Mike Mussina, RH Hayden Penn, RH (8-5, 3.95) (2-1, 6.07) SS D Jeter 2B B Roberts 2B R Cano LF L Bigbie RF G Sheffield SS M Tejada 3B A Rodriguez 1B R Palmeiro LF H Matsui DH J Gibbons C J Posada RF S Sosa DH J Giambi CF L Matos CF B Williams 3B C Gomez 1B T Martinez C S Fasano
Game time is 7:05 CSN and ESPN. I know which feed I'll be watching. I'd rather endure Palmer's Yankee-loving propaganda than sit through the ESPN commentators any day. Scattered thunderstorms are expected tonight, so let's hope for the best and they start scattering around 6 for an hour, then hold off until around 10.
OK yes, Penn's last start was absolutely brutal to watch. But I'm gonna tell you the story of my admiration for Mike Mussina instead of really talking about Penn.
When I was eight, I started playing baseball. A few years later, once we got to live pitching age, I became a pitcher. I had two idol-types: Greg Maddux and Mike Mussina. I didn't have a live fastball, instead I relied on location and changing speeds. Incidentally, the curveball completely wrecked my shoulder. Don't let your kids throw curveballs, seriously. Take that advice.
Anyhow, Moose became my favorite player by extension of playing the position I played, and for being the ace of my favorite team for many years, and just because he was a good guy. I didn't blame Mike for leaving when he did, but did he have to be a Yankee? Of course, by then I was 19, and no longer saw him as a hero, really, just a guy that probably deserved a better franchise. I suppose in some ways you could say he went to one, but in another, more important way, he sure did go to the most vile team possible, didn't he? I could've even forgiven him going to Boston. But the Yankees?
I've been torn about Moose ever since then. Do I still like him? It's impossible for me not to. Do I root for him? It would be impossible for me to go that far. I don't take great joy in the games where someone hammers him, except when it's the Orioles. Mike Mussina will always be a childhood hero, and for a Yankee, he's not half-bad.
Mussina came up when he was 22 and was a damn good starter pretty much immediately. At 20, Penn hasn't had quite the same amount of time to refine himself before getting to the majors. At 23, of course, Mike won 18 games. He never really got much better, but he's also never been a whole lot worse. He may not end up being a Hall of Famer, but Mussina is one of the most consistent and reliable pitchers of the modern era.
I can't help but wonder, if Penn isn't dealt and stays with the Orioles, if young Oriole fans will admire Penn the way I did Moose. I really do find this to be an interesting matchup. The old ace gone evil against the hotshot new guy who needs a lot of work still. If Penn outpitches Mussina tonight, it'll be kind of glorious in its own way. Go get 'em, Hayden.