This card depicts Mike Mussina a lifetime ago, as a 21-year-old pitcher for the Single-A Hagerstown Suns in his first season of professional baseball. Even though he'd just been drafted 20th overall in the 1990 draft, the weight of the Orioles' expectations didn't seem to be weighing too heavily on him. He looks like a pretty cool customer. Indeed, he would make his major league debut just one year later, completing two of his twelve starts with an impressive 2.87 ERA for the O's.
That young, confident "Moose" was nowhere to be found last night, as the now-39-year-old Yankee had an absolute meltdown. He looked a lot like the Mike Mussina who left Baltimore after the 2000 season, the ace pitcher who was suddenly getting roughed up for 5, 6, 7 runs once every few weeks and sullenly and subtly placing the blame on others. He had a rocky start to the game against his former team, but when Luke Scott hit a grounder at Derek Jeter with two on and two out, it looked like he'd escape with only one run allowed. But with Robinson Cano slow to cover second base, Jeter lost his focus and threw high to Jason Giambi at first. Mussina lost his focus after that error, allowing six more runs. The killing blow was an 0-2, bases-clearing double by rookie Adam Jones. Mike was pulled without getting that third out, tying a career mark for his shortest appearance. The O's went on to win 12-2, a game that I enjoyed right through the last out.
I thought recently that I had finally overcome my bitterness toward Mussina for bailing on the Birds and joining the Dark Side for George Steinbrenner's big bucks. After all, he moved a little closer to his Pennsylvania home, he was apparently sweet-talked by the very popular Joe Torre, and the Orioles were backsliding both on the field and in their front office dealings. But his implosion last night instilled a great sense of schadenfreude within me, and I realized something: as long as #35 is wearing those pinstripes, I'll always root against him. He's the enemy, pure and simple.