Posted by Rorschach and The Moose
This is the first of a four part series looking back at Mussina’s 2008 season.
MIke Mussina’s 2008 campaign to win 20 games started in late 2007. On August 27th of that year Mussina last his third straight start. His record stood at 8-10 with a 5.53 ERA. Joe Torre removed him from the rotation and Moose made his only career relief appearance on September 3rd. Things had never looked bleaker for Mussina.
There’s been a lot of talk since he won 20 that he might hang them up. But I’m pretty sure that in the first weeks of September 2007, Mussina would not have minded going home and never worrying about baseball again. As fortune would have it though, he would get another shot to prove himself. On September 12th Mussina returned to the rotation where he would go 3-0 in 4 starts and record a 14 inning scoreless streak. The only blemish stood on the final day of the season when Mussina recorded a no-decision, in which he allowed 6 runs in 5 innings. Still the turnaround in late September earned him another winning season,11-10, but a career-high ERA of 5.15
Moose returned in 2008, the leader and veteran of a Yankee staff that would future youngsters Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes and eventually Joba Chamberlain.
April and May
April of 2008 looked like much of 2007 for Mussina. The Mooses’s first four starts left him with a 1-3 record and ERA of 5.75. His only win, did not seem impressive at the time; it came agianst the usually hapless Tampa Bay Rays on April 7th. Four days after Mussina’s third lose in those four starts Yankee’s owner Hank Stienbrenner told the New York Times (in regard to the Yankee starting rotation):
“I think once Hughes and Kennedy get plenty of starts and get Joba back, and with [Chien-Ming] Wang and [Andy] Pettitte, we will be fine.
The boss of the club did not want Mike Mussina starting games for them. He wanted Joba in the starting rotation, along with Hughes and Kennedy (who at this point had combined for an 0-5 and ERA’s north of 8). Steinbrenner would also add:
“[Mussina] just needs to learn how to pitch like Jamie Moyer…the starting rotation is not what I would have chosen at the beginning of the year, but that is not a big news flash to anyone.”
It’s difficult to know exactly what happened behind the closed doors of the Yankee brain trust. All we know are the results. On April 30th Phil Hughes went on the disabled list with a strained oblique and a cracked rib (he was 0-4 with a 9 ERA). On May 4th, Ian Kennedy, the pitcher who had briefly replaced Mussina 2007’s starting rotation, was demoted to Triple A Scraton/Wilkes-Baree. Joba Chamerlain did not join the starting rotation until June 3rd (he was stretched out, by working 2 innings in 2 late May bullpen appearances). Mussina had kept his job. We can likely thank a combination of Brain Cashman, Joe Giradi and the awfulness of Kennedy and Hughes for this. Moose would make the most of his opportunity.
On April 23rd Mussina shut down the high powered White Sox, allowing 2 earned over 7 and picking up the W. Mussina would then win his next 5 starts and 9 of the next 10.
He beat Cleveland twice, on April 28th and and May 8th. Seattle was dominated by a renewed Mussina on May 3rd to the tune of 1 run and 5 strikeouts. He controlled a suddenly surging Tampa Bay team, allowing them only 1 run over 6 1/3 IP on May the 14th.
The five game win streak came to a screeching halt against Baltimore on the 20th. Mussina’s old team chased him after less then one inning and seven runs. It wasn’t entirely Mussina’s fault though because only one of the seven runs was earned. A booted grounder by Jeter with 2 outs, opened the flood gates. Moose would even throw a wild pitch. It just was not his day.
Karma made things a bit more even during his next start against Seattle. Moose would record his 7th win of the season despite allowing 4 earned in just 5 innings. On May 30th Mussina beat the Twins in Minnesota going six innings and allowing 4 runs (2 earned).
At the close of May, Mike Mussina stood secure in the Yankees rotation with an 8-4 record, behind a 4.06 ERA. He was 3-3 in April with a 4.73 and 5-1 in May with a 3.72. Things we’re definitely looking up.
Coming Next – June and July or how the Moose found his groove