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.


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9 thoughts on “Mussina–not the “Man” in Baltimore? Really now?

  1. Cal Ripken was and always will be “The Man” in Baltimore–the guy the fans paid to see play. There’s no question that Moose was “The Ace,” number one starter, open day pitcher, game one postseason go-to guy, however. You don’t need to ask a Baltimore fan to know that, just anyone who followed American League baseball in the 1990s. Even Joe Torre said after Moose signed with the Yankees that it would be good for Mike to not always bear the burden of being “the guy” who had to win all his games because the team had no one else remotely as good in Baltimore. And the funny thing is, eight years later, they still don’t. Guthrie has some potential but he’s already breaking down at the end of his first full season as a starter. I was surprised to learn he’s already 29, considering the Orioles tout him as a star for the future of the franchise. Moose wasn’t just the O’s top starter on stats, he was also insanely durable for ten years despite freak injuries like line drive to the eye. These days you let a 23-year old throw 241 innings as Mike did in 1992, and everyone in the front office would have a nervous breakdown.

  2. Well, yes, Ripken was “The Man”. But Ripken was a position player, and position players and pitchers can’t be compared. They are two completely seperate groups.

    Position players have a built in advantage over pitchers because they play every day so fans get to know them better. But my roommate–I’m assuming–wasn’t comparing Mussina to Ripken, but Mussina’s status as “The Man” of the Oriole staff. And if you’re discussing pitchers, it’s not even a competition.

    Interestingly enough, the only “modern” Yankees pitcher to have more wins than Mussina is Andy Pettitte. And while Mussina will never catch him, if he returns next season, he’ll have a shot at the Top 10

  3. Well the way the quote was phrased, “HOF entry is about being THE MAN on winning teams or THE ONLY THING on bad teams” suggests that there’s only room for one “franchise” player, and Mussina wasn’t that because Cal was there. Rafael Palmeiro, pre-steroid revelations, was a fairly big deal as well. But strictly in terms of pitching, clearly there’s no comparison. The only other pitcher the Orioles developed to any note in the last three decades was Gregg Olson, their longtime closer who was recently inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame. I mean what does it say about the other starters when Moose lead the team in ERA in 1996 and his ERA was 4.81? I’m sure it was no luck of the draw that Mike was sent out in Cal’s 2131 game to ensure that the team had the best chance of winning that game. The Orioles knew they had something special in Moose, even if they won’t acknowledge that now, except for Jim Palmer who still speaks very favorably of him. Who’s the better judge here, bitter loser organization or Hall of Fame pitcher?

    I’ve been monitoring the all-time Yankee lists too, Mike needs seven strikeouts to pass Mel Stottlemyre for sixth, not bad for numbers accumulated on the decline side of his career. It’s too bad that he didn’t quite get 150 wins in Baltimore, it would have been neat to see if he could do it for two teams. As it is, I think it was reported in one of the NY papers that with his current 120-70 record in NY, Mike and Randy Johnson are the only two players who are at least 50 games above .500 for two teams. Hopefully he’ll be able to maintain that going forward.

  4. SW– Yes it was a fairly ambigious term used by the old roomie, but I think it’s fair to assume, since we’re discussing Hall of Fame credentials, that the pitchers and hitters are two different things.

    I agree that a lot of O’s fans are bitter over Mussina leaving and to that I say two things:

    1) It was eight years ago. Get over it
    2) What have the Orioles done since 2000 to make Mussina regret the decision? Do you think he misses finishing 4th or 5th and missing the playoffs?

    I like that stat on Johnson and Mussina. Nice work.

  5. Angelos did not respect Mussina and basically ushered him out of town. Angelos offered more money to other free agents ( 1 of whom previously pitched in Baltimore and sucked and went on to team with Mussina with the Yankees). Baltimore fans who side with Angelos over Mussina are not just bitter. They are idiots. And I say that as a lifelong resident of MD and an Orioles fan.

    FWIW, Ripken’s last great season was 1991 IIRC. After that he was about average ( his OPS+ was only over 100 in 3 of his last 11 seasons, if you are into that kind of stat). He was “the man” due to the streak and sentimentalism. Kinda the way Don Mattingly was still loved after his back gave out. And probably the same way Jeter will be treated when his career is winding down. He was a fan favorite, hard working player. But his production was average. He wasnt even the top position player most of Mussina’s tenure.

    Mussina WAS the Ace and best player on the team much of his time there. He did carry the team. Check out the 1997 playoffs for example. Also check out what he had to put up with in seasons like 2000, where he was great and the team let him down. He actually finished 6th in CY young voting with a 11-15 record ( he would have been 2nd with any run support). Of course Angelos and the Orioles would actually use the team’s suckiness against MUSSINA.

    Not only does he qualify as “The MAN on a good team” or “The ONLy Thing on a bad team” -He was BOTH.

    BTW, ask Jim Palmer if he thinks Moose should go in the HOF.

  6. One thing I forgot to mention. I forgot that there was some controversy and I think Mussina took heat from the union because he actually signed a contract with the Orioles that was way below his market value. I guess it was his last contract with them. So he gave them a huge home team discount, and then fans blame him when Angelos insults him.

  7. I don’t know if Greg is talking about this particular deal, but in 1998, Angelos signed Erickson to a five-year deal, a year after he told Moose he wasn’t signing any pitchers to more than three years, and Mike had accepted the three-year offer to stay in Baltimore. Must have made Mike feel really appreciated, except not. The Erickson deal of course turned out to be a total disaster for the O’s, and Moose walked away after his three years were up. I think it’s incredible how owners have absolutely no respect for their homegrown talent but throw big money around at players from other organizations, Steinbrenner was the same way with Andy Pettitte, and then the Yankees had to beg him to come back with big money three years later.

    Jim Palmer clearly has great respect for the Moose and I’m sure the feeling is mutual. On one of the O’s/Yanks broadcasts I caught during the CY series in August, Palmer said that Mussina told him, “If I win two more games and lose one, we’ll have the same record, I’ll retire and we can be joined at the hip forever and ever.” Palmer considered it “the highest compliment” and said he told Mike that he expected Moose to win a lot more than two games. I hope the Yankee beat writers ask Mike about what his feelings are on tying/passing Palmer when it happens, I’m sure he’ll have a more interesting answer than when he’s been asked about passing *insert random name here* since they actually know each other pretty well.

  8. As many bitter Orioles fans as there are with regards to Moose, there are also quite a few Orioles fans who are still pining for the prodigal son to come home, as can be seen from the comment section of this Baltimore Sun blog pondering what free agent pitchers the team should pursue:

    The funniest comment has nothing to do with Moose directly, but it’s at least a little ironic: “the Orioles are incapable of developing young pitchers. Time and time again, they are clueless, helpless, cannot throw strikes, have no other pitches besides a fastball, their mechanics are pitiful and none of them can field their positions. They have been taught nothing other than how to embarrass themselves.”

    Cracked me up because Mike is the complete opposite of the kind of pitchers in the Orioles system nowadays.

  9. this is a joke, right? look at the 1997 playoffs. you don’t throw a guy out there on 3 days rest in consecutive series when he’s not THE MAN.

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