O's money not likely to lure Mussina back


Once this coming postseason ends, so, technically, does the contract that wounded Orioles fans perhaps more than any other in the club's history.

It was November 2000 when the Orioles' most popular and successful pitcher since Jim Palmer left Baltimore for a six-year, $88.5 million deal.

The decision plucked small-town boy Mike Mussina away from Charm City and plunked him down in the middle of New York as, gasp, a hated Yankee.

He went there to be part of a winner -- and has been. He is 90-51 with a 3.81 ERA since joining the Yankees, who have won the American League East in each of Mussina's first five seasons. He has pitched in 15 postseason games (5-6, 3.69 ERA) for New York, including three in the World Series.

Mussina bashers cherish his lack of a World Series title or 20-win season. That, though, is picking nits. This season, he's 13-5 with a 3.50 ERA. And at least one pitching expert thinks Moose is a Hall of Fame lock.

"He's one of the best pitchers in the game and has been for a long time," said Orioles pitching coach Leo Mazzone.

When told that Mussina has been criticized for not winning 20 games in a season, Mazzone spit this out: "That's totally ridiculous. If he had been in four-man rotations, he'd have several 20-win seasons."

Indeed, Mussina has won 19 games twice, 18 three times, and 17 twice. He has finished in the top five of Cy Young Award voting six times. With a smile, he says he's "not at all" bothered about the 20-win talk.

"Twenty becomes a tough number for the same reason that accomplishing 300 [career wins] becomes a tough number," Mussina added. "You just don't get as many chances per year as you used to."

Where the next chapter of Mussina's career unfolds -- and how long it lasts -- is in question. The Yankees can pick up his $17 million, 2007 option or buy it out for $1.5 million. A Yankees buyout, and then negotiations for a multi-year extension, is the most likely scenario. But Mussina, 38 in December, might become a free agent -- and, remember, the Orioles say they have money to spend this winter. Could the prodigal son come back and help rescue a once-proud franchise? Not when contenders that don't need saving also have money to spend.

Hot stuff

Minnesota Twins Gold Glove center fielder Torii Hunter microwaves his black Rawlings glove for 30 seconds if he fails to make a play the night before. And the glove gets nuked for two minutes after an error. Hunter said it's partially a reminder that he needs to stay sharp defensively. But there's a sadistic side to the ritual he has performed since the mid-1990s.

"That's punishment [for the glove]," Hunter said. "You do something bad, you go to hell."

A sign from Al Davis?

Texas Rangers infielder Mark DeRosa twice hit homers Wednesday off an Oakland Raiders banner hanging above left field at McAfee Coliseum. He saw it as an omen "that I must select [Raiders running back and Maryland alumnus] LaMont Jordan with the first pick in my fantasy draft."

Quick hits

Chicago White Sox starter Freddy Garcia believes he'll be traded this offseason to make room for Brandon McCarthy. ... Thursday marked the 25-year-anniversary of Cal Ripken's big league debut.

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