Friday, July 2, 2021

HoraceClarke66: Why I hate Mike Mussina

 From the Cooperstown-bound desk of HoraceClarke66: 

I never thought it was a good idea for the Yanks to sign Mike Mussina. Watching him pitch for Baltimore he always struck me as a punk, easily riled and quick to come apart in big games.

His postseason starts for us were nearly all disasters. I’d be happy to dissect them with anyone who thinks otherwise; they irk me still.

Oh, there were some good moments. A nice start against Florida in the 2003 World Series, and a valuable relief stint against Boston in Game 7 of the ALCS that year (after he’d been clobbered in his two starts against the Sox).

He always tended to pitch well against Pedro—but that spoke to his punkishness, too. In those few games when Mussina was expected to lose, he was invariably relaxed and at his best.

 The unforgivable moment for me came against the Mets, though, on July 2, 2004.

 The night before, the Yanks had won that epic, 13-inning battle against Boston in the Bronx—the game where Jeter went into the stands, and A-Rod pulled off a double-play that was nearly as dazzling. The win completed an amazing six days in which the Yanks had gone 5-1 against the Mets and the Red Sox.

 Staggered with injuries, desperately short of pitching, they had even won the night before throwing Brad Halsey against Pedro. Though we now think of that team as all-time chokers, they really had great heart, coming back again and again.

 What they didn’t have was enough pitching—thanks to you-know-who.

 So, battered and bandaged, dragging but still game, the Yanks went into Shea the night after that 13-inning classic.

 Incredibly, Derek Jeter, his face still swollen, was in the starting lineup (Looking at you, Aaron Judge!). So was A-Rod, so were Jorge and Bernie and Hideki and Sheffield—every one of the regulars who had played all or most of the game the night before. Obviously, they’d decided to make a statement.

 All they needed was a nice pick-up from the starting pitcher that night: Mike Mussina. Just a few good innings to show that this team could not be beat with anything short of kryptonite.

 Didn’t happen. Mike the Punk was down 5-0 after 2 innings, 7-0 when he left after the fifth. The Yanks lost, 11-2, and were swept in Shea.

 It wasn’t all his fault—Matsui made a big error in the first—but Mussina had nothing. A walk and nine hits, including booming home runs by Richard Hidalgo and the great Kaz Matsui. He was done after 74 pitches.

 It was a harbinger of what would happen in the postseason, where even with nice leads against Boston, Mussina twice could not get through the seventh inning. 


I still say that man has no business having a plaque in Cooperstown, and when I'm up there next I intend to do vile and despicable things to it.


So here we are now, 17 years later, going into the Metsies’ home park with another fraught situation, albeit for very different reasons. The biggest change? We now have a whole team of Mussinas.


Anonymous said...


I feel the same way about him. For me it was the situation where the game was delayed for a few minutes. I knew that it would upset his delicate balance and he would have a bad game.

I guess Delicate Balance is really the operating phrase. Not a gamer. Didn't dig deep.
Didn't recover from adversity.

and yes, we have a number of Mussinas now.

Doug K.

JM said...

Oddly, I don't remember any of that stuff. I remember he gave intelligent, non-Jeter responses to reporters' questions. And winning 20 games, finally, at the end.

Must be all the whiskey or something.

Anonymous said...

He was basically a prima donna. And unfortunately he didn't have the knack for getting it done. Coming up just short was the story of his whole career. We should have won in 2004 but didn't. Immediately after he retired, we won in 2009. We might have won with him in the starting staff, but then again who knows? It may not have been coincidence.

On the other hand, we can contrast Mussina's career with David Cone's. Coney was not a prima donna. He was a gamer. And probably exceeded his own potential. He even had a life threatening aneurysm in his right arm that he had to get excised, which was probably from over exerting himself. I'll always remember Coney as a winner, and Mussina as sort of a silver medalist, a guy who always came up just short of the championship.

The Hammer of God

BernBabyBern said...

El Duque used to refer to him as "Mr. Almost!"

Almost pitched a perfect game, almost won a Cy Young, almost won a World Series.

Publius said...

How soon we forget. 2003 ALCS, game 7. After Clemens spit the bit, Moose came in and settled things down, held the Sox through the middle innings, allowed the great comeback to happen. A great performance by a fine Yankee.

Publius said...

Ah, Hoss mentioned it. Grudgingly. Moose deserves better.

HoraceClarke66 said...

He was often frank, and intelligent, JM—but he never took the least responsibility for his own shortcomings.

There was always this big fuss made about his inability to win 20 games, as if he had terrible luck—but he played his whole career with some of the hardest hitting teams in baseball history.

By 2004, he was really a six-inning pitcher, which further devoured our already weakening bullpen. But of course, when his contract ended after 2006, Brain re-signed him anyway. In 2007, he responded with his worst season, 11-10, 5.15, but by the following year he had learned to pitch without his best fastball.

2008 was his best year since his first with the Yanks. Of course—we were out of the pennant race—even out of the wild card race—early, and there was absolutely no pressure.

Even so, an ailing Mariano Rivera was needed to come out of the pen, strike out Pedroia with the score 3-2 to end the 8th, then pitch the 9th to nail down Mussina's first 20-win season.

Mo's reward?

When Mussina was asked why the Yanks didn't win it all in his 8 years with the team...he blamed it on Rivera losing in 2001 and 2004. He really did. That's how small he always was.

He had a big offer from the Yanks to come back in 2009. But rather than try to finally win a ring, Mr. Desire retired to his crosswords and his riches.

He was, in many way, a poster boy for the early Cashman years, a player who looked good on paper but had nothing inside. (The latter Cashman years, of course, have been characterized by players who don't even look good on paper, and are on the team for reasons that defy rational explanation. Looking at you, Jameson Taillon.)

TheWinWarblist said...

I don't have strong feelings or memories of Moose, just a lingering mawkish sense of disappointment.

TheWinWarblist said...

The backpage from the Post is pissing me off. What the fuck is Hal angry about? That fucker is the architect of this. He made this. He obviously thought it didn't matter what sort of team he vomited up; he'd keep earning 100s of millions. It's his birthright, isn't it? I swear I'd punch him in that smug prick face of his.

Pocono Steve said...

Warblist, the worst thing about the Hal Zoom rant is that he expressed anger but, more importantly, expressed no course of action for the future. Nobody who heard that felt like his job was on the line in any way. Business as usual. Sadly, only a horrific series of Yankees losses will have any chance of convincing the brass that we need a rebuild of some kind.

Publius said...

Speaking of Moose's less than charitable comments about Mo, I always thought Mussina's memoir would throw a couple other legends under the bus: "Moose Up The Middle: How I Won 270 Games On The AL East With Ripken And Jeter At Short"

Anonymous said...

@Hoss "When Mussina was asked why the Yanks didn't win it all in his 8 years with the team...he blamed it on Rivera losing in 2001 and 2004. He really did. That's how small he always was."

This is a classic prima donna move: blaming everyone but himself. It's part of their psychology. It might be forgivable if he had led his team to a championship at some point. But from a guy who never won one, it's hard to swallow.

Even Alex Rodriguez eventually stepped up, played great, and finally won one. Mussina retired without any rings. This, on a ball club with a tradition that only values winning. 'Nuff said.

The Hammer of God

HoraceClarke66 said...

I appreciate the correction, Publius. And I appreciated Mussina's relief stint against Boston in 2003 (although again, if just one of his two starts that series had been better...).

And who knows, if Moose had been able to pitch a Game 7 in the 2003 Series and won that, I'd probably think much better of him.

Baseball is a strange game, and often guys who are heroes one day are bums the next. A lot of it is in the timing.

But there were just SO many letdowns in big games for Mussina.

Look at him in comparison to Pettitte, a very comparable pitcher, statistically speaking, during their careers (In fact, the MOST comparable pitcher, according to baseballreference).

The big difference came in the postseason. Mussina was 7-8 in October—and 5-7 with the Yankees. He won exactly 1 World Series game.

Pettitte got clocked in some big fall games, too. But overall he was 19-11, with 5 World Series wins, including some of the biggest ones in franchise history: the 1-0 victory over Smoltz in 1996, the clincher (over Kevin Brown) in 1998, the gutty performance against Philly, on short rest, to beat Pedro and close out the 2009 Series.

(And I know, I know, there was the juicing. But all of the above were before or after his dalliance with the Candy Man, Roger Clemens.)

Pettitte usually managed to do whatever he had to do in order to win. Mussina very rarely did—and when he couldn't, he blamed it on other people. He was never the main problem with the Yankees, but he was also never a transcendent performer.

JM said...

You guys have changed my mind. I simply don't remember all the negative stuff, being Mr. Happy and all. (cough) But on balance, he was kind of a jerk.

OK, take out the "kind of."

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