Mussina deserves Hall of Fame call - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Mussina deserves Hall of Fame call

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

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.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    January 23, 2019 at 9:28 am

    I respectfully dsagree with you on this one Mr. Dubrof. There is certainly at least some reason to question whether Moose is a HOF’er or not. And it’s ludicrous to compare him to Jim Palmer. At no time, in no one year during his career, was he the best at what he did in his league.

    Is he HOF worthy? Maybe. Maybe not.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 23, 2019 at 10:18 am

      Boog, the competition he pitched against and the ballparks he pitched in make it a worthy comparison.

      Memorial Stadium was easier to pitch in than Oriole Park.

      He didn’t have to be the best in one year. Pat Hentgen, Jack McDowell and Barry Zito were the best in the AL for a year during Mussina’s career, but he had a better career overall than nearly every pitcher of his era.

    • Zoey Dog Says Throw Strikes

      January 23, 2019 at 4:23 pm

      I used to question Mussina’s HoF worthiness, but no longer. It took a bit of looking at his career before I came around, and part of it was , I realized, just me being short sighted and a little emotional.

      I heard some interesting stats on the radio today. I’m paraphrasing and these could be inaccurate but I’ll try to repeat them as accurately as I can.

      Moose was only 1 of 16 pitchers who have 100 more wins than losses. He was 1 of only like 10 (??) pitchers with 1000 more strikeouts than walks, and he was one of only five pitchers to ever win over 10 or more games a year for 17 years.

      That’s impressive company.

      His ERA is a little high, but fairly easily explained due to pitching so much in tiny ballparks, with juiced balls, juiced players, and pitching his entire career for AL East teams.

      Add a paltry 1.6 wins per season to his career and that would have put him at 300 wins for his career, and I bet very few folks would question his inclusion. I bet good money there are more than 1.6 games in each of his seasons where he was a hard luck loser, certainly more often than those times where he may have pitched poorly but got the win.

      • Rich Dubroff

        January 23, 2019 at 5:18 pm

        Glad you came around to my way of thinking, Zoey.

    • Borg

      January 26, 2019 at 6:55 am

      The HOF isn’t for being the best a year in a career, it is for a career of high performance. The stat that always jumped out at me is that after his first season (Late season call-up) Mussina never won less than double figure games. Roll that around for a bit–every single season he pitched he won at least ten games. Now try and find ANY pitcher today who has even five straight seasons of 10 or more wins. You won’t have many, if any, on that list. The pitcher from his era that he compares to in that regard (consistency) is Maddux.
      As for the comparison to Palmer, it’s true that Musiina didn’t win twenty games, thought that’s a silly comparison considering Palmer got a dozen more starts every year in a four man rotation. Mussina won 19 once, 18 a couple of times, and 17 games–it’s reasonable to believe those would be twenty win seasons with 12 more starts. Palmer was a dominating pitcher, and I grew up watching him his whole career. I was surprised then to find out that Mussina had over 200 more strikeouts than Palmer in 400 less career innings. Every single time he took the mound, the Orioles and Yankees could be expected to win; he was about 130 wins over .500. My only surprise about his selection is that it took so long.

  2. chico salmon

    January 23, 2019 at 10:12 am

    He is worthy and deserving of a statue, and retired number, if he goes in as an Oriole. He wanted to stay here, not leave and go to another team, but ownership did not share the same desire. Read John Feinstein’s “Living on the Black”, where he follows Messina for en entire year. It’s all made very clear what happened in this book.
    It will be ownership’s decision, and ownership has changed hands. Peter Angelos would never allow a statue for Moose, but he wouldn’t allow rock concerts either. Let’s hope the Angelos sons honor Mike with a statue and retired number (if, and only if, he goes into the HOF wearing an Orioles cap on his plaque).

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 23, 2019 at 10:19 am

      Chico, I read Feinstein’s book, and it was a good one.

  3. Bhoffman1

    January 23, 2019 at 11:45 am

    270 wins 57 complete games 23 shutouts and a WAR higher then Nolan Ryan. Mr consistency and Mr class. Anyone that disputes him going in the HOF knows nothing about baseball.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 23, 2019 at 12:45 pm

      We actually agree about something, bhoffman!

  4. BirdsCaps

    January 23, 2019 at 1:27 pm

    I was happy to see Moose get in. I was too young to follow the game while he was in Baltimore, but did get to see him play in NY for many years. My guess is that he goes in as a Yankee or neither. I’ve heard lots of stories of conflict between Mussina and Orioles Ownership. As for Bonds and Clemens, I hope neither get in. If it goes to the Veterans Committee, it’s lights out on their HOF chances. Also, why do you have Schilling as a controversial candidate? I know he has a bad rapport with the media and is outspoken politically. However, that’s not cheating or PED use.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 23, 2019 at 3:02 pm

      BirdsCaps, I think Schilling is a Hall of Famer, but his political comments have made him controversial.

      • BirdsCaps

        January 23, 2019 at 4:22 pm

        As a retired player, I think he should be able to express his opinions without much pushback (he’s just another celebrity with an opinion). However, I miss the day and age when sports figures generally kept out of politics. With that said, he did endorse Bush 43 while he was playing, which violates this rule. Nowadays, we hear political commentary in the locker rooms and during press conferences. Truth be told, I love political commentary (majored in Political Science and minored in Econ) but I think society needs areas of détente where everyone can just talk about things that don’t matter in the big picture of life (e.g. how long the rebuild will be or if So and so gets into the Hall).

        • Rich Dubroff

          January 23, 2019 at 5:23 pm

          BirdsCaps, players have often expressed political thoughts and endorsed candidates as long as I’ve been watching sports.

          I covered politics for a living for a time, and I’m happy to have escaped that. I will tell you there’s little political talk in the clubhouse.

  5. TxBirdFan

    January 23, 2019 at 2:44 pm

    Moose went for the $$ when he could have stayed and helped the Orioles during some tough years. If Mariano has been closing for him in Baltimore he would have a few more 20 win seasons. I can’t blame him for chasing the $$, but I also think his election dilutes the HOF.

    Finally – he was actually in the Os organization for 14 years, not 10. His time in the minors should count.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 23, 2019 at 3:06 pm

      Tx, Mussina played with the Orioles from 1991-2000. That’s 10 seasons. He was in their minor league system for nine starts in 1990 and 19 starts in 1991. That’s 11 seasons by your count.

  6. GSISDANNO

    January 23, 2019 at 4:01 pm

    I cannot be objective on this one. Mike Mussina wore out his welcome in Baltimore. He acted like he was too good for the Orioles. He said he wanted to win a World Series and that is why he went to New York. Look at the numbers. His 7-8 postseason record is not worthy of the Hall Of Fame. He was 2-1 in the post season with the Orioles but winless in three ALCS starts. With New York, he was 5-7. I find it ironic that the Yankees won a WS the year before he arrived and the year after he retired. I hope he wears the NY hat on his plaque. Baltimore fans are frequently praised for how well they treat former Orioles when they return to Camden Yards. Mussina never received that type of reaction.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 23, 2019 at 5:24 pm

      Danno, there are many Orioles fans who feel the same way.

    • Bancells Moustache

      January 24, 2019 at 12:06 am

      Let’s see, you can go work for the richest, most respected company in your line of work for more money or you can stay with your current employer who will pay you less and who is mired in failure and will be for another 12 years.

      Stop it. Mussina made the right decision.

  7. Zoey Dog Says Throw Strikes

    January 23, 2019 at 4:37 pm

    Mussina didn’t “wear out his welcome” in Baltimore. Far from it. I don’t remember a single fan or anyone else saying they should let him walk in 2000. Not a one.

    The truth is that most fans were desperate for the Orioles to re-sign him, and wanted ownership to open the coffers and get it done.

  8. TxBirdFan

    January 23, 2019 at 5:43 pm

    Rich – technically you are correct about the number of years Moose was in the O’s system. However, the Os initially drafted him out of high school in 1987, and then drafted him again out of Stanford. So they stuck with him for 14 years even though he didn’t stick by them.

    • chico salmon

      January 24, 2019 at 12:29 am

      I respectfully disagree that he didn’t stick by them. The Orioles did not make a serious offer to him after his walk year. They didn’t. They were ready to cut payroll, and Moose was considered expendable. People in Baltimore take it so personally, like he is holding up the middle finger to fans, but if the Oriole offer was even close to the Yankees, he would have taken it, and stayed.
      Now, you could make the argument that Mike would never have made it into the HOF if he didn’t leave the Orioles, because they were so dreadful after he left.
      So Tx, in the end, they didn’t stick by him.

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