At this point, it would be a shocker if Mike Mussina did not retire. For years, Mussina has been determined to end his career on his terms, rather than being told he’s not wanted any longer. To walk away after his first career 20-win season, when he could actually get offers from all over the place…the only way it could’ve ended better for Mussina would’ve been a Yankees World Series victory to go along with his personal success.
You can expect a Yankee Stadium farewell news conference shortly after the conclusion of the World Series. I’ll leave myself one percent room for error. But no one who knows Mussina well thinks he’ll pitch again.
If this is true — and no one really has any way of knowing until Mike Mussina gets on stage and announces it himself — it will leave a glaring 20-win hole in the Yankee rotation. Mussina this year showed that he could adapt to age. He converted himself from a fastball pitcher into a Jamie Moyer type and enjoyed one of his best seasons ever.
Now, if Moose were to hang it up, the Yanks would have just Chien-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain and Andy Pettitte as definite members of the rotation in 2009. Without Moose to anchor the back end, the team will have to fill from a limited pool of free agents or internally from some combination of Phil Hughes, Al Aceves, Ian Kennedy or any other body that happens to be around.
Furthermore, I have more faith in Mussina going forward than I do in Pettitte, but the point may be moot. Over the last few years, Mussina has watched as well-respected hurlers — Roger Clemens, David Wells, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling — have gone out amidst relatively poor seasons and injuries. He’d rather leave on top, and if that’s his choice, I’ll applaud him for it. For the sake of the Yanks, though, I hope he’s not quite ready to hang it up yet.