Friday, November 21, 2008

Mike Mussina passes on one last payday

Supreme kudos to Mike Mussina for not being greedy. The journeyman righty was a huge fantasy surprise last season, winning 20 games and posting a 3.37 ERA, his lowest since 2001 (his first year with the Yankees). Even better for him, those numbers came in his walk year, ensuring that the soon-to-be-40-year-old could cash in on one last lucrative, though likely short-term, contract. Instead, Mussina has decided to call it a career.

It's a classy way to retire ... and kind of rare these days. Most pitchers don't leave on a high note; they fizzle out. Look at Matt Morris, whose career ended early last season when the Pirates had to cut him because he was no longer capable of getting anyone out. Yet Morris still earned a cool $10 million last summer for watching baseball games from his couch, all thanks to one last fat contract that sprung from his earlier, more impressive mound work.

Mussina could have had that contract -- the one guaranteeing he gets paid whether he pitches another improbably effective season or reverts to posting the numbers we'd expect from an aging hurler who couldn't keep his ERA below 5.00 in 2007. (In fact, if not for the retirement, I'd soon be warning you against drafting Mussina for your fantasy team in '09.) But, instead, Mike decided to go out like he came in -- as a really good pitcher -- and get on with the rest of his life. It's a refreshing decision, one that demands respect.

And, hey, now you don't have to worry about reluctantly drafting him next year.

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