The Toronto Blue Jays' season was officially over with their 3-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox Sunday at Rogers Centre, as the Blue Birds were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention.
However, if there's anything to play for in the final week of the season, it's to stop a former foe from reaching an elusive benchmark.
Mike Mussina of the Yankees needs two more wins to pick up his first ever 20-win season. The Moose will pitch against the Blue Jays and the Red Sox in his final two starts of 2008.
Yes, Roy Halladay (19-11) of the Jays is shooting for his own 20-win season. But he's done it before, so it isn't really a big deal. A.J. Burnett (18-10)? Well, he's likely not going to return next season, so who cares.
No. More important is to stop the Moose in his quest to get to No. 20.
Yes, for much of the 2008 season, with the rest of the Yankees starters sidelined or otherwise unable to get any outs, Mussina has been the ace. The Moose has pitched very well for most of the year, and I'm sure most Yankees fans would want to see him get to that magical milestone.
But I say no.
I'm not sure if Cito Gaston still hates him (the Jays' manager probably doesn't), but Jays fans have got to remember the lack of class the former Orioles pitcher exhibited 15 summers ago.
It was in the 1993 All-Star Game where Mussina showed his character.
The mid-summer classic was played at Baltimore's brand new ballpark, Oriole Park in Camden Yards. Supposedly, Gaston, the American League's All-Star manager, had told Mussina he wouldn't be pitching in the game.
With the AL leading 9-3 in the ninth inning, Gaston sent his own closer, Duane Ward, to finish things off. Mussina, however, started warming up in the bullpen, apparently showing Gaston up.
The hometown fans, seeing Mussina in the bullpen but not in the game, started booing Gaston mercilessly.
Most Jays fans old enough to have witnessed Toronto's back-to-back championship seasons in 1992-93 no doubt remember this Mussina-Gaston controversy.
So, as a final payback, I say the Jays should not allow Mussina to win in his next outing, at Rogers Centre.
The Yankees, who will be eliminated soon enough, will have nothing more to play for either, other than to see if Mussina can get two more victories to close out the team's disappointing year.
(Isn't it ironic the final regular season game ever at the House that Ruth Built, on Sunday night against the Baltimore Orioles, might turn out to be the contest that eliminates the pinstripers from the 2008 postseason? With the Red Sox's magic number at 1--the Yankees are seven games back with only seven to play, prior to the Yankee Stadium finale--Boston could clinch the Wild Card with the final out of the Orioles-Yanks.)
However, you only hope Yankees skipper Joe Girardi doesn't do what Seattle's Lou Piniella did in 1997.
With the Mariners up 7-2 in their second-last game of the year, Piniella sent in Randy Johnson to relieve starter Omar Olivares (4 IP, 5 H, 2 R) to start the fifth inning.
Johnson, who had 19 victories, pitched two innings, and was credited with his first 20-win campaign. (It turned out to be The Big Unit's only 20-win season in a Mariner uniform.)
Not the best way to give your starter his 20th win, but again, hopefully Girardi doesn't try this should Mussina fail to get No. 19 this coming week.
So, Blue Jays, do your job and thwart Mike Mussina.
That's even bigger than finishing ahead of the Yanks. (The Jays are 1 1/2 games back of the Yankees, pending the Bombers' Sunday Night outcome.) I mean, what's the difference between third and fourth place anyway?