"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Going Out On Top?

Mike Mussina hasn’t told the Yankees yet if he wants to play next year. At least, no one’s telling if he has. Baseball puts a moratorium on such announcements during the World Series (even if Scott Boras doesn’t comply), but rumor has it he’s leaning toward retirement. I, for one, would love to have Mussina come back for a variety of reasons stretching from his actual performance, to his influence on the Yankees’ young starters, to the likely brevity of his contract, to my own selfish need to hear some legitimately introspective and wickedly sarcastic postgame comments every five days.

Unfortunately, rumor has Mussina leaning in the other direction. Indeed, at the conclusion of Living on the Black, John Feinstein’s plodding account of Mike Mussina and Tom Glavine’s 2007 seasons, Mussina, speaking at the conclusion of his rough 2007 season, sounds convinced that 2008 would be his last year:

“I’m not going to be one of these players who announces his retirement five different times. But right now, I don’t see myself pitching after this year. I’m not going to be close enough to three hundred [wins], even if I have a good year, that I’m going to want to come back for at least two more years and, realistically, three more years.

“In 2006, I pitched about as well as I could have hoped to pitch, and I won fifteen games. If I win fifteen games a year–stay healthy, pitch well, all of that–for the next three years, I would still be five wins short of three hundred, and I’d be forty-two years old. What’s more, my older son will be a teenager by then, and my younger one is only a few years behind. I don’t want to come home just when they’re saying, ‘See ya, Dad.’

“I’ve had a good career. I’m lucky to be in a position that whenever I retire, I don’t have to do anything. I can pick and choose what I want to do or what I don’t want to do. If I have a great year, that might make it harder to walk away. But my plan right now is to walk away, and when the calls come the next spring from teams desperate for pitching, my answer–even if I’m tempted–will be no.”

. . .

“The hardest part will be that there’s no gradual pulling away. . . . You just cut the cord, and it’s over. You aren’t a player anymore. That will be hard; I know that. But I don’t think I’ll have any problem just hanging out at home, at least for a while. Could I be a pretty good pitching coach or a manager? I’d like to think so. But it isn’t what I want to do.”

He smiled. “The Little League World Series is right here in town [Williamsport, PA] every August. I’ll go do TV for that for ten days and sleep in my own bed every night. That will be enough.”

. . .

“I think all of us are the same in one sense. . . . When we’re kids and we’re playing the game strictly for fun, we never seriously think we’ll pitch in the major leagues. We dream it, but we don’t really think it will happen. I grew up in a small town; I know Tom [Glavine] did too. We both loved the game and wanted to play it for as long as we could, as well as we could.

“Neither one of us ever imagined we would pitch as long as we have, get paid anywhere close to what we’ve been paid, or pitch as well as we’ve both pitched.”

. . .

When Mussina signed his six-year contract with the Yankees that would keep him in the majors until he was thirty-seven, a friend he had grown up with in Montoursville pointed out to him that he had said he wouldn’t pitch much past thirty and certainly not past thirty-five.

“I know that,” Mussina joked. “But I never thought I’d be this good.”

I doubt Moose thought he’d be “this good” in 2008 either. Having won 20 games, he’s made up that missing five wins in his math above. Still, if anyone could walk away after a 20-win season it would be Mike Mussina. The latest from Brian Cashman via Pete Abe is this:

“He’s never said that [he's going to retire] to me but he’s communicated enough to people around him or expressed it through [the media] that it was a strong possibility. He’s not made a decision either way that I’m aware of. He may have made one, though. Moving forward he’s not part of our rotation because he’s a free agent. . . . I’m not counting on him right now. I don’t know if he’s even interested in playing anymore.”

Hopefully Mussina will announce his decision soon after the World Series so that Cashman can adjust his off-season strategy accordingly. The Yankees will miss him if he goes, as will I.

Categories:  Cliff Corcoran  Hot Stove

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9 comments

1 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Oct 29, 2008 1:35 am

Definately will miss Moose a lot....

you mentioned the "plodding" Feinstein book...guess that's one to avoid then, eh?

great job with the improved comment boxes!

2 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Oct 29, 2008 2:41 am

Yeah, not so much on the Feinstein book. It follows Glavine and Mussina through the 2007 season, but it takes 124 pages to even get to 2007 because, rather than artfully mix in the back story as he goes, he starts from Tom Glavine's parents meeting in high school and proceeds in strict chronology from there. He then spends another 50 pages on spring training. So, it takes 175 pages to get to Opening Day 2007. After that, the emphasis is heavier on Glavine, who is chasing 300 wins. The problem is that Glavine is a snooze, and Feinstein's writing is stiff and often repetitive. The book only livens up when Mussina speaks, which isn't often enough. There are some insights into pitching (a 500+ page book on Glavine and Mussina can't avoid having some valuable insights into pitching), and an anecdote or two that will give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse inside the Mets and Yankee clubhouses, but unless you're a huge fan of Glavine or Mussina (I read it because Moose is one of my favorite Yankees of this decade), it's not worth your time. Even if you are a big fan of one of those two, it's plane/train/bathroom reading at best.

3 thelarmis   ~  Oct 29, 2008 3:24 am

we haven't heard it from the horse's, i mean, moose's mouth yet, but it doesn't sound promising that he'll return to the mound. i agree with you cliff on all the reasons why i'd welcome him back. i sure hope he'll give it another go-round. i'm guessing the only way possible would be if his 2 boys really push him to go for 300. sounds like a longshot, at best... : (

the whole commenting bit seems to be getting better and better! thanks for you hard - and quick - work!

4 Cru Jones   ~  Oct 29, 2008 5:30 am

If the Yankees want him, won't they have to "wow" him in order to have him come back? Three years at $13 million/year, or something like that? Dude did just win 20 games + Yanks are desperate + new stadium money blah blah blah.

Doesn't seem like one year will get it done....

Remember what people felt at the end of 2007....Do we REALLY want Moose for three more years at big money? I dunno....I know I do like him, as a ballplayer and his quotes are great. I also know I'm tired of needing to "wow" people to get them to come over (I'm talking to you, CC).

5 Pete   ~  Oct 29, 2008 8:38 am

I say Cashman gives him the Clemens deal — not predicting ... hoping!

6 Mattpat11   ~  Oct 29, 2008 9:37 am

I want Moose back for a number of reasons, not the least of which is I see him as the only thing keeping us away from AJ.

7 Shaun P.   ~  Oct 29, 2008 10:37 am

[6] And that's as good a reason as any.

I wonder if Moose being the only pitcher who signed a big money long term contract and was worth it will help his HoF chances, or if the voters will miss that one completely.

Thanks for the book review, Cliff. The local independent bookstore has that one on clearance, and I wondered about picking it now. I think I will.

8 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Oct 29, 2008 11:25 am

[4] I don't think it's a matter of "wowing" Mussina at all. He's going to decide whether or not he wants to come back entirely on his own, and he's not going to pitch for any other team if he does come back. I'm sure he'll want a solid deal from the Yankees, but they won't be able to "lure" him out of retirement. He either will or he won't, and he'll only talk contract if he's already decided to return to the team.

9 rmd0311   ~  Oct 29, 2008 1:01 pm

I hope he does decide to stay. I would be real nice to see him push for 300 and with just 30 to go. It's completely plausible that it can happen in 2 seasons. Maybe take it year by year a la Pettite. If he gets those 15+ wins, he plays another year.

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