"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

A 7-letter word for problem-solver: MUSSINA

If you’ve ever tried to solve a crossword puzzle, you know that there are many ways to attack it.

Some folks dive right in and look for the clues directly tied to the longest words.  Maybe they’ll get lucky and connect the title of the puzzle with those answers.  Some seek out the “fill in the blank” clues first, as they have a finite number of possible responses.  Others go for the 3-letter words first, as they are used repeatedly in puzzles.

You start working through the puzzle, and you inevitably hit some rough patches.  You notice if the clue ends in -ED or -ING or -S, and then figure that the answer will most likely do the same.  You take note of circumstances of too many vowels or consonants in a row in one of your answers.  You keep your mind open to the possibility of puns and alternate definitions being used.  In other words, you realize you have to find some other ways of getting the answers.

Pitching is like that too … its all about adjustments on the fly.  Maybe that’s why Mike Mussina liked to solve crossword puzzles when he wasn’t solving the riddles of pitching.   With a degree in economics from Stanford, one can understand that Mussina would always look for a new challenge … a new puzzle to solve.  To him, reading the title of the puzzle is akin to going over the scouting report with his catcher.  What are we gonna face today … what sort of things are gonna be tried against me?  Figuring out how to get the opposing batters out the second time through the lineup is like unlocking a tricky corner of a crossword grid.

For the most part, they are solitary pursuits, pitching and crossword puzzles.  Yes, you do have a catcher calling the pitches for you and fielders to back you up, but you have a plan of attack based upon the clues the batter has given you, and you have to execute the pitches.  When that moment arrives when you’ve frozen the batter with a 3-2 changeup when you figured he was sitting “dead red”, its not unlike when you’ve finally come upon the theme of that enigmatic crossword puzzle, and filled in all the blanks.

Mussina by the numbers:

Mike Mussina first took the mound on August 4, 1991.

During his career:

  • 2,377 other pitchers toed the rubber at least once.
  • 1,375 of those pitchers started at least one game.
  • Only two pitchers started more games than his 536 (Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine).
  • Only four pitchers had more complete games than his 57 (Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Maddux and Kevin Brown).
  • Only one pitcher won more than his 270 (Maddux).
  • Only two pitchers had more than shutouts than his 23 (Johnson and Maddux).
  • Only two pitchers threw more innings than his 3,562.6 (Maddux and Glavine).
  • Only four pitchers struck out more than his 2,813 (Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens and Schilling).
  • Received Cy Young votes in nine of his 17 full seasons (one 2nd place finish, two 4th place finishes, three 5th place finishes and two 6th place finishes).
  • Received MVP votes in three seasons.
  • Was a five-time All-Star game selection.
  • Was a seven-time Gold Glove selection.
  • Finished in the top six in ERA ten times.
  • Finished in the top three in wins five times.

Tags:  crosswords  Mussina

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1 Mattpat11   ~  Nov 20, 2008 4:00 pm

Yankees are going to miss this guy. I think he was under appreciated while he was here. I think his stock might actually rise as fans and writers get to watch the comic misadventures of AJ Burnett and compare it to the quiet consistency of Mussina.

2 SteveAmerica   ~  Nov 20, 2008 4:16 pm

just because the dude has a bachelor's degree in econ, people have spent his entire career portraying him as some super brainiac.

does a bach degree really mean that much?

3 SteveAmerica   ~  Nov 20, 2008 4:16 pm

also he was awesome and I'll miss having him around.

4 Diane Firstman   ~  Nov 20, 2008 4:18 pm


Well, Economics is quite a bit more challenging than the myriad "Liberal Arts" degrees you see most college athletes getting, and Stanford is known as the Ivy League of the West Coast.

So, I would gibe him some educational props.

5 Just Fair   ~  Nov 20, 2008 4:29 pm

I wonder if Moose was more hurt or more stubborn 2 years ago when he hit his rough patch. It certainly was a joy watching him pitch last year.
In regards to crosswords, I read an article a few years back about some guy who talked a crossword editor into making most of the Sunday clues about the relationship he had with his girlfriend. His girlfriend did the puzzle everyday. Long story short, it was a super clever way to propose once she had figured it all out. Anyway, God Speed, Moose. Have fun with all those antiques in you barn. : ) And your family of course.

6 SteveAmerica   ~  Nov 20, 2008 4:40 pm

[4] yeah, i get that, but i have a friend with a Bach in econ from University of Chicago, and I was talking to her about the effect of an Automotive Industry bailout on supply and demand and she said, "I have no idea what you're talking about, it's been 8 years."

I'm not insinuating he's not smart and i get that when it comes to baseball his education, and intellectual aura are a good unique story hook. i just get weary of it. and I don't mean to pick on you or your writing.

7 Diane Firstman   ~  Nov 20, 2008 4:48 pm

A clip from Mussina's appearance in the documentary "Wordplay"

8 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Nov 20, 2008 5:20 pm

JF, if I remember correctly, Jon Stewart proposed to his now-wife via the NYTimes crossword.

Steve, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. At the risk of sounding like an elitist, I don't think Mussina is any smarter than the average Bronx Banter reader, but a baseball clubhouse is a different demographic.

9 OldYanksFan   ~  Nov 20, 2008 7:09 pm

[8] I agre. I dont thinc Moose is that mush smartar then enybody hear.
Pete Abe has posted a FORTY minute audio phone conference by Moose. One or two revelations... a lot of repetition... but I love Moose's honesty and straight forward talk. It's rare in baseball.

Although, I think he reveals the reason he had such a good season, and it really talks to how a player''s state of mind can effect their performance.

10 joejoejoe   ~  Nov 20, 2008 7:43 pm

The one-hitter he threw in Fenway is probably my favorite TV baseball experience of all-time. I didn't even mean to watch it, I was walking in Long Island City and a bar with an open cafe front had the game on so I popped in to see the score and walked in on the best pitching I'd ever seen in my life and probably the best game every pitched in Fenway, no-hitters included.

Best wishes to you Mike Mussina. You'll be missed.

11 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Nov 20, 2008 8:43 pm

put this in the wrong thread down below..

Anyone know the story of why Mussina and Michael Kay hated each other?

echoing the comments from the other thread…Moose going out like that is real cool. Happy retirement! am planning the same when I hit 40, take my $85 million and retreat to the solitude of a Thai beach…

12 Shaun P.   ~  Nov 20, 2008 8:52 pm

I wonder if Moose will be asked to go down to Spring Training and work with some of the kid pitchers for a bit? IIRC, their lockers were all near his this past spring.

Sheesh, I miss his pre-wind-up bow already.

mattpatt, I think you're right, especially about the under-appreciated part. I'm not saying this as a warning about Sabathia, but its fascinating that in 33 years of free agency, of all the pitchers who have signed long-term contracts (6+ years) as free agents (so not including guys like Santana, who were traded under contract and signed an extension or new deal), the only one who's delivered anything close to value was Moose.

13 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Nov 20, 2008 9:00 pm

about Joba's 150 innings limit for 2009...anyone know a good source to read more about young pitchers and innings limits?? am still unclear as to why Joba would be so protected...

14 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Nov 20, 2008 9:01 pm

Shaun, just root for Ian Kennedy, he does the same bow.

15 monkeypants   ~  Nov 20, 2008 9:29 pm

[12] Greg Maddux worked out OK, or are you referring only to Yankees' signings? Still, overall your point is well-taken.

16 Shaun P.   ~  Nov 20, 2008 9:46 pm

Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO, if you're a BP subscriber, any article by Will Carroll that includes the phrases "injury nexus" and/or "Verducci Effect". If not, go to si.com and search for article by Tom Verducci that include the exact phrase "30 innings".

To be brief, Verducci found that pitchers under 25 who increased their number of innings pitched in a given year more than 30 over (either their previous high or the last year's total, I forget which) tended to pitch worse the next year, or suffer a severe injury - or both. Joba's highest total (minors and majors) is ~112 IP in '07 (only 103 IP last year), so if he goes much over say 140 IP in '09, he's risking problems in 2010 and beyond. I wish the Yanks had had him start some in September, but I'll trust they know best.

Cliff, you can call me the driver of the IPK bandwagon then. As crazy as this sounds, I'm pretty sure I've never actually seen IPK pitch on the tee-vee, so thanks for the news.

17 Shaun P.   ~  Nov 20, 2008 9:50 pm

monkeypants, IIRC Maddux never signed a contract longer than 4 years, though I may be mistaken.

OK, Cot's says the longest contract Maddux ever signed was for 5 years, though he signed two such deals with the Braves. Maybe there's not much difference between 5 years and 6 years, in which, you're right, its Maddux and Moose.

But in general, I was talking about MLB-wide (Hampton, Zito, Kevin Brown, etc.).

18 OldYanksFan   ~  Nov 20, 2008 10:56 pm

[11] Need a manservant?

19 Shaun P.   ~  Nov 20, 2008 11:01 pm

Speaking of Moose, Jon Weisman back at Dodger Thoughts had an interesting bit on him: an article Jon wrote while he and Moose were both at Stanford back in the late 80s!

20 horace_clarke_era   ~  Nov 21, 2008 10:02 am

Cliff nails it again, and OYF seconds the motion. It is sometimes hard to realize how uneducated the 'average' athlete is today. In fact, a player can get a rep for being aloof, elitist, out-of-the-loop just for reading novels, biographies, or more of the paper than the sports. He ain't a normal dude!

In THIS context, it becomes newsworthy. Same thing applies to a guy like Steve Nash.

21 horace_clarke_era   ~  Nov 21, 2008 10:04 am

[13] We went through a LOT of this last winter, discussing the innings limits and the data on correlation between jumping >50 innings and early and often injuries.

The received wisdom seems to be that the connection is alarmingly high and it makes a ton of sense to ease the innings upwards year over year towards a full 190+ inning load.

I have no idea if any kind of archiving has crossed over to the new server. Doubt it.

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