Friday, November 21, 2008

Farewell, Mike Mussina

Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina has announced his retirement. I was going to write a long piece examining his Hall of Fame chances, but Salon's King Kaufman beat me to it. Read that one.

I saw Mussina pitch when he was at Stanford and I was at Cal, about 19 or 20 years ago. Actually, even before that, I remember hearing his name come up during a pre-season discussion of college baseball with Cal's baseball coach at the time, Bob Milano. I'm not sure if Milano had actively recruited Mussina, who was from Pennsylvania, but either way, Mussina chose Stanford, our hated rival. I remember spelling his name "Masina" in my notes of that discussion.

Anyway, I remember watching Mussina pitch against Cal, both at Berkeley's Evans Field and Stanford's Sunken Diamond, and it was like a man pitching to boys. Mussina was so much better than anyone on the field at that time, it was scary. His fastballs just zipped in, and the catcher's glove seemed to pop louder than for the other pitchers. It's never a good idea to predict major league success for college stars--too many of them falter in the pro leagues--but Mussina was an exception. Everybody knew he'd be good in the big leagues.

I don't know what Mussina's like personally, but he always struck me as a mature, soft-spoken guy who never made trouble. Boring. Even his retirement reflects that idea. He didn't have a big in-season sendoff, or toy with his teams into luring him back to the diamond. He won 20 games in his final season, then he retired.

They don't make 'em like that much anymore.


Stephen said...

King Kaufman's comments on Moose's HOF chances is a pretty short discussion. The argument that the Hall is big already is a poor argument. Is it Moose's fault that the Vets committee in the late 60's and early 70's elected players by the carload? How about Moose is 117 games over .500 for his career and everyone eligible for the Hall who is more than 99 games over is in. While never the best pitcher in his league, he was among the best for many years. Too me, he is a HOF'amer. If he doesn't get in, he blocks the door for many of today's pitchers. He had a hight winning percentage and records better than the teams he pitched for.

David H. Martinez said...

Thanks for the comment. In the era of the 5- man rotation (approximately since the mid-70s), Mussina holds his own quite nicely. Sure, he's not in the Martinez/Clemens/Maddux/Johnson realm, but he's just a notch below. A top-10 pitcher of a particular era almost always gets into the Hall of Fame. It would be a travesty if he didn't make it.