The scenario: Doc Brown pulls up in the DeLorean. He has enough plutonium for one trip to the past and the subsequent return back to the future. He wants to help Mike Mussina’s HOF case. Which one event do you go into the past to change?
Ryan: The 2001 A.L. Cy Young Award winner. No other change propels Mussina’s case forward as one that allows sportswriters to mention Mussina won a Cy Young award when they write about him in 2013 and beyond. It creates an easy to understand narrative. The award allows Mussina to go from being a very good pitcher of the 1990s and 2000s, to one of the greats.
Patrick: And, while it doesn’t help him in comparisons to the Big 5 (Clemens, Glavine, Maddux, Pedro, and Johnson), it does give him some kind of separation from the Kevin Brown‘s, Andy Pettitte‘s, and—most importantly—Curt Schilling‘s of the world. He’s basically John Smoltz with 60 more wins.
Ryan: And let’s not forget this is a slam dunk. Mussina was much better than Roger Clemens and every other American League pitcher in 2001. There are reasons why a picture of the voting for the award that year is the header of our Twitter page. Mussina was robbed. He was a full win and a half better than Clemens and Mark Mulder (who finished second). Voters went with Clemens because he had 20 wins and ignored Mussina’s better ERA and that he had better raw numbers (yes, even strikeouts) and ratios than Clemens in every category. Mussina didn’t win the award because the Yankees scored more runs during Clemens’ starts then they did Mussina’s. It’s as simple as that.
Change this fact and you change the entire narrative about Mussina. Now he has an award that can be mentioned in the first sentence of every piece written about him for the HOF. Now he bested Clemens during Clemens’ second prime. Now he’s almost certainly a HOF’er already.
Patrick: You’ve probably made the “correct” choice here, in that it’s guaranteed to have a noticeable boost on Mussina’s bottom line. But if I’ve got to go through all the trouble of going back in time, I’m going to do something big when I’m there. That’s why my choice is: The outcome of Game 6 of the 2003 World Series.
Ryan: But, Mussina didn’t even pitch in that game.
Patrick: Patience. That is not a typo.
What you are essentially arguing is that we need something tangible to validate the numbers Mussina posted in 2001. I think this is smart (voters love shiny things) but also misguided, because frankly, voters have been ignoring the numbers on Mussina for years. Ask yourself this: Why did Jack Morris do so much better than Mussina in Hall voting despite the fact that Mussina is better than him in nearly every statistical category? I mean, Morris doesn’t have a Cy Young either.
Ryan: Because he was a bulldog. He loved the big game. He wanted the ball when the everything was on the line.
Patrick: While you’re channelling the vibe of the 85-year old BBWAA writer perfectly, you have a point. Morris did better because he had what Mussina lacks: A narrative; a moment we can capture and put on YouTube. Put simply, he had Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.
Ryan: Never heard of it.
Patrick: Readers might not know that you’re a Braves fan, Ryan, so I know you probably blocked out most of that Series*, but the rest of us remember Jack Morris’ 10 shutout innings of the Braves in Game 7. I have literally never read a writer advocating for Morris’ induction who didn’t make the 1991 World Series, and specifically Game 7, a focal point.
We all remember the 2003 World Series because Josh Beckett stymied the Yankees on short rest in Game 6. But what if he loses that game? If that happens, Mike Mussina is getting the ball in Game 7 of the World Series, and now, the world is (potentially) his. Forget the tangible stuff that a win would give him (A ring, possibly a World Series MVP award).
Ryan: People forget that Mussina outdueled Becket in game three, which the Yankees won 6-1. If he pitches well in Game 7 and the Yankees win, he probably gets voted World Series MVP. If you look at the history of that series the Marlins would have been in a tight spot for pitching in Game 7. They would have chosen between Mark Redman, who lasted less than three innings in Game 2, Carl Pavano on short rest from Game 4, or Dontrelle Willis, who only pitched in relief during the series and had a 8.53 ERA in the 2003 postseason.
Patrick: Exactly. Mussina struck out nine Marlins in seven innings in Game 3. If he wins Game 7 by pitching well, Mike Mussina is the man who took the ball in—quite literally—the biggest moment the game has to offer and delivered. In the land of no tomorrow, (and baseball narratives) the man who dominates Game 7 of the World Series is king.
Ryan: But what happens if Game 7 isn’t magical for Mussina?
Patrick: Unfortunately, the rules of this exercise only allow me to change one event, so I can’t rewrite Game 6 and give Mussina a complete game two-hitter with 1 walk and 13 strikeouts in Game 7. I’ve got to use my powers on Game 6, and leave it up to Mussina in Game 7. This will, obviously, expose my plan to a potentially fatal flaw: If Mussina loses Game 7, not only have I not helped his case, I’ve hurt it. And Mussina is not immune to postseason disasters.
Ryan: So why take the chance to change this one event?
Patrick: Because the Hall of Fame is an all-or-nothing proposition, my friend. Time is not on our side, and fortune favors the bold. Give the Yankees game 6, and let Mussina handle the rest.
We’ve told you what we think. Now, we’d like to hear from you. What moment from Mussina’s career would you change if you had the power?