him - maybe because he was just so darn likeable - and he rewarded their patience. He had a 1.42 ERA after May 21, covering 44 1⁄3 innings, with opponents hitting just .133/.240/.213 against him over that time. He led the league in games pitched with 79. He answered the call when needed, sometimes quite literally.
.@PeterMoylan just answered the bullpen phone. I'm dead. #Royals pic.twitter.com/TSg3bUqkUm— aka Todd C. Barton (@toddcbarton) July 26, 2017
While there are no official stats kept, I believe he also led the league in coffee brewed. Moylan became the clubhouse barista, serving up an espresso drink he termed the “Sledge-iatto” in reference to the Australian term “sledge”, slang for trash-talking. A local coffee shop even began to serve the drink, with Moylan unexpectedly popping in and giving a few pointers.
.@Royals pitcher and clubhouse barista Peter Moylan's caffeinated beverage, the sledge-iatto, is igniting the #Royals bats. pic.twitter.com/9hnuXkdNjl— FOX Sports Kansas City (@FSKansasCity) June 21, 2017
Moylan had endured, through all the surgeries, and all the setback, Major League Baseball rewarded him for his perserverance by giving him a lifetime ticket to all Major League games. Pretty neat for a washed up, “has-been” selling pest control.
Moylan pitched for the Braves last year. He was still serviceable at age 39.
Peter Moylan is my favorite bespectacled Australian coffee-loving pitcher EVER.— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) August 1, 2017
Moylan could probably still help a few teams out. But he saw how the free agent market was going and he wasn’t getting the offers he wanted. This week, Peter Moylan announced his retirement, reflecting on his career with David O’Brien at The Athletic.
“I’m already to the point where I’m like, ‘You know what, it’s OK. After what you’ve done, you are still better off than 99 percent of the guys that have ever set foot in a stadium as a minor league baseball player.’ Because I’ve spoken to a lot of guys that have had the talent and had the numbers but just were never given the opportunity. Whereas I’ve been given three, four, five, six opportunities. So I count myself extremely lucky.”
You were lucky Peter, but you were also pretty darn good. We’ll miss you, and best of luck.