moose.thumbnail.jpgI was at the gym last night and saw the very, very expected crawl across the ESPN screen: Mike Mussina is retiring. The knucklecurve ballast in the Yanks’ rotation will be gone.

Mussina was the spirit of competition. Whereas Paul O’Neill would throw tantrums when he didn’t succeed, Mussina would sulk, express disappointment in himself during press conferences, and then get to work fixing the problem. Joe Torre dropped him from the rotation temporarily in the summer of 2007 after a rough patch. He came back as a wicked reliever. Returned by Joe Girardi to the rotation this season, he won 20 games for the first time in his career. (Yes, yes, wins are the most contingent and mumbo-jumbo measurement of a pitcher’s performance available. But he also threw 150 strikeouts to 31 walks across 200 innings this year, one of his better performances at age 39.)

Tyler Kempner recalls Moosely sourness:

He could be amused by his surroundings or curmudgeonly about any inconvenience. He did crossword puzzles, of course, and read novels and issues of Old Car Trader magazine. He wore funny T-shirts from – the Flux Capacitor, Abe Froman: Sausage King of Chicago, and many more. And he guzzled Mountain Dew all day long.

My personal favorite was from a between-innings video shown at the Stadium in spring 2006. It was one of those lame get-to-know-the-team things, and it asked the Yankees who their favorite reggae artist was. You could predict the answers — Jeter likes Bob Marley, Melky and Cano prefer some dudes you’ve never heard of. Then the camera flashed on an ice-grilled Mussina. "Nobody," he said. I’ll miss him.

Cartoon courtesy of this guy’s awesome blog.

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Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman