It was the first winter of the 2000s and Mike Mussina was ready to move on, turning 32 that winter, he hit the Free Agency market and was picked up by the Yankees. The Yankees paid 88.5 million over 6 years. Incredibly, he would come right after they had just won 4 of 5 titles and leave just before they won again. The pressure of New York didn’t seem to bother him as he put up 17 wins and an ERA of 3.15. The Yankees played the A’s in the first round and were quickly down 2 games to none. Mussina started Game 3 and pitched seven strong shutout innings. He was helped by the heads up “flip” play made by Jeter in the seventh. His next start came against the Mariners in Game 2 the ALCS. He pitched six innings and gave up two runs to secure the win and a 2-0 lead for the Yanks in the series. The Yankees won in 5 and went onto their fifth World Series in six years. In Game 1 Mussina was crushed and the Diamondbacks rode to an easy win. He would come back strong in Game 5, throwing 8 innings of 2 run ball with ten strikeouts. He took a no-decision, but the Yankees won that game. It was their last win of the season as they dropped a heartbreaking Game 7. Mussina won 18 games in 2002, but his ERA jumped to 4.05. The Yankees had a short postseason as they fell to the Angels in 4. Mussina pitched in Game 3, but gave up 4 runs in 4 innings. Mussina won 17 games in 2003 and lowered his ERA to 3.40. He pitched for the Yankees in Game 1 of the playoffs against the Twins. He went 7 giving up 3, but took the loss. The Yanks won the next three in a row to set up a matchup with the Red Sox for the ALCS. Mussina again pitched Game 1 and again took the loss. The Yankees won the next two, but Mussina took his third loss of the playoffs. This time he pitched ok, but didn’t get much run support. Mussina made his first relief start of his career in Game 7. He pitched 3 shutout innings and then watched one of the greatest Game 7s of all time. In the bottom of the 11th Aaron Boone (the current Yankee skipper) hit a walk off home run to send the Yanks to the World Series. The Yankees were playing the Florida Marlins and won game 2 to even the series. Moose finally won a game thanks to his seven strong innings. Shockingly, the Marlins took the next three and the Yankee’s season was over. Due to injuries, ’04 was the first year Mussina made less than thirty starts since ’98. He only won 12 games and his ERA was north of 4.50. He did pick up win number 200 that season. Despite a strong Game 1 start against the Twins, Mussina was bested by Johan Santana. The Yankees won the series in 4 and set up a rematch with Boston. In Game 1 Mike gave up 4 runs over 6 and two thirds, but it was enough for the win. The Yankees jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but dropped game 4. Mussina threw 6 innings of two run ball in his bid to send the Yankees to the World Series, but it was not enough. The Yankees became the first team ever to lose a series after having a 3-0 lead. Mussina won 13 games the next year, but that ERA stayed up in the mid-40s. The Yankees tagged Mussina as their Game 1 starter against the Angels. Mike lasted only 5 and two thirds, but did not allow a run in the winning effort. They forced a Game 5 for Mussina, but he didn’t perform nearly as well. He gave up 5 runs and didn’t last three innings. The Yankees hammered out a two year extension with Mike and he was able to improve the next year. He won 15 games and lowered his ERA to 3.51. He also threw his last complete game of his career. In the ’06 playoffs Mussina got the ball in Game 2 against the Tigers. He pitched ok going 7 innings and giving up 4 runs. The Yankees lost that game and the next two, and for the second year in a row were bounced in the first round. 2007 looked like his last year, he struggled mightily and was even pushed to the bullpen. The winter before the season he turned 38 years old. He still made 27 starts, but won only 11 games and his ERA rose above 5. Mussina became the 9th pitcher to win 100 games with two teams, and picked up win number 250. The Yankees met up with the Indians in the first round and didn’t give Mussina a start. He came in in long relief in Game 4. He gave up 2 runs in 4 and two thirds. The Yankees lost in the first round for the 3rd year in a row. Surprisingly, Mussina came back in ’08 and even more surprisingly had one of his better years. His ERA went back under 3.50 and for the first time in his career, he won 20 games. The Yankees did not make the playoffs and Mike retired that offseason. Mussina finished with 536 starts and 3562.2 innings pitched over 18 seasons. Mike Mussina had 270 wins which puts him in a tie for 33rd all time. His final career WAR was 83 which is 22nd all time among pitchers. He won seven Gold Gloves, and made the all star team 5 times. He won more than 10 games 17 times, and after his first year, always made more than 24 starts. Mussina wasn’t dominant like Clemens, he didn’t come up big every postseason like Pettitte. However, if you needed a good pitcher to give you 7 strong innings every 5 days he was your man.
In the 1990 draft the Orioles made Mike Mussina the 20th pick. He pitched well in the minors and was called up in August of ’91 to the big league club. On August 4th he took the mound for his debut and pitched 7 and two thirds with only 4 hits and one run off of him. He made 12 starts and had an ERA of 2.87. He quickly showed he was there to stay when in ’92 he finished 4th in Cy Young voting and won 18 games. Shoulder injuries took out a good part of his ’93 season, but he still won 14 games and made the All Star game. Mussina recovered nicely and was pitching great well into the next year. The players went on strike and the rest of the ’94 season was canceled. Mussina again finished 4th in Cy Young voting. In ’95 Mussina lead the league with 19 wins and 4 shutouts. ’96 was a special year for Mike, he won 19 games and his first Gold Glove. The Orioles made the postseason. However, his ERA jumped to 4.81 and he carried 11 losses with those 19 wins. The Orioles faced the Indians in the ALDS and won the series 3 games to 1. Mussina pitched in Game 3, the only loss of the series, going 6 innings and giving up 3 earned runs. The Orioles advanced to play the Yankees in a series that will be remembered for a 12 year old kid. Derek Jeter launched what looked to be a home run, but was actually interfered with by a fan. Mussina took the mound in Game 3 with the series tied 1-1. He pitched 7 and two thirds, but gave up 5 runs. The Orioles lost the series in 5 games and the Yankees went onto win the World Series. Mussina started the ’97 season on the DL, but recovered to have a nice season with a career high 218 strikeouts. The Orioles made the playoffs again and faced the Mariners. Moose got the ball in games 1 and 4 against Randy Johnson. In Game 1 he pitched 7 innings of two run ball to beat Johnson and Game 4 he threw 7 innings of one run ball again beating Johnson. After beating the Mariners, the Orioles faced off against the Indians for the second year in a row. Mussina was sent to the mound in game 3 with a tied series. He shut down the Indians with 7 innings of one run ball and 15 strikeouts, but a lack of run support cost him a win. He got another shot in Game 6 with the Orioles down 3 games to 2. He again pitched superbly going 8 innings of shutout ball with ten strikeouts. Again he didn’t get the run support he needed and the Orioles went home and did not return to the playoffs until 2012. Mussina suffered through a few injuries in ’98, but earned his third Gold Glove and his 1,000th strikeout. In ’99 Mussina had one of his best year with 18 wins and a second place finish in the Cy Young voting. 2000 was Mike’s last year on the Orioles. He pitched well despite a losing record. He ended his ten years there with over 2,000 innings pitched and close to 150 wins with a 3.53 ERA.