Yankee fans have a reason to rejoice for now, sweeping the Red Sox in four games over the weekend. It's still the regular season, and true blue fans know not to get too excited about any games before October. They now have a cushion in the standings above wild-card hopefuls Boston and Tampa Bay, though we know those teams can get hot at any time, and time is still on those teams' sides. There haven't been many weaknesses in New York's team since the All-Star Break. Their pitching staff has been better than solid, from top to bottom. You could even argue that their bullpen is better than most right now, as they were on display during the 15-inning game the other night, keeping the Sox shut out. The offense has matched them, as the Bombers leaned on the home-run ball heavily to run Boston straight out of the Bronx.
Even as things are well, you can't overlook the hole they have in their rotation, lacking a competent fifth starter. I understand how good the rest of the staff is, but having such uncertainty in that spot could cause a problem in the future. Fans know that the Yanks have planned to rest Joba Chamberlain down the stretch of the regular season, which will put more pressure on that fifth starter. Right now Sergio Mitre has sidestepped getting shallacked in any of his starts so far, but he doesn't appear to be the answer. Chien-Ming Wang was in that spot before his season fell to pieces, and management decided against trading for a starter, such as Jarrod Washburn or Bronson Arroyo.
Cashman and the Steinbrenner's got rid of a lot of garbage last offseason, finally saying good riddance to duds such as Jason Giambi and Carl Pavano. Addition by subtraction, they were the right moves to make. But there is someone they miss, someone who just possibly could've solved any fifth-starter issues that pop-up for the rest of the season.
Does anyone remember who led the Yanks in wins last year? Who was their 20-game winner? Mike Mussina. Granted, he had a career-year last year, having his first-ever 20-win season (20-9), while posting a WHIP of about 1.22. He was a real bright light in a disappointing year last year, when they missed giving the Stadium a postseason send-off. Mussina was the success of the team, and he called it quits after the year.
Now, Mussina has never made any inclination that he wanted to come back, and he may not. Maybe the Yanks don't even want him anymore, that could be. If he sees this team now, though, he just may be kicking himself for missing a real big opportunity. Mussina was a great Yankee, and one of the smartest pitchers to ever play. The way he bounced back after a sub-par 2007, he used his IQ to win games, a rare quality. Like David Cone, Mussina could've been a real asset to the team come October, possibly coming out of the pen in situations that require experience.
The Yankees are playing awesome ball. No doubt. From someone who has seen such turmoil in the Bronx since their last World Series win, Mike Mussina deserved a ring for remaining a class act. He belongs in that class with David Cone, who also was a great model for the team, and a killer hurler. Mike Mussina, you would've made a great back-end of the rotation with Andy Pettitte, and you may have gotten to end your career with a ring, that ring that eluded you your whole career, though 270 wins is nothing to sneeze at. You're the man, Moose, and we just might see you again... in the Hall of Fame.