On May 31, 2006, Mike Mussina was a 37-year-old starter in the middle of his sixth season with the New York Yankees (and 16th season overall). What that means is he had a certain right no contract can afford a player: the ability to deny a manager.
Let me set the stage.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, with the Yankees leading the Tigers 6-1 and two outs, Mussina was just short of a complete game with no earned runs (the one run on the board scored because of an error earlier in the inning).
It was at that point that Yankees manager Joe Torre took a few steps towards the top of the dugout to pull his veteran starter from the game … big mistake. Mussina turned towards the dugout, pointed his finger at Torre and delivered the type of look usually reserved for stern elementary school teachers and moms.
The message was clear: NO, STAY THERE!
Mussina went on to strikeout the final batter, Carlos Guillen, on six pitches (101 total) and win the game. That was the 51st (and final) complete game of Mussina’s career. I think I understand why he wanted to finish it out.
Mussina, by the way, missed the cut for baseball’s Hall of Fame last year for the third consecutive time, earning just 43.0% of the votes. That said, he only earned 24.6% of the votes the year prior, so he did inch closer to the historic cutoff.
The 2017 Hall of Fame results will be released sometime in January, and Mussina will need 75% of the votes to enter the hall. If he fails to get enough votes, he will have a maximum of six more tries in the following six years.
Do you think he deserves a spot in Cooperstown?