Mussina sets record straight

Mussina sets record straight

NEW YORK -- When Mike Mussina needed four more outs for his 20th victory last September at Fenway Park, it was Mariano Rivera -- pitching with a right shoulder that needed surgery -- who locked them down.

Mussina was grateful to the longtime Yankees closer that day, and for his contributions over their eight years as teammates. But Mussina comes off as critical of Rivera in Joe Torre's new book, a stance he tried to correct in a radio interview on Wednesday.

In one passage of "The Yankee Years," Mussina said that Rivera "accomplished nothing in comparison" to what he did before Mussina joined the Yankees in 2001, pointing out Rivera's blown saves in Game 7 of the '01 World Series and Game 4 of the '04 American League Championship Series.

"The idea of it was not to take any stabs at Mo," Mussina said on WFAN in New York. "I can't put into words how important Mo has been to me as an individual player and to us as a team since I went to New York. My accomplishments would not be anywhere near what they are and our team accomplishments certainly would not be what they are without him pitching the ninth inning.

"I didn't mean to take any stabs at him. I was just making a factual comment, and it came out sounding like I was trying to cut him down. I'm certainly not trying to cut him down, because he certainly is legendary, and he's earned that."


"I probably could have approached that better
than I did."
-- Mike Mussina
on his relationship
with Carl Pavano

The full excerpt, on page 312 of Torre's book, quotes Mussina as saying: "As great as [Rivera] is, and it's amazing what he does, if you start the evaluation since I've got here [in 2001], he has accomplished nothing in comparison to what he accomplished the four years before.

"He blew the World Series in '01. He lost the Boston series. He didn't lose it himself, but we had a chance to win in the ninth and sweep them and he doesn't do it there. I know you look at everything he's done and it's been awesome, I'll admit that. But it hadn't been the same in those couple of years. That's what I remember about the '04 series."

Mussina said that he did not know he was being quoted for a book in his interviews with Torre's co-author, Tom Verducci, but he does not have a problem with his involvement.

The recently retired right-hander also said that he was not aware of instances in which teammates called Alex Rodriguez "A-Fraud" in a negative way and disputed the claim that Rodriguez harbored a "Single White Female" type obsession with Derek Jeter.

"I never saw any friction between those two players whatsoever," Mussina said. "I never did. I thought, for two superstars at the level that they're supposed to perform at, the kind of people they're supposed to be, the way they're supposed to carry themselves as professional athletes and human beings, I never saw any problem at all.

"I sat in the same clubhouse, rode the same bus, the same planes -- all those things. They sat one row from each other on the airplane. I never saw an issue with those two guys. I don't know if people were hoping it was there, or people were looking for something to talk about, I have no idea. But I never experienced any of it."

One instance Mussina has some regrets about, covered in the book, is his handling of a contentious situation with Carl Pavano. In Spring Training 2007, Mussina was critical of the oft-injured right-hander, wondering aloud to reporters if Pavano's repeated absences were "just coincidence, over and over again."

The situation saw Mussina and Pavano forced to hash out their differences in a closed-door meeting at Legends Field (now George M. Steinbrenner Field) in Tampa, with the media fully aware of the situation. While they would never become friends, Mussina and Pavano did eventually manage to co-exist.

But Pavano went back on the disabled list after two starts in 2007, headed for Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. That April, Mussina told Verducci: "Our problem right now is we have too many pitchers on the 15-day Pavano. That's what it's officially called now. Did you know that? The Pavano.

"His body just shut down from actually pitching for six weeks. It's like when you get an organ transplant and your body rejects it. His body rejected pitching. It's not used to it."

Mussina struck a remorseful tone Wednesday when discussing his treatment of Pavano during their time together.

"I probably could have approached that better than I did," Mussina said. "We're talking about another professional athlete, somebody that has to do the same job that I do. I probably could have done that better."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.