We’ll find out later today whether former Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina is going into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown or stuck again outside of its doors while the debate continues to rage over his worthiness.
I keep voting for Mussina as a nod to his amazing consistency during the “steroid era,” as it’s become to be known, and while pitching in the grueling American League East. The 270 career wins, 3.68 ERA and 1.192 WHIP. The 82.9 WAR accumulated over 18 seasons, the first 10 with the Orioles after they drafted him out of Stanford in the first round in 1990.
Mussina never earned a Cy Young Award, but he finished in the top six in voting nine times. He won seven Gold Gloves and made five All-Star teams. He didn’t post a 20-win season until his final year in 2008, but he won 19 games in 1995 and 1996, and 18 in 1992, 1999 and 2002.
He came within two outs of a perfect game on May 30, 1997 at Camden Yards, the Indians’ Sandy Alomar ruining the bid with a single into left field. He got within one strike of perfection on Sept. 2, 2001 with the Yankees before the Red Sox’s Carl Everett looped a single into left, Mussina’s shoulders sagging as the ball touched down.
Mussina also retired the first 23 Tigers on Aug. 4, 1998 before Frank Catalanotto’s double. He lost a no-hitter on June 26, 1997 after an eighth-inning single by the Brewers’ José Valentin.
Candidates need 75 percent of the votes for induction and Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay and Edgar Martinez should make it. Rivera is a slam dunk. He can hang on the rim.
Mussina keeps trending upward by receiving 20.3, 24.6, 43, 51.8 and 63.5 percent of the votes over the past five years. He stood at 81.6 percent yesterday, according to the Baseball Hall of Fame Tracker, but sharp dips are common on the final day.
MLB Network will air the results at 6 p.m. The Class of 2019, which already includes Today’s Game Era electees Harold Baines and Lee Smith, will be inducted on July 21 in Cooperstown.
Fingers still crossed for Juan Pierre.
Actually, I marked Rivera, Martinez, Halladay, Mussina, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Fred McGriff, Curt Schilling and Larry Walker on my ballot.
Whether Mussina would go in as an Oriole or Yankee is up to the Hall of Fame, but he’s allowed to offer input. There are arguments for both teams. It’s also possible that his plaque doesn’t include a cap, the same course taken by Greg Maddux and Tony La Russa.
It was a bitter parting from the Orioles, who fell short in negotiations. They offered a six-year deal that would have averaged around $12 million per season. The Yankees got him for $88.5 million over six years.
They put on the full-court press, including calls from manager Joe Torre, shortstop Derek Jeter, left-hander Andy Pettitte and others, along with reminders that players didn’t have to live in Manhattan. He was steered toward the affluent suburbs.
Mussina provided the feeling with the Orioles that they could win every fifth day. There wouldn’t be any long losing streaks. He was an ace. And now the search continues for someone who fits the description.
A homegrown ace would be a nice touch. There’s still time for Dylan Bundy, who teased again with his impressive first half, but he’s inching closer to free agency. The Orioles keep drafting pitchers and waiting.
Is there anyone in the organization that you’re confident will become a true ace, a bona fide No. 1?
* I want to thank everyone for the incredibly kind words regarding my father’s passing. Trust me when I tell you that every single comment was read by everyone gathered at my parents’ house. There were tears.
I’ll always remember someone in the media telling Alan Mills, then an Orioles reliever, that a man doesn’t really become a man until his father dies. Mills replied, “Well, I hope I never become a man.”
I have to do it. Wish me luck.