Wednesday, April 26, 2006

So what can we expect from Moose?

Mike Mussina is no spring chicken but he has been the best story for the Bombers so far this season. We all know that the Yankees hitters will hit, Jeter, Cano, Giambi, Sheffield and A-Rod are all above .300, the first four are all hitting at near enough a .350 clip as makes no difference and Jeter is at .391 only behind Miguel Tejada in the AL who is just flat out storching at the moment.

However pitching was always going to be the question mark, the Yankees needed Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina to dominate and hope one or two of Wang, Chacon, Pavano, Wright and Small could step up and do a job. Well whilst Randy had that rough outing in Toronto, and boy was it rough, he has done well but it is Stanford grad Mike Mussina who is the ace of this staff in all but name.

Five starts, five 'quality starts' a 3-1 record with a 2.45 ERA, leading the AL with 31 strikeouts and a WHIP of exactly 1.00. This is the Mike Mussina of old, changing speeds, using that vicious knucklecurve to keep the hitters off balance therefore allowing him to blow the 90-91 MPH fastball past opposition hitters.

We all know that Mussina is a great pitcher, he is a borderline Hall of Famer who has stuttered with elbow problems in the last two campaigns. With two near perfect games behind him, going 19 outs through a perfect game in the playoffs at the Stadium against the Sox, he clearly has the makeup and the arm of a great pitcher.

Sadly age has caught up with him but what we do know if he is a vastly intelligent man, heck anyone who graduates in three years from Stanford is a pretty clever dude, but with a fine arm and arguably an even finer brain, Mussina had it in him to still be a great pitcher and produce for the Yankees.

Knowing that there is little to no chance that the Yankees are going to trigger their $17m option on him next season, Moose is effectively in a contract year. If he produces this year he could very well get a two or even a three year deal somewhere at pretty decent pay, if he really impresses then he may well even return to the Yankees.

Jaret Wright's contract has a 2007 option and that option is a club option due to the pitcher spending more than 75 days on the DL with a shoulder related option, it is therefore very unlikely the Yankees will keep him, increasing the chances that the club would want Mussina back if healthy and he impresses this season. Also Carl Pavano may be dealt elsewhere as the Yankees must surely be getting a little bit annoyed with his time on the DL.

All this leads to Mike Mussina knowing that one great year could provide him with another $30m over the next three years and although he is a multi-millionaire already and money must not be the greatest motivation, it is of some motivation surely. The greater motivation must be the chance to get a WS ring and punch his ticket to Cooperstown.

His elbow looks fine, his mind looks focused, his knucklecurve is filthy and Mike Mussina looks like the ace of this staff. I see no reason not to believe that Mussina is ready for a huge year, I just hope that it is my brain talking and not just my blind faith.

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