I come to praise Mike Mussina

Because we can't stop making fun of Mike Mussina
Holy Joba

I solemnly swear to utter only good words about Mike Mussina in this post.

After 24 hours of bashing the man, I need to make it up to him. For all the grief I’ve given Mussina today here and here, Mussina deserves recognition and praise for the 209 starts he’s made for the Yankees. In that process, he’s won 100 regular season games and has lost just 62. He’s also thrown some very memorable playoff games as well.

So in recognition of a pitcher who’s been a steady presence on the Yankees since 2001, let’s look at Mike Mussina’s five best games in pinstripes.

1. September 2, 2001: Nine days before Sept. 11, Mike Mussina twirled a masterpiece that remains his best game in pinstripes. For 8 2/3 tense innings, he kept the Yanks’ archnemesis — the Boston Red Sox — off base. He was, in a word, perfect until Carl Everett, a man who does not believe in dinosaurs, stepped up the plate as a pinch hitter. Everett laced a single just into left-centerfield, and Mussina, perfect for 26, had to settle for a one-hit shutout. The game ended in a 1-0 Yankee victory, and Trot Nixon was not only the last out but the potential winning run. Moose struck out 13 that day and was amazing.

2. October 13, 2001: Down 2 games to none against the A’s in the ALDS, the Yankees, America’s team during a tough stretch, were facing elimination, and it came down to Mike Mussina to keep them alive. Aided by an incredibly play by Derek Jeter, Mussina threw 7 brilliant innnings of four-hit, one-walk baseball before turning the slim 1-0 lead over to Mariano Rivera. The Yanks went on to beat the A’s and advance the ALCS. That game brings chills.

3. November 1, 2001: The Yankees couldn’t top what they had done on Oct. 31 of 2001, right? Down to their final at bat, the Yanks shocked the world when Tino Martinez launched a game-tying two-run home run off of Byun-Hyun Kim to tie the World Series at two games a piece. The next night was Mussina’s. He went 8 innings, giving up just 2 runs on 5 hits while striking out 10 against the Diamondbacks. The lasting image of this game, though, is Scott Brosius hitting a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the 9th again of Byung-Hyun Kim to tie the game. But we can’t undervalue Mike Mussina’s efforts here as the Yanks took a 3 games to 2 lead in the 2001 World Series.

4. October 16, 2003: Coming into game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, Mussina had been the hard-luck loser. He lost game 1 in poor fashion and, despite 10 Ks in 6 2/3 innings, was simply outpitched by Tim Wakefield in game 4. Game 7 rolled around, and it was do-or-die time for the Yanks. Roger Clemens just didn’t have it, and the Yanks were down 4-0 with two on and no one out in the 4th inning. Joe Torre had to do something fast, and so he called on Mike Mussina to come out of the bullpen on two days’ rest. Mussina was brilliant. He struck out Jason Varitek and induced a groundball off the bat of the speedy Johnny Damon to hold the Sox at 4. Mussina would go 3 huge innings, giving up just 2 hits while striking out 3, and Grady Little would leave Pedro Martinez in for just a little bit too long. The night belonged to Aaron Boone and Mariano Rivera, but Moose was the unsung hero that evening.

5. October 21, 2003: When all is said and done, we would rather forget about the 2003 World Series. The annoying Marlins stunned us all by actually winning. But not before Mussina threw another huge game in the postseason. Five days after saving the Yanks’ season, Mussina took the mound and spun 7 innings of one-run ball while striking out 9. The Yanks would take a 2-1 series lead after that game, and it looked like masterful Moose would have a chance to pitch game 7. Then, Josh Beckett intervened, and the rest is sad, sad history.

Honorable Mention: October 18, 2004: I don’t really remember much of what happened after about 10:45 p.m. on the night of October 17, 2004. In fact, I could have sworn the ALCS ended there, but supposedly, the Yanks and Red Sox played a few more games after that. In game 5, with the Red Sox gaining momentum, Mussina held them in check. He threw six innings, giving up 2 runs and striking out 7. Tom Gordon blew it, and after that, everyone from Joe Torre to that stupid short fence in Fenway’s right field blew it. Not Mussina though. He was great.

Because we can't stop making fun of Mike Mussina
Holy Joba
  • steve

    hes was one, if not the the best free agent signings in the cashman era … the only problem was the two year deal he got last year … if it only was only a 1 year deal with an option …. ugh … i can dream can’t i.

  • Tom O.

    Nice post. I sometimes forget how great Moose has been for the Yanks because of how he’s pitched lately, but who knows where the Yanks would be without him a few years ago. He’s just wearing down in his old age I suppose, but back in the day he was as good as you could get.

  • Marc

    Check these out, flat out amazing stuff:

    “Mike Mussina – Brushes With Perfection

    On May 30, 1997, he retired the first 25 Cleveland Indians he faced before surrendering a single to Sandy Alomar Jr. with one out in the ninth; Mussina struck-out the last two batters for a one-hit 3-0 shut-out.
    On August 4, 1998, he retired the first 23 Detroit Tigers he faced before surrendering a double to Frank Catalanotto with two outs in the eighth; Mussina gave up another hit in the eventual 4-0 shut-out.
    On September 2, 2001, he had his most heart-breaking brush with perfection when he retired the first 26 Boston Red Sox he faced; he then ran pinch-hitter Carl Everett (batting for Joe Oliver) to a 1-and-2 count before Everett slapped a single to right. Mussina retired leadoff man Trot Nixon on a grounder, striking out 13 batters in a one-hit 1-0 shut-out.
    On April 14, 2002, he retired the first 16 Red Sox he faced before surrendering a single to Doug Mirabelli with one out in the sixth; Mussina was replaced by reliever Ramiro Mendoza, and the Yankees finished off the 6-2 win.
    On October 12, 2004, he retired the first 19 Red Sox he faced in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series before surrendering a double to Mark Bellhorn with one out in the seventh; Mussina was replaced by Tanyon Sturtze, and the Yankees finished off the 10-7 win.”

  • http://www.pinstripealley.com John

    Thanks for that. It’s good to seperate the past from the present.
    Moose will go down as the best FA signing of the Cashman era, and I think he should get a fair number of Hall of Fame votes.

  • ShawnT

    Hey anybody realize Texas scored 30 runs against the orioles. WooooooooW

  • Mac

    And yet we, The Bronx Bombers, can’t win a series against them…

  • Wordekemper = Wizard

    Really, how does a team that scores 14 between the 4th and 6th find the strinth to get 16 in the 8th and 9th? besides the football score, that’s silly.

    Yeah, thanks for reminding me that Mussina’s not a clown.

  • KeystoneSC

    Excellent post. I have great memories of the almost perfect game against Boston and game 3 in Oakland in 2001. Many of my fellow Yankee fans at work are found of asking the question “when has Mussina pitched well in a “big” game.” This post answers that question. Thanks for giving a different perspective.


    I was at the 9/02/01 game. It was a special day. Don’t forget David Cone pitched his ass off for the sox.
    Had we had a left fielder not just a place to try to hide knoblauch, the ball would have been caught and Moose would have had a perfect game.

  • Rob_in_CT

    Cone pitching for the Sox that game, and losing 1-0 on, if I recall correctly, an unearned run, made it even cooler. Obviously the Everrett hit sucked, but it was still an awesome game. Right up there with the Clemens-Pedro game with all the k’s and, unfortunately, Trot Nixon’s HR.

    Moose has been good for the Yanks. He catches a lot of shit (mostly of the “he’s gutless” variety), but I usually defend him. Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS is typically my rebuttal. That was a huge goaline stand.

    That said, he’s a 4th/5th starter now. He beats the offensive dregs of the league, and gets beat up by good offenses.

  • http://www.trailerspy.com Julie

    His last two starts have been dreadful, but the two before that were gems, so there’s still hope.

    You apologized to Bobby Abreu and then he went on a tear, so maybe this will work for Moose too.

  • steve (different one)

    “Many of my fellow Yankee fans at work are found of asking the question “when has Mussina pitched well in a “big” game.” ”

    this is why Yankee fans really suck sometimes. and i say this as a diehard.

    it’s really easy for me to remember Moose throwing big games off the top of my head.

    what about game 1 of the 2004 ALCS? what was he perfect through 6? didn’t he shut down the mariners in 2001?

    the only difference b/w his “soft” reputation and Pettitte’s reputation as a “big game pitcher” is *run support*.

    he lost 2 games to the twins he shouldn’t have. the 2004 alcs obviously.

    in 2005, sheffield and crosby colliding??

    moose has come up big plenty of times. he’s also had some bad postseason starts. just like Pettitte.

  • Rob_in_CT

    I’ve had the Pettitte/Moose argument with a good friend more than once.

    I show him the numbers. Better ERA for Moose. Better run support for Pettitte. Some HUGE, HUGE performances by Moose, like those we’ve discussed here, that match Pettitte’s (at least).

    But he just has better memories of Pettitte (yeah, cuz like they won in those years). He eventually has to sort of acknowledge that Moose has pitched some very good games, and that Pettitte has had some terrible ones (Game 6, 2001 WS, anyone? Bueller? Bueller?), but in the end he won’t really concede that Mussina has actually been better in the postseason than Pettitte.

  • Greg

    I am glad to see some people writing positive things. Even when he has been terrible he hasn’t been that bad ( well he is NOW), but for whatever reason fans have overrated other pitchers in comparison ( whether it was Clemens and Pettite in the old days or Wang last year).

    When the staff had Mussina, Clemens, pettite, Wells, etc- Moose was always #1 or #2 or at least tied. In 2001 and 2003 he was arguably as good as or better than Clemens ( IIRC lower ERA and even more Ks) yet Clemens had all the run support and accolades. A similar thing happened last year ( though Moose did breakdown towrads the end) when Wang got the run support to win 19 ( the only stat he was better in) while Mussina had a QS almost every time he went out. People were calling Wang a Cy candidate and saying Mussina shouldnt even be resigned ( I’m not going by hindsight here. At the time people were whining that Moose signed for a lower deal than most career .500 5.00ERA pitchers were signing).

    Even now I have seen people seriously suggest getting Wells back. Wells was never half the pitcher Mussina was and right now is worse and older.

    For a couple years I have seen complaints that Moose was only a 6 or 7 inning pitcher. Yet Clemens has NEVER been more than a 6 inning pitcher ( at least not since his first stint in NY). People love Hughes, yet his ERA is about the same as Mussina’s. Of course I could go on and on.

    Obviously I am a Mussina fan ( since he came up with Baltimore), but he has never gotten his due and always been unfairly compared to others. I guess because he has never gotten the WS ring, CY ( he was better than Clemens when he won it), or 20 wins ( 19 in a strike year and 15+ many, many years while having NO run support), his whole career is “terrible.”

  • Pingback: Yanks’ old arms gearing up for one more October | River Ave. Blues | A New York Yankees blog

  • Pingback: River Ave. Blues » Yanks’ old arms gearing up a final October

  • Pingback: River Ave. Blues | Mike Mussina calls the kettle black