Some moments come right on time and others take a lifetime.
Mike Mussina has pitched a lifetime in the Major Leagues and he has the numbers to prove it: 250 wins and 2,663 strikeouts.
He is the greatest pitcher never to have a moment.
There have been plenty of great games.
He threw seven shutout innings against Oakland in the 2001 American League Division Series, but people remember Derek Jeter’s “flip play” saving the game.
Game seven of the 2003 American League Championship Series against Boston was saved by Mussina’s three innings of brilliant relief, but it turned out to be Aaron Boone’s night.
Mussina has won 18 games in a season three times. And he’s won 19 games twice. But he’s never won 20. And there hasn’t been a Cy Young Award either. The timing was never quite right.
He was one out from a perfect game, too. But, well, you know the story.
Mussina turns 39 today and there are people who think his time has passed. They wonder if he could be pushed out of a rotation that includes: Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy.
It won’t happen because Mussina always finds a way to get better. When he lost something off his fastball, he adapted. When hitters figured out his breaking stuff, he overcame. It wasn’t always pretty because while Mussina is one of the smartest pitchers in the game, he is also one of the most stubborn.
That stubbornness got him into plenty of jams with umpires and it probably made him throw pitches he didn’t want to. But now it’s pushing him forward.
Mussina is already working this winter because that’s what stubborn, 39-year-old pitchers have to do.
He knows exactly how he won every one of those 250 games and how he came up big against Oakland and Boston and everyone else. He may be a different pitcher these days, but he’ll figure it out because he always does.
His moment is still waiting. It has to be.