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August 28, 2008

Is consistency good enough?

Recently, I asked visitors here who most deserves a plaque in Cooperstown…Mike Mussina, Gary Sheffield, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel or Billy Wagner and surprisingly, 64% of you picked Mike Mussina.

It was a landslide really and two guys who I’ve already tabbed as future Hall members (Thome and Vizquel) were easily bested. Thome ended up with 39% of the vote…Vizquel got 50%.

Eventually, they’ll both get in, but I’m not so sure about “Moose”.

It’s fitting that we're delving into Mussina's career with this historic week as the backdrop. And no, I don’t mean that because the recently completed Little League World Series originates from Mussina’s birthplace Williamsport, Pennsylvania…but rather, the Democratic National Convention is going on.


Think about it…Mike Mussina is a little like Hillary Clinton, isn’t he? Yes…no? I mean, personality differences aside, they’ve got some things in common.

Regardless of how their careers eventually pan out, they’re both overshadowed.

Naturally, Hillary will never eclipse the success of her husband Bill, or most recently, Barack Obama. Thanks to her writers, she delivered a great speech Tuesday night, but by the time the DNC winds down…it’ll be an eventual footnote to history.

Mussina could be lights out (and he has a NUMBER of times) throughout an entire season, but given his teammates…no one will ever remember his Herculean efforts. In Baltimore, he was never the star…Cal Ripken was. Did you know that on the night that Ripken tied Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game streak, Mussina was on the hill?

Of course you didn’t as THAT wasn’t the story that night. No body cares about a guy going for his sixteenth victory in early September when someone else is about to play in their 2131st consecutive game.

What about Moose’s career in New York? Has he ever been the marquee guy? Not a chance with teammates like Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter also donning the pinstripes.

And let’s be honest, regardless how long either one of them end up spending in the Big Apple…both Mussina and Clinton look uncomfortable in a Yankees cap.

Now, I could go on about pantsuits or take this in the opposite direction about how Clinton and Mussina are NOT alike…but I won’t. Frankly, and without naming any names, I absolutely can’t stand the one and the other is a rather boring, right handed hurler with six Gold Gloves.

The question at the heart of this debate is simple…is Moose a Hall of Famer? Again, 64% of you said “yes”…but why?

On paper, we’re looking at a guy who has 266 wins (a solid fourth on the active list), an absolutely sick 64% (coincidence?) winning percentage, close to 2800 Ks and a career ERA of 3.68. And, as mentioned, he has six Gold Gloves and is five times an All-Star.

Not too shabby.

Solid right? Grab your nearest dictionary and it is Mike’s face next to the word “consistency”. He’s been in double digits in wins for seventeen straight years. Matter of fact, there are only five pitchers who have had longer streaks. Four are in the Hall of Fame (Cy Young, Warren Spahn, Don Sutton and Steve Carlton) and the other (Greg Maddux) is about to have his twenty year streak snapped.

And remember when I mentioned Mussina’s winning percentage? It should also be noted that there are only six pitchers with as many victories as Moose and a better winning percentage. Four are in the Hall (Lefty Grove, Christy Mathewson, Grover Cleveland Alexander and Jim Palmer) and the other two (Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson) are pretty much all but set to be enshrined.

He has the credentials if you compare some of his stats with those already enshrined in Cooperstown, but…it’s that consistency that is also the biggest knock on Mussina’s otherwise spectacular career.

Never a twenty game winner…Mussina has finished with nineteen wins twice while with Baltimore and three other times he has finished with eighteen. Even better, outside of his rookie season, Mussina has only had one LOSING campaign. He was 11-15 in 2000…his last season before suiting up for the Yanks.

Let’s look at awards.

I mentioned the six Gold Gloves (sixth most among pitchers), but if Jim Kaat’s sixteen have taught us anything…who cares about Gold Gloves earned on the mound? And as long as Greg Maddux is still drawing air, Mussina won’t even be heralded as the best fielding pitcher of his time.

What about the Cy Young Award? Negative.

Mussina supporters will point to the EIGHT times (over a ten year span) that he finished in the top six for the honor. They’ll continue and tell you all about how he was the runner up to Pedro Martinez in 1999. But the problem with all that is simple. In 1999, Martinez was a unanimous choice…getting ALL 28 first place votes. His 23-4 record, 2.07 ERA and 313 Ks is one of the greatest seasons in the modern era. Mussina had a very Moose-like 18-7, 3.50 ERA and 172 strikeout year.

I should go on and point out that if you take away 1999, Mussina has only garnered 72 Cy Young points in those seven other years he was in the top six. To put that into perspective, that paltry amount of points (or votes if you will) wouldn’t EVER get you the Cy Young Award, much less allow you admittance to the Temperance Tavern Museum (look it up, gang) in Newcomerstown, Ohio.

Mussina has appeared in the post season seven times, twice advancing to (and losing) the World Series. Overall, he has a 7-9 record and a 3.42 ERA. Give him a post season resume like Curt Schilling or Jack Morris and we’re having a different discussion.

Even as a five time All-Star, Mussina’s greatest feat in the Mid Summer Classic was NOT playing in the 1993 contest.

Much like the Bert Blyleven debate, could Mussina be approaching 300 wins had he played for a winner? Maybe. But it isn’t like he was terrible when playing for the Orioles from 1991 and 2000. His career record while in the orange and black WASN’T for the birds (sorry) as he was 147 and 81 with, again, a 64% winning percentage.

To bowl me over and consider enshrining you, you’ve got to DO something, BE a somebody. Mussina is simply not that guy. Do a Google search and the most interesting thing you’ll find ISN’T a bloody sock or five World Series rings…it’s crossword puzzles and hopefully, after today, some lame comparisons to Hillary Clinton.

As the poll indicated, I'm in the minority here. Chime in...let me know what you think.

BallHype: hype it up!


Anonymous said...

I was late to the party on this one, but had I voted, I would've had Mussina no higher than third on that list.

All five have a good case, and to Mussina's credit, I always downplay my thoughts toward New York athletes because of the hype machine (I laughed when Pavano and Wright were going to be the saviors a few years ago). However, the numbers you posted are better than I expected, and there's no doubt he's had a really good career.

I would probably put both sluggers ahead of him on the list. Thome may be the most quiet 500 HR guy ever, but he still has 500, which has to mean something. Sheffield comes across as unlikeable and he'll be hurt by his BALCO involvement, but he's only four homeruns away from 500 and has been one of the league's better hitters during his career.

I think I'd rank him above Vizquel and Wagner (simply because relievers get no love). But again, those two have great cases as well.

Jake in Missouri

The Constable said...

I think he belongs in. If you think about how many wins he actually has - and add that to the fact that all of them came while he was playing in the AL East, it's a pretty impressive total - more impressive than Schilling's win total...

Anonymous said...

Interesting we should point to Schilling at a good comparison. More wins? Yes, but Moose has a higher ERA, less strikeouts, no world series MVP's, his post season numbers are very moose-esque "Mussina has collected an overall 7–8 record and 3.40 ERA, with 142 strikeouts in 22 career postseason games." And that is where he and Schilling differ. That being said I don't Schilling is Hall worthy either. Very good absolutely. Great? I can't get there.

Two cents from a Regular Guy,
David Allan

oriole said...

Mussina's numbers are the equal of Jim Palmer. Palmer was elected to the Hall with 92% of the vote. Mussina should receive the same.

oriole said...

Mussina's lifetime record is 270 and 153, that is, 117 more wins than losses. Every pitcher in baseball history already eligible for the Hall with 100 wins more than losses is in Cooperstown. And you can be sure Pedro, Johnson, Glavine, and Maddux will join them. So will Mussina.