NEW YORK – Mike Mussina took a secret to the ballpark every day this year. Maybe that’s why he was so successful on the mound, so jovial in the clubhouse.
In spring training, he knew this was his final year – even if it meant giving up bids for 300 wins, a World Series ring and a better shot at the Hall of Fame.
The Yankees pitcher walked away from baseball Thursday after his only 20-win season, a month shy of his 40th birthday with a still-potent right arm.
“I don’t have any regrets with what I decided. This is the right time,” Mussina said.
Mussina finished 270-153 with a 3.68 ERA in 18 seasons with Baltimore and New York. A thinking man’s pitcher who relied on sharp control and did more than overpower hitters, he ranks 32nd on the career wins list and 19th in strikeouts with 2,813.
His dad and brother tried to talk him out of retirement and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman called. Instead, “Moose” became the first healthy pitcher to leave on his own accord following a 20-win season in more than a century.
Sandy Koufax left the Dodgers after 1966 because of agonizing elbow pain, Eddie Cicotte and Lefty Williams got tossed in the Black Sox scandal. Henry Schmidt won 22 for Brooklyn in 1903 as a rookie but decided to go back to the Pacific Coast League.
New Steinbrenner at helm
NEW YORK – For more than three decades, George Steinbrenner’s imprints were all over the New York Yankees.
Blockbuster trades, pricey signings, hirings, firings – they all needed his OK. No more.
The omnipresent owner’s colorful 35-year reign of pronouncements, threats and bluster ended Thursday when he passed control of baseball’s most famous and successful franchise to his youngest son, Hal.
“I realize it’s a great responsibility,” said Hal Steinbrenner, who turns 40 on Dec. 3. “My dad is, needless to say, a tough act to follow.”
The elder Steinbrenner, 78, has withdrawn from the Yankees’ day-to-day operations in recent years as his health faded, and brothers Hal and Hank were appointed co-chairmen in April.
• Hal Steinbrenner said pitcher CC Sabathia will have a deadline to accept the Yankees’ contract proposal. “We’ve made him an offer. It’s not going to be there forever,” he said.
New York offered a six-year contract to the pitcher last Friday. The deal exceeds Johan Santana’s $137.5 million, six-year contract with the New York Mets both in total and average.
Postseason rainouts nixed
NEW YORK – There has never been a rain-shortened baseball game in the postseason, and now there never will be.
Commissioner Bud Selig announced the sport will enact a rules change stating that postseason games cannot be shortened because of bad weather.
“All postseason games, All-Star games and that, will be full-length affairs, and the rule will be so written,” Selig said Thursday following an owners’ meeting.
Selig said the change also will apply to tiebreaker games that decide division titles and wild-card berths.
Under baseball’s rules, games are official as soon as the trailing team has made 15 outs.
During World Series Game 5 between Tampa Bay and Philadelphia last month, Selig decided that it wouldn’t be cut short because of pouring rain. Just after the Rays tied it in the top of the sixth, umpires halted play and the game was suspended for 46 hours. Selig said that if the Phillies still led 2-1 when play was stopped, the game would have gone into a rain delay until it could resume – even if that took several days.
Around the league
• Three-time All-Star Chase Utley, who anchored the middle of the lineup for the World Series champion Phillies, will have surgery to repair cartilage damage in his right hip and may not be ready for the 2009 season.
• The Diamondbacks have added an infielder and five pitchers to their 40-man roster. Arizona added the contracts of infielder Pedro Ciriaco; right-handed pitchers Jose Marte, Kyler Newby and Cesar Valdez; and left-handed pitchers Leyson Septimo and Clay Zavada. With the additions, Arizona has 39 players on its 40-man roster.
• Looking to fill one of their most pressing offseason needs, the St. Louis Cardinals were close to a contract deal with left-handed reliever Trever Miller, who was 2-0 with a 4.50 ERA with Tampa Bay last season.
• The Phillies and Texas Rangers swapped former first-round picks Thursday. Texas acquired outfielder Greg Golson from the Phillies for outfielder John Mayberry.