So close, but yet so far….

16 08 2008

Can Mike Mussina finally crack the 20 win plateau?
Can Mike Mussina finally crack the 20 win plateau?

By Jared Smith

In baseball, similar to life, some achievements are simply unattainable.  No matter how hard you try and no matter how much work you put into it, you come up a one-step short every time.  Whether it’s bad luck or bad karma, sometimes you just can’t break through that glass ceiling that ominously hangs above your head.  In a nutshell, those few proverbial sentences sum up the career of Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina.  

 

In 18 seasons as a starting pitcher in the majors, Mussina has never won a World Series, never thrown a no-hitter or perfect game, and has never won 20 games, which is the current bench-mark for starting pitcher excellence in today’s game.  However as hopeless as those lack of accomplishments may sound, Mussina has still made an extraordinary career for himself, especially after losing the zip on his once mid-90’s fastball as he has completely evolved into the typical mold of a “finesse” pitcher.

So, now let’s take a history lesson so you can see exactly where I’m coming from with Moose’s near-miss achievements.  The date is September 3rd, 2001, the Yankees are one out away from sweeping the Boston Red Sox in Fenway and increasing their impenetrable AL East lead to 9 games.  More importantly though, Mussina is one out away from pitching a perfect game.  

The count was 1-2 on Carl Everett, the same Everett who Mussina fanned four times earlier that season the last time Mussina pitched against the Red Sox that season.  Like he’s been doing all night, Moose went to his rising fastball to try and get out Everett, but unlike the other times, Everett lined the fastball up-the-box for the Bosox baserunner of the night.  So just like that, Mussina’s perfect game passed him by as quickly as the ball off Everett’s bat was hammered into centerfield.  The Yankees won the game 1-0, Mussina picked up the win, but immortality escaped his grasp because of one fastball that didn’t quite rise.  

Later that season, the Yankees were one inning away from clinching their fourth consecutive World Series championship.  Alfonso Soriano hit a tie-breaking home run in the top of the 9th inning and Mariano Rivera was a mere three outs away from clinching the title for the Bronx Bombers.  This time Mussina would have to watch from the dugout as his this elusive accomplishment was ripped away from him.  You know the rest of the story, a walk, an error by Rivera, and a bloop single from Luis Gonzalez sunk the Yanks in the bottom of the 9th and left Mussina without that coveted World Series ring that has still yet to find his finger.

The final accomplishment on a Hall of Fame pitcher’s “to-do list” is the single season 20-win plateau, which has also tantalized the Moose multiple times during his stellar career.  The Stanford grad has won 19 games twice (1995, 1996) and in ’96 he had four chances to win the elusive 20th game, going 0-2 with 2 no decisions in those four games.  Mussina has also won 18 games three different times (1992, 1998 and 2002).

Fast forward to this season, with the Moose picking up his 16th win yesterday against the hapless Royals, one must ask themselves, will he finally cross one of those goals off his baseball “to-do list” and win 20 games?

Let’s break it down mathematically.  According to my calculations, Mussina has eight starts left, with his last one coming during the final series of the year in Boston at the end of September.  If Mussina can win three out of his next seven starts and have 19 wins going into his final 2008 start in Fenway with hopefully a berth in the playoffs on the line for the Bombers, you can bet that game will be one to remember.

It’s not that Moose can’t accomplish this, he certainly has the “stuff” this year to win four of his last eight games as he has an exceptional 3.37 ERA this season and has shown exceptional command with only 21 walks 153-plus innings.  However considering the Moose’s past history of near-misses, I would not be surprised if he falls one game short.

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4 responses

18 08 2008
arrivaderci656

If you’re a baseball fan you really have to feel bad for moose. but when you think about it, maybe if someone other than carl everett were in the lineup, the no hitter would of been broken up earlier- hard to say. not many pitchers get 20 wins lately- to do it this year would be quite something

18 08 2008
Michael Gill

Moose is one Yankee I wouldn’t mind seeing get to 20. He is a classic bulldog type of pitcher who doesnt have the same stuff he once had, but grits and uses guts.

18 08 2008
Michael DeLuca

Bastard couldn’t do a damn thing for me in fantasy last year and all of a sudden comes up with a season like this. What a prick.

19 08 2008
Dan S.

20 wins anymore is a tough accomplishment, I think Mussina is one of those guys who just was always a notch below. Never good enough to be a #1 but always had to be the lead guy – hence no World Series titles.

Good guy, just not a good #1 guy.

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