• Moose Should Zip His Lip On Epstein’s Taunts

    Posted by on February 26th, 2008 · Comments (17)

    Via Ed Price:

    Appearing on Boston radio station WEEI last Friday, Epstein said, “Kevin Brown and Mike Mussina spent the whole time bitching about [their trip to Japan in 2004] … and by the time the Yankees team got back from the trip they were all using it as a crutch.”

    Told of the comments, Mussina said sarcastically, “Yeah, we used it as an excuse for winning the division.”

    Well, Moose (at that time) did moan about making the trip. Via Tyler Kepner back on March 25, 2004:

    Mussina has no choice but to accompany the Yankees to Japan for the start of the regular season on March 30 against Tampa Bay. But he does not have to be excited.

    ”It’s just a long way to go,” Mussina said. ”I’m not going to lie to you — it’s hard. We’re going to play baseball. If we were going to sightsee, it would be different. But we’re trying to be physically prepared to play.”

    The Yankees’ charter flight, which seats more than 300 but will take about 125 players, wives and staff members to Tokyo, leaves after the game Thursday in Clearwater, Fla. Each player was issued a sweatsuit for the flight, and Gene Monahan, the trainer, wants everyone to drink at least 16 ounces of water or a sports drink each hour.

    But it may take more than thousands of water bottles to overcome the jet lag and muscle cramps that can come from a 17-hour flight. Left fielder Hideki Matsui has told teammates to expect to be tired.

    ”Matsui said it takes five days to feel decent again,” Mussina said. ”When we start feeling decent, we’ll turn around and come back and do it again.”

    As a collegian at Stanford, Mussina flew to Taiwan and Europe. But he has never flown to Japan and has no plans to pass the time, other than to eat and sleep. ”How do you spend 17 hours in a tube?” he said.

    Mussina does plan to ask Matsui a question as the hours drag on across the Pacific: ”How do you say, ‘I’m tired — this trip is too long’ in Japanese?”

    Yes, Mussina is right. The Yankees did win the division that season. But, they did it with little help from him. That year, 2004, turned out to be Mussina’s worst season in the big leagues (up until that point). And, it was a season where the Yankees needed him the most. Clemens, Wells and Pettitte were gone. And, they were replaced with guys like Javier Vazquez, Kevin Brown and Jose Contreras – who, as a group, gave the Yankees a below average performance that year. Mike had a chance to be a hero in 2004 and he was not good.

    How bad was Moose in 2004? Murray Chass said it best, back in April of that year:

    In Mussina’s two starts against Tampa Bay, the Yankees took leads only to have him squander them and lose both games. They scored two runs in the first inning in the game in Japan and four in the first inning in the game in Florida.

    Mussina’s performances in both games was reminiscent of a memorable George Steinbrenner scene about 25 years ago, when he summoned a reporter to his office after a young Yankees pitcher, Ken Clay, gave up an early lead against Kansas City.

    ”Ask me about Ken Clay,” Steinbrenner, the team’s principal owner, said.

    ”What about Ken Clay?” the reporter asked.

    ”He spit the bit,” Steinbrenner said, borrowing a term from horse racing, his other love.

    But Mussina didn’t just spit the bit. He hated the idea of going to Japan, let everybody know it and very likely suffered from his frame of mind. In speaking critically of the trip to Japan, he sounded like a character out of Eugene Burdick and William J. Lederer’s novel ”The Ugly American.” Mussina denied that the second disastrous start in Tampa was a carry-over from the first, but he nevertheless pitched poorly and lost that game, too.

    He spit the bit. Indeed.

    Because of this, Mussina would probably be better served to keep the bit in his mouth this time and not say anything about what Theo Epstein has to say…because the facts suggest that Theo is right – at least about the part where he says Mussina complained about the trip.

    Comments on Moose Should Zip His Lip On Epstein’s Taunts

    1. baileywalk
      February 26th, 2008 | 5:14 pm

      What a loudmouth blowhard JERK that Mussina is. Making legitimate complaints about an unnecessary trip that takes special preparation and everyone agrees takes a lot out of you. What a little punk-ass whining bitch.

      I guess you couldn’t find the quote where Mussina said his subpar year had anything to do with the Japan trip. Probably because he never said such a thing. Oops.

    2. Raf
      February 26th, 2008 | 5:19 pm

      Mike had a chance to be a hero in 2004 and he was not good.
      ———–
      Mussina had groin and elbow issues in 2004 & 2005. Don’t think anyone foresaw that, nor do I think they could.

    3. Nettles vs. Lee
      February 26th, 2008 | 5:20 pm

      None of the facts you present prove Theo right. Theo said that Mussina used the trip as “a crutch” – i.e. used it as an excuse for playing poorly. You don’t cite any facts suggesting Mussina blamed poor play on the trip. The only thing you quote are complaints about having to make the trip – which are very different from using it as a crutch.

      In fact, according to Chass, “Mussina denied that the second disastrous start in Tampa was a carry-over from the first, but he nevertheless pitched poorly and lost that game, too.”

      So the facts you have chosen to present show that Theo was wrong.

    4. Rich
      February 26th, 2008 | 5:21 pm

      The only person who should shut up is Theo; it’s none of his business. Moose, as a borderline HoFer, has earned the right to say whatever he wants.

      btw, Moose’s subpar year began with him having to leave ST as a result of the unexpected death of his father-in-law, which affected his ability to build up arm strength.

    5. vocallytrnsfrmd
      February 26th, 2008 | 5:35 pm

      I agree with all the commenters.

      Let’s not forget that Javier Vasquez was a talented young pitcher coming off a tremendous year. Call him the Dan Haren (though he probably was better) of the 03-04 offseason. HE spit the bit. Kevin Brown was supposed to be a co-ace, and his very strong career (and awesome 2003) pointed to another strong year. HE spit the bit. Jose Contreras had also come off a great 2003 and was expected to be a front of the rotation type pitcher as well. HE spit the bit. Mussina had injuries. And he’s the bad guy?

      Plus, when it was crunch time (September) and the injuries were shaken off, Mussina had a mid 2 ERA. Mussina was also one of the few that didn’t blow the ALCS. Not great, but not awful either. You can blame Jeter, Rivera, Gordon, Torre co. for that upset.

      Even if he was complaining unreasonably, so be it. There are many others you can spit your vitriol at.

    6. Raf
      February 26th, 2008 | 6:05 pm

      Blame Jeter? How so?

    7. JeremyM
      February 26th, 2008 | 6:23 pm

      I will believe until the day I die that if Mike Mussina started game 4 of the 04 ALCS, which was his scheduled day to pitch, the Yankees sweep that series. Instead, Torre got cute and said hey, let’s start El Duque and if we lose, then we’ve got Mussina in the wings. He never should have even brought up losing, but that’s just my opinion. Go for the throat, stay aggressive, and good things can happen. Instead, they let off the gas, played tight, and lost four straight. All that psychological babble aside, Mussina was still the best starter to use in that situation instead of Hernandez, who gave all he had but could only go 5 innings due to injury.

      Anyway, Epstein is clearly out of line here, in my opinion. They may have whined about it, but Epstein’s remarks are very tacky.

    8. February 26th, 2008 | 7:38 pm

      OK – some follow-up, that I probably should have added to the entry.

      1. Is this a low and cheap shot by Theo.

      YES.

      2. Is Theo 100% correct?

      NO. The Yankees never claimed that the trip to Japan killed their season.

      3. Is Theo partly correct?

      YES. Mussina whined like a baby about having to go to Japan.

      4. Should Mussina throw 2004, and winning the East, back at Theo?

      NO. The Yankees should never brag about 2004. There’s nothing to be proud about 2004, if you’re a member of the Yankees.

      5. Should Mussina have taken the high road, and simply said “I’m not playing games with Theo” when asked about his comments?

      YES.

      6. Did Mussina take the high road?

      No. Hence, my suggestion that he should shut up.

    9. Raf
      February 26th, 2008 | 9:13 pm

      Go for the throat, stay aggressive, and good things can happen. Instead, they let off the gas, played tight, and lost four straight.
      =============
      They had the leads late in gms 4 & 5. Had the umpires not conferred and overruled Rodriguez’s slap, they may have won gm 6.

    10. Raf
      February 26th, 2008 | 9:27 pm

      NO. The Yankees should never brag about 2004. There’s nothing to be proud about 2004, if you’re a member of the Yankees.
      ———-
      Hmm, winning 101 games despite having the pitching implode on them, Contreras being reunited with his family, the Rodriguez trade, the Japan trip, the “Jeter dives into stands” game… I can probably think of more things, if given time.

    11. Harley
      February 26th, 2008 | 10:27 pm

      Geeze, nice headline. But the fact is? Theo Epstein, Boy Genius, should shut the fuck up. Replaying four year-old stories in order to take a shot at the Mussina is mighty thin sport. And that’s where this should start and end.

    12. Andrew
      February 26th, 2008 | 10:29 pm

      There are plenty of things to be proud about each time the Yankees reach the postseason. Should we be as ‘proud’ as if they won the championship? No, but why should we be ashamed? Any time a team wins 100 games is a monumental effort and success, no matter what happens afterwards.

    13. February 27th, 2008 | 12:22 am

      Round trip travel between New York and Asia is enormously draining. Players have obligations once they get there. I’ve made the trip and know others who have, types who envision themselves as in shape, etc. It takes several weeks to recover from it. Many people have dizzy spells, almost passing out, etc. for several days after the return. Being stuck in a tube with bad air is unhealthy to begin with. If I were a new player, I’d have my contract stipulate I wouldn’t play outside the US. MLB might find a few towns in the US they can “expand” the global game of baseball.

    14. Basura
      February 27th, 2008 | 5:30 am

      If I were a new player, I’d have my contract stipulate I wouldn’t play outside the US.

      ——————————————–

      Yeah, those NY-Toronto, Boston – Toronto, and Cleveland-Toronto trips are KILLERS!

    15. williamnyy
      February 27th, 2008 | 6:27 am

      Mussina whined like a baby? You make it sound as if he refused to go and had to be tricked onto the plane. Even in the article presented, Mussina’s quotes are very reasonable. They represent a player giving an honest opinion, not one “whining like a baby”.

      As for 2004 having nothing about which to be proud, well, count me out of that line of thinking. Mussina whined like a baby? You make it sound as if he refused to go and had to be tricked onto the plane. Even in the article presented, Mussina’s quotes are very reasonable. They represent a player giving an honest opinion, not one “whining like a baby”.

      As for 2004 having nothing about which to be proud, well, count me out of that line of thinking. If you can’t find anything worthwhile in a season that brought the Yankees to the brink of another World Series, then maybe you need to find another hobby.

      As for Moose’s 2004 season, first off, I find it comforting that he cited teams goals instead of his own success in defending himself. What’s more, amid the deluge of those final four games, Moose did walk off the mound in the 7th inning of game 5 with 4-2 lead, after winning game 1 (he threw 6 shutout innings before giving up 4 runs with an 8-0 lead). I don’t think Moose needs to burry his head in the sand about the 2004 season. If Epstein wants to take cheap shots, Moose has every right to fire back. At least when the going got tough, Moose didn’t walk away in a gorilla suit. Talk about whining like a baby!

    16. Raf
      February 27th, 2008 | 10:55 am

      If I were a new player, I’d have my contract stipulate I wouldn’t play outside the US.
      —————–
      Your loss. Me, I would’ve played where there was baseball present. South America, the Caribbean, China, Japan, Taiwan… It’d be an experience, to say the least.

      Hell, if I’m a ML’er, I hold a grudge against the league for killing MLB in Montreal :)

    17. vocallytrnsfrmd
      February 27th, 2008 | 5:11 pm

      Yeah, I feel you Steve, thanks for clearing that up. And yeah, Jeter had a really poor LCS. his triple slash line was .233/.333/.233

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