Yes, it's true. Mike Mussina is retiring.
The official announcement came today from the Yankees, but the signs had been there for quite a while. Unlike so many of his peers, Mussina didn't seem to care about chasing 300 wins (he's 30 short), or about chasing that last few million dollars.
Instead, he's leaving after the first 20-win season of his career, leaving after a year in which he had bounced back from what was easily his worst season. He may not be going out on top, but he is going out when he could still pitch.
We'll remember a lot of things about Mussina, many of them good, some not so good. He finishes with a brilliant career record of 270-153, with the fifth highest winning percentage all-time for pitchers with 500 or more starts.
The names ahead of him are pretty impressive, too: Christy Mathewson, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and Grover Cleveland Alexander. Just behind him are Jim Palmer, Greg Maddux and Tom Seaver.
So what wasn't so good?
Well, I have a hard time forgetting Mussina's final year in Baltimore, and not because he went 11-15 in his only full season with a losing record. What I can't forget is the night that Mussina took himself out of a 1-1 game after complaining about a minor injury that wouldn't cause him to miss a start. An Orioles official told me that Mussina was doing that regularly in the late stages of that 2000 season, and that some in the organization believed he was more concerned about protecting his ERA in a free-agent year than he was in helping a bad Orioles team get a few more wins.
Mussina had a fine career, a career that might well take him to the Hall of Fame.
And yet, some people always wondered whether he could have done more than he did. He never won a Cy Young Award (he finished second once, in 1999), and he never won a World Series (although he did pitch very well in beating Josh Beckett in Game 3 in 2003).
He did things his own way, and now he's handled retirement that way, too.
Not many guys retire after 20-win seasons. Sandy Koufax did in 1966, but only because his left elbow was causing him so much pain. Lefty Williams and Eddie Cicotte were done after 1920, but only because they were implicated in the Black Sox scandal and were banned.
To find a guy who voluntarily left after a 20-win season, while still healthy, you've got to go back to Henry Schmidt, who went 22-13 for the 1903 Brooklyn Superbas. And Schmidt didn't really retire. He just decided he didn't like living in the East, and went back to the Pacific Coast League.
And since Schmidt continued to pitch (in the PCL), you could say that Mussina is the first pitcher ever to announce his retirement, while still healthy, immediately after a 20-win season.