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.