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Wednesday, November 29
Updated: December 1, 3:00 PM ET
Mussina agrees to $88.5 million deal with Yankees news services

NEW YORK -- After beating the rest of baseball on the field, the New York Yankees beat everyone to Mike Mussina.

"It just came down to who really seemed to want me on their team the most," Mussina said Thursday after agreeing to an $88.5 million, six-year contract.

Still one of the best
Don't be misled by Mike Mussina's 11-15 record. He ranked last in the AL in average run support last year. Here's a look at the AL's top pitchers:
Pitcher ERA W-L IP RS
Martinez 1.74 18-6 217 4.73
Clemens 3.70 13-8 204 5.37
Mussina 3.79 11-15 237 3.71
Sirotka 3.79 15-10 197 6.03
Colon 3.88 15-8 188 6.32
Wells 4.11 20-8 229 6.23
Heredia 4.12 15-11 198 6.12
Hudson 4.14 20-6 202 7.34

The deal gives the three-time defending World Series champions a starting rotation that includes Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Orlando Hernandez and Mussina. With just 16 players signed, New York's payroll is $80.6 million.

"It probably isn't fair," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "But, again, George Steinbrenner has had winners here in New York and he probably thinks about how to keep doing it."

Mussina, who turns 32 on Dec. 8, compiled a 147-81 record with a 3.53 ERA in 10 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. According to sources, contract terms are as follows:

  • $12 million signing bonus, to be paid at $2 million a year for six years.
  • $8 million in 2001.
  • $9 million in 2002.
  • $10 million in 2003.
  • $14 million in 2004 (after Roger Clemens and Chuck Knoblauch disappear from the payroll, among others).
  • $17 million in 2005.
  • $17 million in 2006.
  • Club option for $17 million in 2007 -- or a $1.5 million buyout.
  • No-trade clause throughout the life of the contract.

    And he's not even the ace.

    "It's been a long time since I wasn't considered the No. 1 starter from the first game of spring training," he said. "We might go to the playoffs next year and I might not even get a chance to pitch. That's how strong they are."

    The rest of baseball took notice.

    "It makes it very difficult," Seattle general manager Pat Gillick said. "They've got two or three No. 1s now."

    Last week, Mussina cut his finalists to the Yankees, New York Mets and Boston Red Sox. After Thanksgiving, he decided the Yankees were his first choice.

    On Monday, he drove to Rye Brook, N.Y., for his physical examination, and Torre and general manager Brian Cashman took him to dinner in Greenwich, Conn.

    The Camden myth
    You've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: "Camden Yards is a great hitter's park." And thus, Mike Mussina will escape its cozy confines and be even better in Yankee Stadium.

    According to the Stats, Inc. ballpark index ratings, from 1998-2000 only three AL parks were better pitcher's parks than Camden: Comerica Park, Oakland Coliseum and Safeco Field. Camden Yards decreased run scoring nine percent over those three years compared to the average AL park (Yankee Stadium was at seven percent). Over those three years, Camden decreased home runs one percent.

    How did Mussina fare in Camden? He had a 2.90 ERA last year at home, 4.93 on the road. From 1997 through 1999, his ERA was 3.16 at home, 3.63 on the road. Over the past four seasons, Mussina has allowed 48 home runs at home, 45 on the road. So, don't expect Mussina to gain a big advantage by moving into Yankee Stadium.

    Mussina's agent, Arn Tellem negotiated by telephone Tuesday and Wednesday, then traveled from Los Angeles and concluded the deal Thursday morning. Tellem said he could have pushed the dollars higher by extending negotiations, but his client instructed him to conclude a deal with the Yankees, wanting to reciprocate the interest they showed him.

    "New York was the best fit for me," Mussina said. "It came down to who I was most impressed with, and I was most impressed with the Yankees. Joe Torre called me not even a week after the World Series, before he went on vacation. To me, that was a pretty big gesture."

    He walked past a life-size picture of Babe Ruth when he went into the news conference at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees brought Torre to the news conference along with Hall of Famer Yogi Berra. They presented Mussina with uniform No. 35 -- Berra's first number before he switched to No. 8 that has been retired in his honor.

    The Yankees gave a box of roses to Mussina's wife Jana, then gave her presents to take home to the children in Montoursville, Pa. -- including a Yankees Barbie doll and teddy bear. Mussina said he felt like a high-school athlete been wooed by colleges.

    "It seemed like every guy on the team called," Tellem said. "Every day, he'd tell me who called."

    With a $14.75 million average annual value, the deal makes Mussina the second- or third-highest-paid pitcher in baseball, depending on how Clemens' new contract is evaluated.

    While Clemens and his agents consider his $30.9 million extension a two-year deal that averages $15.45 million, the Yankees say it's a three-year contract that averages $10.3 million.

    Mussina also trails Kevin Brown of Los Angeles, who averages $15 million under a $105 million, seven-year contract.

    The only position players with higher average salaries are Toronto first baseman Carlos Delgado ($17 million) and Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones ($15 million).

    "With the signing of Mike, we should have another chance to make a run at the World Series again next season," Pettitte said.

    Mussina, who has won 18 or more games four times, went 11-5 with a 3.79 ERA for the Orioles last season.

    "Losing Moose, it's like a lot of fans have been stabbed, and that wound is going to be hard to heal," Orioles pitcher Chuck McElroy said.

    Baltimore has finished with losing records in three straight seasons, finishing fourth each year. Mussina's last contract talks with the Orioles were in August, Tellem said, and as he became a free-agent, his desire to pitch for a winning team increased.

    Mussina concluded that the Orioles were likely to go into a rebuilding mode.

    "When you go to the ballpark, you want to feel like you're going to win every day," he said.

    Mussina said he understood fans who were upset baseball's best team just got better.

    "It's a big thing in baseball now," he said. "But I'm making the decision for myself, not based on dollars so much but as where my best competitive situation was."

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