The Moose has vamoosed. Mike Mussina told the Yankees today that he will retire rather than return for the 2009 season. It's not a shocker, the pitcher had been openly contemplating hanging up the spikes since the season ended, but it will impact the way the Yankees handle their offseason moves.
Mussina is the rare athlete who walks away while still having a lot to offer the game. He had his first 20 win season in 2008, rebounding from a miserable 2007 by altering his pitching style to one based on beguiling hitters instead of blowing them away. He's the first pitcher since Sandy Koufax to walk away from baseball after winning 20 games.
And, while he may not have Koufax's credentials, he may be joining the lefty in Cooperstown someday. He finishes his career with a 270-153 record and a 3.68 ERA. Mussina is 19th all-time in strikeouts and 13th in strikeout-to-walk ratio. He's also one of only 21 pitchers in history that is more than 100 games over .500. 16 of the others are in the Hall and the other four -- Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine -- are certainly deserving of enshrinement. He fell short of 300 wins, though, and falls behind those four and some other contemporaries in the baseball firmament.
That discussion is an interesting one, but a less pressing one than what Mussina's retirement means to the Yankees. The team had hoped to bring him back on a one-year deal to round out a rotation fortified by, they hope, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. Now they may feel it necessary to re-sign Andy Pettitte as a final piece. If not, they'll be rolling the dice on Phil Hughes, a reasonable bet but a risky one for a team that's loading up in the rest of the rotation. Having Mussina would have been a nice safety blanket but one they'll have to do without.