Mike Mussina was already recognized as one of the greatest pitchers in Orioles history. Now, he’s been enshrined as one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history.
In his sixth year of eligibility, Mussina received 76.7% of the vote, barely surpassing the necessary 75% mark by just seven votes. He’ll be inducted this summer along with Mariano Rivera, Edgar Martinez, Lee Smith, Harold Baines, and the late Roy Halladay.
Over the course of his 18-year career, Mussina compiled 270 wins to go against just 153 losses. He had a 3.68 ERA and struck out 2,813 hitters, the 20th most in baseball history. He also was an American League All-Star five times and won seven Gold Gloves.
Mussina’s career in many ways can be described as “close, but no cigar.” He threw multiple one-hit, no-walk shutouts with the Orioles, including against the Indians when he threw 8⅓ perfect innings before allowing a single. He also was one pitch away with the Yankees against the Red Sox before Carl Everett singled with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning.
He reached two World Series, both in New York, but lost both times. He finished 2nd in Cy Young voting in 1999, and would have been deserving if Pedro Martinez hadn’t had an all-time historically great season. He finished just 30 wins shy of 300 for his career, and it took him nearly two decades to reach 20 wins in a season, finally hitting the milestone in 2008.
Finally, with only four years remaining on the ballot, he made the Hall of Fame. This time, he didn’t fall short.
Mussina’s Hall of Fame case has been boosted by the rise of sabermetrics, By WAR, he was an obvious selection.
His numbers likely would have looked even better with more favorable circumstances. Mussina spent his entire career in the vaunted American League East, a division full of big bats and hitter-friendly ballparks.
He all spent the bulk of his career pitching in what has since become known as the Steroid Era, an obvious detriment to his overall pitching stats.
Former players have congratulated Mussina and praised both his raw stuff and his off-the-charts baseball IQ. Stuff, plus smarts, plus durability meant he was the total package.
Mussina was always destined to be an Oriole as Baltimore drafted him twice. In 1987, they took him in the eleventh round before the pitcher elected to go to college. In 1990, after his junior season, they took him in the first round.
The starting pitcher affectionately referred to as “Moose” spent a decade in Baltimore before playing the final eight seasons of his career in New York. Because of this, a debate has raged on for years about which cap he would wear should he ever be elected into the Hall of Fame.
Previously, the player himself was able to choose. Nowadays, the Hall makes the call. For some, however, the answer is obvious.
Mussina finally became a 20-game winner with the Yankees, and was obviously much more visible playing for the biggest franchise in the sport. That said, he made a much larger impact in Baltimore, both in statistics, and in stature.
When Orioles fans point to the team’s miserable track record trying to develop homegrown starting pitchers, they often point to Mussina as the last success story. The fact that their most recent win in pitcher development is now in the Hall of Fame is a tough look for a franchise that once started four 20-game winners in the same rotation.
If he does go in as an Oriole, Mussina will become the seventh member to wear the Baltimore cap, joining Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, Jr. and manager Earl Weaver.
Mussina is in a unique spot in Orioles history, as many of the Hall of Famers from Baltimore are thought of as Orioles through and through. None of Brooks Robinson, Cal Ripken, Jr., Jim Palmer and Earl Weaver ever wore another uniform.
“Moose” famously spurned the Orioles to join their bitter rivals when he signed with the Yankees, though it’s hard to blame him for taking the most money offered. When asked on MLB Network after the election announcement, Mussina was very appreciative towards both ballclubs and credits both organizations for getting him to this point.
It’s a slightly complicated history, but one that has largely been forgiven with time. When the announcement was made, the consensus reaction on Twitter in Birdland was that of joy for Mussina.
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