Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mike Mussina: 20-game Winner... Finally

Mike Mussina, 20-Game WinnerCongratulations Mike Mussina. At 39, Mussina became the oldest pitcher to ever eclipse the 20-win plateau for the first time.

During his career, Mussina has fallen short on a number of benchmarks synonymous with greatness; he had won 19 games twice before, he had taken two perfect game attempts into the ninth inning, he has never won a World Series, and has never won a Cy Young Award despite finishing in the top six eight times (soon to be nine times).

For the year, Mussina finished 20-9 while posting a 3.37 ERA. He surpassed the 200-innings mark for the first time since 2003. Not to be denied 20, Mussina won his final three starts, allowing one run over 16 innings.

Mussina joined the Yankees following the 2000 season. He signed a 6-year, $88.5 million contract. On September 2, he retired the first 26 Boston Red Sox when pinch-hitter Carl Everett singled to left-center ruining a near perfect game at Fenway Park.

Mike Mussina, New York YankeesIn 2003, Mike Mussina authored one of the greatest clutch pitching performances of his career. During Game 7 of the ALCS, Mussina made the first relief appearance of his career, trailing Boston 4-0. With runners on the corners and nobody out, Mussina struck out Jason Varitek and induced a double-play groundout from Johnny Damon to escape trouble. Mussina threw too more scoreless innings and kept the Yankees within striking distance.

Entering 2008, it appeared the Yankees’ youth movement would force Mussina out of a job. After a tough start, including an ugly pair of loses to the Red Sox, Hank Steinbrenner publicly ripped Mussina. He suggested that Mussina needed to “learn how to pitch like Jamie Moyer,” and no longer rely on his fastball. Mussina responded outstandingly, going 9-1 over his next eleven starts.

In winning 20 games, Mussina supplanted Moyer as the oldest first-time 20-game winner ever. Should Mussina elect to retire, he could be the first pitcher since Sandy Koufax to retire following a 20-win season.

No comments: