Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mussina-- a professional athlete

I never did get a chance to see the legendary Ozzy Osbourne perform. Sadly, the Prince of Darkness was last relevant before my time, despite a brief reality TV stint on VH1 that brought him to near Youtube superstardom (Who ever thought that the prince would be mentioned in the same sentence as Gary Brolsma? To save you a trip to Wikipedia, he's the fat Numa Numa guy who took over everyone's facebook walls when he mimed O-Zone's "Dragostea din tei" in front of a web cam).
I would imagine that Ozzy put on quite the live show, however. Engulfed in a minefield of explosions, decked out in bedazzled black vests and tight leather pants (which by today's standards would probably be considered pretty homosexual), belting out "Bark at the Moon" to a brigade of screaming fans. I can imagine it was a sight to see. Ozzy, however, is most notably heralded for his run-in with animal cruelty activists, a clash that began after Osbourne bit the head off of a bat during a 1982 show in Iowa.
Today, with the announced retirement of New York Yankee Mike Mussina's, we are reminded just who the five-time all star truly was-- the anti-Ozzy Osbourne. As a director of the International Little League Baseball Association, the only thing Mussina ever took a bite out of was crime (sorry, too easy). In fact, Mussina makes the Dallas Cowboys' Tony Romo look like John Rocker (Romo, the man who spent yesterday treating a random Dallas bum who apologized in advance for the obtrusive stench that resulted from his inability to shower, to a movie-- true story).
Fact is, as opposed to many of his colleagues, Mussina will always be remembered as a baseball player, not an entertainer. You rarely see Mussina so much as pump a fist after a big strikeout or yell at an umpire after a questionable ball. The 17-year veteran who began his career in 1991 with the Baltimore Orioles will never be confused with Roger Clemens, who ended his career in a quagmire of controversy. The seasoned control pitcher--despite beginning his career with a 4-seam fastball that topped out at 95 miles per hour-- quietly and efficiently did his job with never a peep of controversy (often to the discontent of the media).
In a me-first, "wide receiver" dominated-era that rewards big egos with bigger pay checks (Boxer, Floyd Mayweather, Jr closed the year out with $40,250,000 in earnings, while Los Angeles Dodger Manny Ramirez, the third-richest baseball player in the world, closed the year out with $22,500,000 in green (Ramirez trails only New York Yankees Derek Jeter and alex Rodgiguez, two of Big Pimp Steinbrenner's most productive hoes).
Mussina, however, one of only four Major League Pitchers to reach 20 wins in 2008-- accompanied by Cliff Lee, Brandon Webb and Roy Halladay-- earned $11,071,029 from the Yankees. That's almost $2 million less than designated hitter Hideki Matsui who missed nearly half of the 2008 season (93 games played). As a journalist still forced to sleep on a set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles bed sheet's in the room that I grew up in at my parents' house, Mussina's salary is of course nothing to laugh at, but somehow, he still doesn't seem to get the respect that he demands.
Less than 24 hours after Mussina's announcement, journalists and baseball analysts everywhere are caught in a frenzy. Does the 270-153 (.638 winning percentage compared to a league average .501) career pitcher deserve to be enshrined in Cooperstown?
My sentiment is yes-- if Abbot and Costello, the goofy pair responsible for the "Who's on First" bit, earned the right to be forever immortalized in the Baseball Hall of Fame, so too has Mussina. The former Bomber is one of only 20 pitchers to retire over 100 wins above .500 and he is nineteenth all-time in strikeouts. Considering that the man spent his entire career in the DH-dominated American League East in the midst of a steroid-infused era, I'd say Mussina has earned the right to date my future wife, let alone grace the Baseball Hall of Fame, if he so chooses.
Amidst the controversy surrounding Mussina's retirement and his status as a future hall of famer, it leaves baseball fans wondering, are we simply overlooking the quiet family man in an era dominated by dog fighters and killers (not to throw OJ under the bus)? Are we forgetting what it means to be a PROFESSIONAL athlete? PROFESSIONAL!! If Mussina was known for wild strike out celebrations or off-field flings with Madonna, would his legacy even be in question?
Couple Mussina's stats with his off-field demeanor in a league that was nearly sabotaged just a few year's ago by a steroid crucible that still taints the league today, and I think you have your answer.
What do you think baseball fans?

No comments:

There was an error in this gadget