I would imagine Mike Mussina has accomplished more as a baseball player than he ever hoped as a kid growing up in Pennsylvania.
He got a scholarship to Stanford, was a first-round draft pick and has made millions playing the game for two high-profile teams. At the very least, he is a player who Hall of Fame voters will have to give serious consideration to given his 247 wins, 2,648 strikeouts and 3.69 ERA in what will come to be known as the steroids era.
But none of that matters tonight.
For the first time since his rookie season in Baltimore in 1991, Mussina will be pitching to prove that he deserves another chance five days later.
Mustering up the arrogance of an elite athlete, he stood in the clubhouse the other day and mocked the idea of his being replaced. But if Mussina can’t get guys out, the Yankees owe it to themselves to see if somebody else can. Even if that somebody else is Kei Igawa or some kid.
I have long believed fans have the wrong idea about Mussina because they see him only in television snippets and he comes across as condescending. That is usually because he has no time for the usual banal, “So, how do you feel?” questions.
It’s become a standard-issue cliche for feature writers to mention that he does crossword puzzles, like that makes him some sort of Poindexter. For the record, he does a newspaper crossword once in a while. But Mussina spends more time standing around his locker talking about baseball or television shows in the 1970s. He goes fishing with his kids, collects classic muscle cars and he works out as much (if not more) than other guys. He’s not some nerd with a good arm.
But he is a pitcher in the twilight, forced to figure out who he is and what he can do to get 18 hitters out. Six innings, three runs. That would be fine. Heck, that would be celebrated.
Is anything less a ticket to a skipped start? Only Brian Cashman and Joe Torre know that and they’re not saying. But with 32 games left, you’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.