Mike Mussina’s election to the Hall of Fame on Tuesday wasn’t celebrated in Baltimore the way it should have been. Mussina was regarded by a number of Oriole fans as a turncoat when he left Baltimore for New York after the 2000 season.
He acknowledged his debt to both organizations in a conference call, saying they each had much to do with his entering the Hall of Fame.
Both teams have a valid claim to Mussina.
In his 10 seasons with the Orioles, Mussina was 147-81 for a .645 winning percentage. His ERA was 3.53. In his eight seasons with the Yankees, Mussina was 123-72 with a winning percentage of .631 and a 3.88 ERA.
With the Orioles, Mussina was an All-Star five times but was in the postseason just twice, in 1996 and 1997.
In New York, Mussina never made an All-Star team, but played in the postseason in his first seven seasons, reaching the World Series in 2001 and 2003. In the only season the Yankees didn’t make the postseason in his time there, 2008, Mussina won 20 games—for the first time.
There shouldn’t have been any question that Mussina was a Hall of Famer. During the six years he’s been eligible, the Hall of Fame electorate has grown younger and in many ways, wiser.
On BaseballReference.com’s similarity scales, Mussina’s eighth-closest comparison is with the revered Jim Palmer, whose won-lost record is strikingly similar. Palmer’s ERA is nearly a run lower (2.86 to 3.68).
But the era Mussina pitched in was tougher on pitchers as a whole. He pitched in Oriole Park and Yankee Stadium, two ballparks difficult on pitchers and had ERAs under 3.70.
Some writers voted against him because he won 20 games only once, But the job of a starting pitcher has changed radically in this century. Mussina had 57 complete games and 23 shutouts, figures that contemporary pitchers will never approach.
Mussina’s 270 wins might not be surpassed. Of active pitchers, only Bartolo Colon (247) and CC Sabathia (246) are near him, and Justin Verlander’s 204 are perhaps four seasons away.
His WAR (Wins Above Replacement) was 83, ahead of 300-game winners Nolan Ryan, Tom Glavine and Don Sutton.
Mussina earned his election, as did the three players with whom he shared baseball’s highest honor — Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay and Edgar Martinez.
Rivera was the first player to be unanimously elected, and that ends one absurdity. There were several dozen players who should have been elected with 100 percent of the vote — Henry Aaron, Johnny Bench, Willie Mays, Tom Seaver, Ken Griffey Jr., Cal Ripken Jr., and a number of others.
In the future, it shouldn’t be a big deal for a worthy player, such as Derek Jeter a year from now, to be elected unanimously.
Halladay, who died in a Nov. 2017 plane crash, won 203 games. A generation ago, that probably wouldn’t have been good enough to merit serious consideration.
However, the voters recognized that Halladay was perhaps baseball’s most dominant starter from 2002-11. He threw 67 complete games and 20 shutouts and had a spectacular 1.178 WHIP, averaging fewer than two walks per nine innings.
Martinez led the American League in batting twice and was the on-base percentage leader three times. He had an OPS of better than 1,000 five times.
Voters have recognized that designated hitter is a position, too, and didn’t discriminate against him even though he was the DH 1,405 times in a career of 2,055 games.
Mussina was elected on his sixth try. In his sixth election in 2015, Martinez had just 27 percent of the vote, and contemporary electors realized the urgency of his case.
Martinez came close a year ago with 70.4 percent, but voters decided they didn’t want his case to be decided by the Veterans Committee.
The cases of Martinez and Mussina showed that voters were willing to consider new evidence and weren’t stuck with outdated standards.
Three hundred wins is a great achievement, but it’s probably not happening again, and Martinez, who had 2,247 hits, falls short of the once accepted benchmark.
This year’s election is good news for Larry Walker, the superlative outfielder who moved up from 34.1 percent a year ago to 54.6 percent on his ninth ballot.
Next year will be Walker’s final year of eligibility on the BBWAA’s ballot, and while he still needs more than a 20 percent boost to pass the 75 percent threshold, only Curt Schilling (60.9 percent), Roger Clemens (59.5 percent) and Barry Bonds (59.1 percent) will return to the ballot.
Schilling, Clemens and Bonds are controversial candidates and might find it difficult to pass 75 percent.
With Jeter the only obvious “sure thing” newcomer on next year’s ballot, Walker will have a strong chance of joining him in Cooperstown in 2020.
Voters are often using all 10 spaces on the ballots, and the four elected on Tuesday will join Veteran Committee selections Harold Baines and Lee Smith to make a crowded class.
A year ago, Vladimir Guerrero and Jim Thome, who concluded their careers with the Oriole,s made the Hall of Fame. This year, Baines, Smith and Mussina, who each played for the Orioles, join them.
Mussina’s Hall of Fame plaque might have a cap with neither the Orioles’ nor the Yankees’ logo on it, and if you’re asking if he’ll get a statue in left field to join those for Palmer, Ripken, Eddie Murray, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson and Earl Weaver, let’s take a moment.
Those statues were erected in 2012, years after each had concluded their Orioles careers and entered the Hall of Fame.
Those six were responsible for World Series winners in 1966, 1970 and 1983.
The guess here is that as deserving as Mussina is, the lack of a World Series trophy keeps him out of left field, but solidly in Cooperstown.