Perhaps this is why Mike Mussina decided to exit stage left. After endearing himself to Yankee fans in what was one of the few true feel good stories of the 2008 campaign while winning 20 games, Mike Mussina decides to blast off on Mariano Rivera of all people, of all players. Yes that same Mo Rivera who could've shut it down early because he would soon need off-season surgery and yet stuck around to lock down Moose's 20th victory on the season's last day, got ripped by his former teammate in Joe Torre's new book.
I consider myself to be very partial to Mo, having followed him since his days as a starter for the Double-A Albany-Colonie Yankees back in 1994. There's no nicer guy, no more of a class act in the game than Mo and for Mussina to come out and say what he said and for Torre to back him up in various radio interviews, namely with Mike Francesca on WFAN, is simply preposterous.
"As great as he is, and it's amazing what he does, if you start the evaluation again since I've been here, he has accomplished nothing in comparison to what he accomplished the four years before. He blew the World Series in '01. He lost the Boston series. He didn't lose it himself, but we had a chance to win in the ninth and sweep them and he doesn't do it there. . . . That's what I remember about the '04 series."
Ok Mikey since you asked for it, let's start that evaluation shall we? First I'll say had Mike Mussina been backed up by Mariano Rivera all his years with the O's, Moose might just have that magic number of 300 wins. Don't believe me, ask Roger Clemens! Did Mariano Rivera give up five runs over three innings of work in Game one of the 2001 World Series? Nope that would be Mussina. Who pitched to a 9.00 ERA in the 2002 ALDS against the Angels? Why that would be Mussina as well. In fact Rivera had a better World Series ERA in 2001 (1.42) than he did in the 2000 (3.00) and 1996 (1.59) Fall Classics, both of which the Yankees won.
In the 2003 ALCS against Boston Mussina lost both games one and four, while pitching to an ERA of 4.11. It was only his game seven heroics in relief that saved him, but even more so was the invincible Rivera whose three innings of scoreless relief enable the Yankees to stay afloat until Aaron Boone sent the masses home happy, giving Rivera the ALCS MVP.
That same 2003 post-season Rivera saved Mussina's lone World Series victory in game three and had a spotless ERA in that series as well.
In the 2004 ALDS Mussina picked up the Yankees only loss to the Minnesota Twins in Game One, while it was Rivera's two innings of scoreless relief in extra frames which sealed the series for the Yanks in Game Four.
Moving along to the 2004 ALCS against the Red Sox, in Game One Mussina flirting with perfection early on, proceeds to nearly squander an 8-0 lead, allowing four runs. Because of the Yankees horrendous relief and a game where with a lead of such proportions Mussina probably should've lasted longer, Rivera was forced to pitch and inning and a third to pick up the save in a scoreless outing.
Also keep in mind the Yankees pitching was so abysmal that season, Rivera had to work all four games of the ALDS, throwing 5/2/3 innings, more than starter Javy Vazquez, only a third less then Kevin Brown, two thirds less than Jon Lieber and an inning and a third less than the leader Mussina.
But I digress to the '04 ALCS, where in Game 2 thanks to the incompetent Yankees bullpen, Rivera was forced to throw another inning and a third of scoreless ball, picking up yet another save.
In Game Three Kevin Brown and Javy Vazquez gave us all a foreshadowing of what was to come in Game Seven. Upon looking at the performance of both Brown and Vazquez who were both overshadowed by the Nintendo style offense, where's the criticism by Moose of Joe Torre for trotting these winners out there for that all important Game Seven? Where was Mr. Mussina to suck it up and take the ball for a few innings after throwing only six in Game Five? How about some criticism for Kevin Brown who to paraphrase Mr. Mussina's own words about Rivera, "accomplished nothing compared to what he'd accomplished before he was a Yankee."
Perhaps if the Yankees pitching weren’t so poor, Rivera who worked a perfect 8th inning in game Four, wouldn't have had to pitch that inning and had he only needed to throw the 9th, maybe the Yankees are in the World Series?
And to harken back to the 2001 World Series where Rivera also pitched a scoreless 8th only to lose it in the 9th, only had to do so because of Joe Torre's spat with ace setup man Jeff Nelson, which caused Nelson to walk back to Seattle after the 2000 season. Think Mr. Torre brought up that little fact to Tom Verducci?
Mussina also had a sparkling 4.26 ERA that series, neither he Brown or even El Duque pitched to what they had accomplished in the past.
Flip forward to the 2005 ALDS where Mussina had as many post-season wins for the Yanks that year as Al Leiter, with Rivera saving both games. Mussina's ERA that series against the Angels, a glowing 5.40 which included not being able to make it out of the 3rd inning of the deciding Game Five!
The 2006 ALDS against the Detroit Tigers saw Mussina blow a 3-1 lead in Game Two in the 7th at home. Rivera wasn't needed as much, seeing as how the Yankees starters couldn't get to him, he only pitched one inning of scoreless relief.
Finally the 2007 ALDS facing the Cleveland Indians, since Mussina's regular season record of 11-10 with an ERA of 5.15 was nothing compared to what Mussina had accomplished before he got to the Yankees, he was relegated to the bullpen, thus forcing Joe Torre to go with Chien-Ming Wang who'd gotten rocked in Game One, to pitch on short rest in Game Four. Not to mention Roger Clemens coming up lame in Game Three, where was Mussina's criticism of Clemens who was making $28 million that season to be the savior and couldn't pitch to what he had before Mussina had come to the Yankees in 2001? What does Mussina think of Torre burying him in the bullpen for that series?
Oh and if you're wondering about stats between the two who were both relievers that series: Rivera: In three games, 4/2/3 innings pitched, two hits, one walk, six K's, no runs allowed. Mussina: In one appearance, 4/2/3 innings pitched, four hits, two runs allowed, four walks and three K's.
Sure Mussina had his moments with the Yanks in the playoffs, the 2001 ALDS against Oakland down 0-2, season on the line on the road where Moose pitches a gem of seven innings of shutout ball, the latter two innings saved by Rivera in a 1-0 victory. Mussina also had a stellar start that year against Seattle in the ALCS. Couple that with the two big moments I mentioned above, excluding Game Five of the 2004 ALCS, the common thread is that Mariano Rivera finished each and every one of those games where Mussina pitched at least well enough to get the win as well.
In the end one could say that it was Mussina who could never quite accomplish or compare to what the man whom he essentially replaced in the rotation accomplished on the four championship teams before Mussina even got there. He was a bulldog who pitched on guts, adrenaline and determination, never moped or complained when he was nearly through, no forget Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina you sir never were and never will be confused with one David Cone!
And to my recollection, Coney never blamed Joe Torre when he lifted him or Mo for "blowing" his near no-hitter after coming back from an aneurysm in 1996.
So please, please, please spare me this sort of utter garbage from of all people Mike Mussina about, of all people Mariano Rivera. And to Joe Torre, you'd better stick up for your former closer, because had he been uncovered that much sooner it might be Buck Showalter still managing the Yankees. But then again perhaps Hal Steinbrenner would've given you the same courtesy of possibly broadcasting for the YES Network.