When you look at the players who will be on the 2014 Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, you notice that there are a lot of good players on the list. Players like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas lead the way as the most likely candidates to be elected into the hall. However, there is one player who I feel will be overlooked, and that player is none other than my favorite pitcher of all time – Mike Mussina.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Does Mike Mussina belong in the Hall?
But why does a pitcher, who was never close to being the most dominant in his league deserve to be inducted? Well, let’s figure that out, shall we?
Mussina’s career began in 1991, when he was first brought up by the Baltimore Orioles. In his rookie season, he went 4-5 with a 2.87 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 12 games started. Aside from having a losing record, he did pretty well for himself.
But it was only the beginning of what would be a fabulous career for Moose.
When 1992 rolled around, and talks of a “sophomore slump” began to arise, Mussina did nothing but prove his doubters wrong by winning 18 games – the first time out of eleven in his career, where he would win more than 15 games in a season. Oh yeah, he also had an ERA of 2.54.
Mussina would continue to assert his dominance for the Baltimore Orioles by compiling seven winning seasons in a row after 1992. It wasn’t until 2000, that Mussina would again have a losing record of 11-15 with another ace-like ERA of 3.79.
After the 2000 season however, Mussina became a free agent. Despite him being uncomfortable with pitching in a big city, he signed on with the New York Yankees, the team that he would spend the rest of his career with, posting a record of 123-72 with a 3.88 ERA. He was also one of the team’s most consistent pitchers over the seven seasons he spent under the bright lights of Yankee Stadium.
Mussina’s crowning achievement also came as a New York Yankee.
Throughout his career, Moose was somewhat of a running joke throughout baseball due to the fact that he never won 20 games in a season. He had won 18 and 19 games twice in his career, but never hit 20.
Until 2008, that is.
In what would be Mike Mussina’s final season, he put that running joke to rest.
Coming off of arguably the worst year of his career in 2007, where he went 11-10 with a 5.15 ERA, few people expected him to be the pitcher that he once was. Yet, manager Joe Torre stuck with him and put him in the starting rotation for the 2008 season.
All Mussina did to thank Torre for his trust was win 20 games for the first and only time in his career, posting a 3.37 ERA to boot.
Yes, the reliable Mussina re-appeared in 2008, but at the age of 39, he decided to call it quits, leaving the Yankees just one year before they would go on to win the World Series – something which Mussina never did.
World Series win or not, you can’t deny the fact that Mussina was great. For his career, Moose went 270-153, good for a .638 winning percentage. He struck out 2813 batters, walked 785, and in nine of his 18 seasons, finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting.
When you compare all of his statistics with other pitchers, he holds up to players like Juan Marichal, Jim Palmer, Clark Griffith, Carl Hubbell, and Jim Bunning. All five of those pitchers are currently enshrined in Cooperstown.
In fact, let’s compare Moose to Jim Palmer. In Palmer’s career which spanned 19 seasons, he went 268-152, also good for a .638 winning percentage. He struck out 2212 batters, which is less than Mussina. He also walked 1311 batters, which is more than Moose. While Palmer did finish with the lower ERA – 2.86, you could make the argument that Mussina was better than Palmer in some categories.
For you sabermetricians out there, consider this: Mussina also finished with a FIP near Palmer’s. Moose had an FIP of 3.57, whereas Palmer had a 3.50.
There’s one little fact that could very well be overlooked though. Mussina played in a time where PEDs ran rampant across Major League Baseball – especially among the hitters. This means that Mussina had very little room for error because if he messed up with a pitch, he was going to have to pay for his mistake.
Just a small thing to consider.
Mussina also finished his career with five All-Star appearances, and seven Gold Gloves.
While Mussina won’t get in on the first ballot, he definitely deserves to be inducted at one point or another. He was one of the most underrated pitchers throughout his career, and it’s time that he finally got the recognition that he so rightfully deserved.