Posted by: The Moose on 9/5
Recently, my ex-roommate in Maryland, a lifelong Oriole fan, chimed in with these words about Mussina:
“For me, it’s about much more than a 20-win season. HOF entry is about being THE MAN on winning teams or THE ONLY THING on bad teams. To me (and remember, I watched Mussina rise from the minors to the majors and was a BIG fan), he just wasn’t either of those things long enough or to a strong enough degree.”
While I respect my old roomie, I couldn’t really believe Mussina wasn’t “The Man” down in Baltimore. So I investigated.
From 1991-2000–Mussina’s years in Baltimore–here are the franchise leaders in wins, with their W-L record:
Mike Mussina: 147-81 (.644)
Scott Erickson: 74-68 (.521)
Ben McDonald: 64-53 (.547)
Bob Milacki: 37-38 (.493)
Sidney Ponson: 29-34 (.460)
Mussina had the lowest ERA on the team 8 of his 9 full seasons (Exception: McDonald in 1993) I know stats aren’t EVERYTHING when it comes to being “The Man”, but you’re telling me that Scott Erickson or Ben McDonald were the go-to guys on that team during that era? That if fans were faced with the question of “If you had to pick one pitcher from the era of 1991-2000 to be on the mound to win you a game” they would take Erickson or McDonald over Mussina? I know McDonald was a hotshot prospect, but the guy had three good seasons in Baltimore and there’s no way people were saying to themselves, “We’ve got a great chance to win today! Scott Erickson is on the mound!” The guy was barely above a .500 pitcher. Mussina had double the win total of Erickson and the winning percentages aren’t even close.
If Mussina wasn’t “The Man” for those teams, then there hasn’t had a starting pitcher of consequence down there since Flannagan, Palmer, Cuellar and McNally, and none of them started games past ’87–heck McNally and Cuellar were gone by the mid-70’s. He’s probably the best starting pitcher they’ve had since Palmer, and, I would argue–and this I can attest to–their 2nd most well-known player of that era, after Ripken–and no, Eddie Murray doesn’t count; he’s not getting credit for a half season in 1996 a year before retirement. His O’s career was 1977-1987.
So while I always respect dissenting opinions, I will always investigate them. And my ex-roommates contention that Mussina wasn’t “The Man” for the Orioles just doesn’t stand up.