Diner Question: Is Mike Mussina a Hall of Famer? - BaltimoreBaseball.com
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Diner Question: Is Mike Mussina a Hall of Famer?

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

Hall of Fame ballots were mailed last week, and while there are five players who were with the Orioles for at least part of their career, only one played the majority of his career in Baltimore.

Holdovers Curt Schilling and Sammy Sosa as well as first-timers Freddy Garcia and Miguel Tejada made their cases elsewhere. Tejada, who played five of his 16 seasons with the Orioles, did set a team mark that’s unlikely to be broken with 150 RBIs in 2004.

It’s Mike Mussina who merits the most serious consideration. Of the returning eligibles, Mussina received 63.5 percent of the vote in last year’s Hall of Fame vote, behind only Edgar Martinez, who got 70.4 percent.

In order to be elected, a player must be named on 75 percent of the ballots sent to 10-year members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

I’ve been a member for six years, so I’m not eligible and won’t write my own virtual ballot. Real ballots from colleagues, friends and other eligible voters are available elsewhere, so I’ll leave the Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens questions to them. I’ll stick to Mussina.

Mussina is in his sixth year of eligibility. A candidate can stay on the ballot for 10 years. Martinez is in his 10th and final year of eligibility.

Mussina has steadily increased his share of the vote, beginning in 2014 when he received just 20.3 percent.

With Mariano Rivera a certainty to be elected and the late Roy Halladay in their first year of eligibility, and Martinez in his last, Mussina might have to wait a bit longer, but it shouldn’t be much longer until he’s elected.

While the importance of wins has been discounted, Mussina’s 270 and his .638 winning percentage are excellent numbers. Jim Palmer won 268 games and had an identical .638 winning percentage, though his 2.86 ERA was nearly a run lower than Mussina’s 3.68,

Mussina doubters are skeptical because he won 20 games only once in his career, his final season in 2008. But he won 18 or 19 five times. Among other counting statistics, his 57 complete games and 23 shutouts won’t be equaled by contemporary pitchers.

Among pitchers with similar statistics according to BaseballReference.com, CC Sabathia has 38 complete games and 12 shutouts, none since 2011.

Mussina’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is an outstanding 83, higher than Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Palmer.

Many Orioles fans dislike Mussina because he left Baltimore after the 2000 season for the New York Yankees. He played 10 seasons for the Orioles and eight for the Yankees. Mussina won 147 games with the Orioles and 123 with the Yankees.

Mussina pitched for two Oriole postseason teams, in 1996 and 1997, but he pitched in the postseason in his first seven seasons in New York, reaching the World Series in 2001 and 2003.

He’s a no-brainer as a Hall of Famer to me, but what do you think? Once Mussina is elected, the debate will begin. Will he go in as an Oriole or as a Yankee? He can decide to go in without a team representation as Greg Maddux and Catfish Hunter have done.

This week’s Diner Question: Does Mike Mussina deserve to be a Hall of Famer?

38 Comments

38 Comments

  1. Michele1

    November 29, 2018 at 7:11 am

    I agree Rich, it’s a no brainer, put him in the hall of fame. Mussina was a great pitcher for the Orioles and gets my vote for sure.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 29, 2018 at 9:17 am

      I hope you get a vote, Michele.

  2. boss61

    November 29, 2018 at 8:06 am

    My heart says no, but my head says eventually. As for how he goes in, does the Hall determine that or does the player?

    I agree on Rivera anmd Halladay. I’d also vote in Edgar. No on each of the other somewhat-Orioles, except possibly a case can be made for Sosa. Bear with me.

    For the Hall to apply a morality standard that did not exist in the game during the steroids era applies an unfair double standard IMO. It’s not the Hall of Morality or the Hall of Role Models. Bonds, Clemons and (to me) McGwire and Sosa achieved baseball fame based on any reasonable defition of the word. I believe each ultimately gets in – posthumously. Ditto Pete Rose.

    I visited the Hall for the first time in my life in August. Rose and the steroids guys were conspicuous by their absence. IMO.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 29, 2018 at 9:21 am

      The decision is made by the Hall of Fame with consultation of the player. It’s where the player, in the eyes of the Hall of Fame, made the most impact, and Mussina would be one of the hardest decisions for the Hall, Mark.

      Gary Carter wanted to go in as a Met, but the Hall of Fame felt he made the most impact with the Expos.

      Because Mussina’s stats are nearly evenly divided, with a slight favoring to the Orioles, it will be a hard decision when it goes in, and he could ask that because he doesn’t want to offend one fan base that a team not be represented.

  3. ZantiGM

    November 29, 2018 at 8:23 am

    Mussina was a very complicated personality and always thought he was smartest guy in the room BUT he is 100% a Hall of Famer.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 29, 2018 at 9:22 am

      You are right on all counts, Phil.

  4. DevoTion

    November 29, 2018 at 8:28 am

    Yes I think Mussina is a Hall of Famer, he was a top pitcher during the peak of the steriod era. So his numbers may not be quite historically hall worthy. I feel like numbers have to be compared to contemporaries. Sure a ring or Cy Young or a couple more 20 win seasons would be great to have had, but he was still a great pitcher for a long time.
    Side note: I never blamed him for taking the money and going to the Yankees, Mike is a very smart man and I think he knew the O’s were in shambles

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 29, 2018 at 9:23 am

      Devo, you don’t have to convince me.

  5. TxBirdFan

    November 29, 2018 at 8:38 am

    I think the Hall should be reserved for the best of the best and under that standard I say no to Moose and Roy Holliday (who won 203 games in 16 seasons). They were both excellent pitchers but not hallmark quality. On the other hand Mariano could be the first to garner 100% of votes. He was so dominant the game was over when he entered. Clearly the best of the best.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 29, 2018 at 9:24 am

      Tx., I think the voters are very selective, and overall the selections have been worthy ones. Standards change over the years, especially for starting pitchers, and Mussina and Halladay were both dominant pitchers of their time.

  6. Creatively09

    November 29, 2018 at 8:59 am

    For me, without a doubt. For the sixth time, yes, he’s a hall of famer. You just can’t measure pitchers today against the stats of pitchers from 30 or 50 years ago. Its apples and oranges and you can’t penalize the players for the way the game has changed.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 29, 2018 at 9:25 am

      Creatively, it will be interesting to see how starting pitchers are judged five to ten years from now.

  7. Djowen

    November 29, 2018 at 9:18 am

    The one thing I remember about Mussina is that he lost a lot of games against teams that were below .500 teams. To confirm I just checked on Baseball Reference and he would have won 20 games several years if he hadn’t lost to the worst teams in the league. To me a HOF player wins the games they are supposed to win. Mussina lost too many of those games for me to say be belongs in the HOF

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 29, 2018 at 9:30 am

      DJ, his stats match up with the best pitchers of the last 30 years. Had the Orioles scored more runs for him, he would have won 20 games a few more times. He won 18 games in 1992. In two of those losses, the Orioles scored two and no runs and they lost 3-2 and 2-0. They they scored four runs and three, he would have been a 20-game winner in that year.

      • jkneps63

        November 29, 2018 at 10:26 am

        Mussina also won games 10-5, 8-6, and 6-4 in 1992…

        https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.fcgi?id=mussimi01&t=p&year=1992

      • Djowen

        November 29, 2018 at 10:47 am

        Rich, sure he lost some games where the O’s didn’t score runs for him but in the majority of his losses as an Oriole he gave up 4 or more runs. Many times it is 5, 6, 7 or 8 runs given up. Those loses were on him. I remember those now. When he was an Oriole I always thought he lost too many games that a great pitcher should win. In 1995 he was 19-9 and he lost to the Angels in a 6-5 game. He gave up all 6 runs. He lost to Detroit 10-8 where he gave up 6 runs. I think if you look at the total record as an Oriole you will see that there were many games that should have been won that weren’t because he gave up too many runs. Baseball Reference has a box for run support in each year and he got 4 or more runs in more then 61.5% of his games. I also looked at Palmer for several years and in his losses he gave up 4 or fewer runs in far more games then Mussina.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 29, 2018 at 10:54 am

      Owen, I appreciate your diligent research. Palmer was in a different category, but Mussina was in the next best. What’s interesting about some of those losses was that Johnny Oates left him in the game and didn’t remove him early.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 29, 2018 at 11:02 am

      Jkneps, thank you for including that. Notice his overall ERA for 1992 was 2.54, and that’s outstanding.

    • TxBirdFan

      November 29, 2018 at 2:02 pm

      Rich (and others) – thank you for proving my point. Palmer WAS in a different class and I agree Moose was an excellent pitcher, but he just wasn’t the best of the best which is what the HOF is reserved for.

      • jkneps63

        November 29, 2018 at 3:37 pm

        Palmer’s career ERA+ was 125, Mussina’s was 123. Seems their classes are not too far apart IMO.

  8. mlbbirdfan

    November 29, 2018 at 10:24 am

    I believe he was disliked in the clubhouse, based on contacts and sources. Further, I believe “team attitude” affects the way a team plays behind a pitcher. Furthermore, he never displayed qualities as a “winner“. My vote is no. I believe he and Angelos parted on very unfriendly terms and he would therefore go into the Hall as a Yankee if he is elected. That would be typical of Mussina: ungrateful.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 29, 2018 at 10:59 am

      I disagree, mlbbirdfan. The Orioles of his years had very strong personalities, and very diverse ones. I saw no evidence of the team not playing behind him. Since he retired he’s kept a low profile, but he has been an occasional visitor to games here.

      As I pointed out above, the cap a player wears is not unilaterally their decision. It’s made in consultation with the Hall of Fame.

  9. Boog Robinson Robinson

    November 29, 2018 at 11:13 am

    In the modern era of baseball, 270 wins alone merits his induction. The 3.6 ERA is nothing to sneeze at considering he pitched in the days of roids, bandbox ballparks, the shrunken strike zone no to mention juiced baseballs.

    He’s hands down a HOF’er.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 29, 2018 at 1:47 pm

      We agree here, Boog.

  10. PA Bird Lover

    November 29, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    Yes, as long as he goes in as an Oriole.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 29, 2018 at 1:49 pm

      He’s already in the Oriole Hall of Fame, PA.

  11. chico salmon

    November 29, 2018 at 2:49 pm

    At one point I was upset with Mike leaving the Orioles for NY. That was before I read John Feinstein’s “Living on the Black”. Feinstein follows Mussina (and Tom Glavine) for an entire season. It’s an excellent read. I learned that Mike really didn’t want to leave Baltimore, and was willing to stay as the pillar of a rebuilding pitching staff, but was forced out by ownership. They did not want to pay his salary for a rebuilding team.

    He made the right move in going to the Yankees. He was a marvelous pitcher for us, and should go in the HOF as an Oriole, and a statue alongside Jim Palmer.

    • jkneps63

      November 29, 2018 at 3:40 pm

      Chico – thanks for the insight, I did not know that about Mussina. It makes his decision to play for the Yankees easier to digest and understand.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 29, 2018 at 5:43 pm

      Chico, that was an excellent book. Appreciate you bringing it up.

  12. GSISDANNO

    November 29, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    I cannot be objective about Mike Mussina. He absolutely bailed on the Orioles. On his way out the door, he wouldn’t agree to a mid-season trade so the Orioles could get something.
    I do find it quite satisfying that Mussina said he signed with the Yankees so he could be a part of a world championship team.
    Well, he didn’t do a whole lot to help the Yankees win. The year before he arrived there, the Yankees won the World Series. The year after he retired, they won another title. But the Yankees didn’t win while he was there.
    Mussina had one 20-win season. He never won the Cy Young award.
    If he makes it, so be it. But I wouldn’t vote for him.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 29, 2018 at 5:44 pm

      Danno, I’m glad you acknowledged you couldn’t be objective on this one.

      I’ve made my pro-Mussina feelings clear.

  13. BirdsCaps

    November 29, 2018 at 7:41 pm

    Even though I’m a somewhat younger fan, I have watched my share of Mussina starts and he always impressed. I started watching baseball in 2001, so I never saw him take the hill for the birds. Because of this, I have no strong opinion about whether or not he left the orioles high and dry. Since the stats (WAR especially) seem to be hall worthy and he always impressed me when I watched him pitch, I definitely would vote for him if I had ballot. Also, I think it’s a pipedream to think that he’ll go into the hall as a bird. From what I understand, there was tension between him and ownership. As long as that’s the case, the best we can hope for is that he goes in wearing a blank cap and not one representing the evil empire.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 29, 2018 at 8:37 pm

      Appreciate your insights, BirdsCaps.

  14. willmiranda

    November 29, 2018 at 9:08 pm

    I think of Mussina as a tweener. He played very well for a long time, but I don’t recall –and I am ready to stand corrected on this– really dominating years (wins, strikeouts, era, etc.) or multiple outstanding performances (perfect games, no-hitters, 15 strikeouts, etc.). The Wow! factor that I see in surefire Hall of Famers. I also think he should go in as a Yankee because playing for that team extended his effectiveness to where his longevity allowed him to amass very good statistics and highly visible media coverage. In short, he had a fine career with the Orioles, but the Yankees put him over the top, if indeed he is elected.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 29, 2018 at 9:38 pm

      Will, there were multiple excellent performances. What about his near-perfect game? Or his peformance on Aug. 1, 2000 when he allowed one hit and struck out 15? How about his two starts in the 1997 ALCS when he allowed one run on four hits and struck out 25 in 15 innings?

      A Hall of Famer doesn’t have to be a wower. That’s your interpretation. A Hall of Famer can be that or he can be consistently excellent which Mussina, Don Sutton. Tom Glavine or Bert Blyleven was.

  15. Mitz_8

    November 30, 2018 at 1:51 am

    I think two things Rich mentioned should be and needs to be enough to put Mike Mussina into HOF.

    1. “Mussina’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is an outstanding 83, higher than Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Palmer.” I realize WAR isn’t everything, but I do believe he deserves a lot more credit than what many baseball fans think.

    2. All the near-perfect games he pitched.

    I understand that as O’s fans, many of us are bitter about his signing with the Yankees after the 2000 season. But most of us wouldn’t accept lesser pay to play with a team that’s nowhere close to winning the pennant. People would look at you and think there’s something wrong if you accept to get paid millions of dollars less than what you could have gotten paid.

    And take a look at what the O’s did between 2001 and 2008, between the time when Moose signed with the Yankees and he finally retired: Even if the O’s had him signed through 2008, the O’s most likely wouldn’t have had a winning record in any of those seasons. Having re-signed Mike Mussina would not have changed the fact that the O’s were terrible in those years. Having him in the O’s uniform during those years would only have made watching the game on TV a little more interesting every 5 days.

    To dislike him simply based on the fact that he hit FA and signed with another ball club that’s willing to pay a lot more if ridiculous. Most of us would jump on a better paying, more stable job, no matter whether you’re getting paid in tens of thousands of dollars or in the millions.

    Mike Mussina was a very good, if not great player through his career. He deserves to be in HOF and I hope he will get in representing the O’s.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 30, 2018 at 8:03 am

      Well said, Mitz.

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