While Roger Clemens and Mike Mussina did most of their damage as elite stating pitchers of their era in other team’s uniforms, both also had several productive seasons as members of the New York Yankees. Yesterday, both men came up extremely short for the game’s greatest honor–election by the BBWAA into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
The controversy surrounding the Rocket has been well documented, and culminated in his federal trial for lying under oath, a trial in which he was acquitted. It still doesn’t seem to matter to those who hold the power–the much-maligned BBWAA, whose decisions have been questioned ten-fold over the past 24 hours since the announcement of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas as their selections into the Hall for 2014. The BBWAA has come under fire on social media, talk shows, and talk radio as hacks, and there is now outside pressure to change the way the voting process is operated.
Whether Clemens did or did not partake in the use of performance-enhancing substances is mostly speculative, and unfortunately for Clemens, most people believe he used at some point during his career. Many of his activities were well documented in Joe Torre‘s and Tom Verducci’s book The Yankee Years with several first-person comments from Clemens’ primary accuser, former personal trainer and friend Brian McNamee. Much of his damning testimony was used to bring Clemens to trial in the first place.
It is hard to ignore what the Rocket accomplished on the field. He was the recipient of 7 Cy Young Awards, 11 times an All-Star selection, over 4600 strikeouts, a league Most Valuable Player, a winner of 2 World Series rings, and tossed his way to 354 career victories. How much of these career totals and accolades were artificially inflated, we will never know for sure, but the BBWAA made their voice heard yesterday, by handing Clemens a lesser percentage this year (35.4 percent) than what they issued last year (37.6 percent). Whether the voting process changes or remains the same, Roger Clemens is going to have a hard time finding supporters if they believe he cheated the game by using substances to lengthen his career and to pad his statistics.
Mike Mussina, the former Baltimore Orioles‘ ace who spent the second half of his career in the Bronx, has a different battle to face than does Clemens. Nobody has ever thought Moose pitched dirty, or took anything to extend his career. While he was the clear cut ace for the Orioles during his tenure in Baltimore, he was never considered the ace of a loaded Yankees starting rotation. He once finished as the runner-up in Cy Young balloting (1999), but never placed higher than fourth in any other season. It took until his 18th and final season in the bigs to get his first 20-win season, although he did finish with 19-win seasons twice, and had three 18-win seasons. His 270 career victories are impressive, but his bloated ERA and ERA+ in four of his last six seasons hurt his chances as well. In his first year on the ballot, one that was overloaded with numerous Hall-worthy candidates, Moose received just 20.3 percent.
I will say this: I’m still not sure why there were so many people pushing Curt Schilling as a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer, while Moose received very little fanfare. I have a difficult time giving any credence to a pitcher who was in the bigs for 20 seasons, and has a paltry 216 career victories to show for it. Sure, he made some big starts in the postseason over his career, but the Hall of Fame isn’t just “the best postseason players of all-time.” If that were the case, former Yankees’ center fielder Bernie Williams would’ve been a first-ballot guy. I’ll give Schilling credit for his 3,000+ strikeouts, but his ERA is 3.46. Mussina had a winning percentage of .638 compared to Schilling’s .597 and the difference in career ERA is 0.04. Schilling never had an issue speaking his mind to the media, while Mussina just went about his business, taking the ball every fifth day and doing what he had to do to win. If the writers believe Schilling will eventually get in, it should not be before the Moose. Their vote totals were similar this year: Schilling’s 29.2 percent to Mussina’s 20.3 percent, but all anyone spoke about last night on the various talk shows reviewing the vote aside from the Steroid Era guys and Craig Biggio falling 2 votes shy of election, was how surprised they were that Schilling received so few votes. Mike Mussina was better, in less years, and deserves the call before Curt Schilling.
Perhaps someday Roger Clemens and Mike Mussina will receive the necessary votes for election, but with yesterday’s voting results being revealed, when there are writers who cast their ballots for players like Jacque Jones, Armando Benitez, Kenny Rogers, J.T. Snow, Eric Gagne, Hideo Nomo, Moises Alou, and Luis Gonzalez, the system is obviously broken. The BBWAA continues to make a mockery of the process, their duty as voters, and until across the board change is implemented, players such as Clemens, Mussina, and Schilling will have to wait until someone takes their respective candidacies seriously.
Follow Billy on Twitter @Billy_Brost.