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A few lessons from "Living on the Black" by John Feinstein


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I started reading John Feinstein's book on Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina. I thought these two tidbits were interesting:

1. When Glavine was in AA, he was striking out a lot of hitters on forkballs in the dirt. After a game where he had great success with it, Ned Yost, his minor league pitching instructor, asked him how he felt about his forkball. "I love it. Look what it did for me tonight." Yost answered, "Yeah, well, that pitch sucks. You can get Double-A hitters out with it, but major league hitters will laugh at it. They'll just wait until you leave one up and hit it a million miles." Glavine ignored Yost and kept using it until one night Bo Jackson hit one about 600 feet. "From that moment on, I was looking for a way to throw a good straight change-up."

2. The year Mussina was drafted, he posted a 1.49 ERA in AA and then 1.35 the final month at Rochester. The next year he was leading the International League in ERA but still wasn't getting called up. "I knew there were business considerations involved; if they called me up the first half of the season, I would be arbitration-eligible a year sooner, and teams think about things like that." He was finally called up July 31.

So think about Glavine's experience the next time you assume that some pitcher with good numbers in AA is ready for the majors. And think about Mussina the next time you wonder why Wieters isn't here yet.

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I'm reading it too and I noticed the very same sections. It is pretty good thus far. I'm two weeks into the season.

We're just at the same point in the book. It's too bad Feinstein picked a down year to write about Mussina. But I'm still enjoying it.

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Read the whole thing on the plane on the way to South Africa. Good book but it drags a bit.

Mussina's struggles become more interesting and poignant later in the season when he gets on a little hot streak. Glavine, too, to a lesser extent...both continually keep learning how to pitch at an advanced age but they're things that'll ring true for any pitcher at any level.

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I'm a big fan of Feinstein (despite him being a Dukie), and I was pretty disappointed in this effort. The research was good, I'm a big fan of Mussina, not a huge Glavine guy but certainly respect him.

There were several mistakes throughout, most notably he said the Mets lost the division title to the Nationals (it was the Phillies), and (the most glaring) he talked about how Mussina wasn't selected to the All Star game in 1993, when I assume he meant that he didn't pitch in that game.

There were a few others that I can't think of off the top of my head, but compared to some of Feinstein's best stuff, this one was pretty weak. That being said, I enjoyed it enough to recommend to any Mussina or Glavine fan.

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  • 5 weeks later...

I finished this book yesterday. It isn't Feinstein's best, but it does give some pretty good insights into Mike Mussina. As you might expect, he's pretty aloof. He says he tends not to make many friends on the team because there is so much turnover he knows most of them will be gone before long. Similarly, he'll talk to young guys who approach him in spring training, but he doesn't take the initiative to introduce himself to them first, because he knows that most of them won't be around. Interestingly, his best friend in the Yankee organization is not another player, but his bullpen catcher.

He's also pretty blunt. His public remarks about Carl Pavano were pretty impolitic. And when he negotiated his last contract, when Brian Cashman initially offered him 2 years, $ 8 mm a year, Mussina's remark was "Brian, you and I both know that you are not going to pay me less than Carl Pavano!"

At the same time, it was interesting that Mussina is now considered to be very good with the media. He answers questions readily and will quickly take the blame himself when he hasn't pitched well. He's not an excuse-maker.

Overall, the picture you get is a guy who is very proud but also very realistic in his self-assessment. He's not outgoing or someone who will say something nice just or innocuous to get along or be politically correct. But, he's a very loyal, down to earth guy who expects a lot of himself and of others. And, he's a small-town guy who puts his family first.

For those who are Mike Mussina fans, this book will make you like him even more. For those who don't like him, this book probably won't change your mind, but it will at least help you understand where he's coming from.

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