As my friend Trevor has pointed out numerous times to me, he doesn’t think Mike Mussina is a Hall of Famer. Because he’s angry over some of his earlier comments disappearing and he’s complained that the site doesn’t allow for differing opinions, here are, as best as I can glean, are his two basic arguments against Mussina being in the Hall of Fame (If i’m missing anything Trevor, let me know or post it in a comment)
1. Some statistics that Mussina has accumulated over the years are meaningless, specifically his win total, since wins by starting pitchers are overrated.
Essentially rebuffing Mussina’s strongest point for inclusion, Trevor has a belief that win totals are overrated. And he’s not alone in that. Keith Law, the excellent ESPN.com writer, recently called it the most overrated stat in baseball. And to be honest, he and Trevor are right to a degree…the 90’s especially have been littered with players who had 18, 19 and 20 win seasons with ERA’s north of 4.00 or in some cases, approaching five. Win-loss totals can be misleading, which is why you always have to look at the circumstances. For example, last season, Mussina was fortunate to go 11-10, as he pitched terribly, and benefited from strong run support and a good bullpen. So chalk one up for Trevor and Mr. Law there.
My response to the wins argument in general is two-fold:
A. I will stop harping on Mussina’s career won-loss record the day people stop saying that him not having a 20-win season is a reason for him to be left out of the Hall. You can’t have it both ways. Either the wins matter, or they don’t. But you can’t say that they matter when Mussina comes up short in individual seasons and dismiss them when he achieves a high-water mark for his career.
B. We’ve been electing pitchers based on win totals for nearly a century now. Like it or not, it’s a criteria voters use, so we can’t just pretend that it’s not going to matter now.
The second argument brings up Trevor’s second, larger point:
2. The Hall of Fame should be reserved for the absolute greats of the game. It’s been diluted over the years by shady inclusions, and guys who were merely “very good” as opposed to “legendary”. Mike Mussina is very good, not great, and as such, should not be in the Hall. Continuing to allow very good players in the Hall simply dilutes the quality further, which means that saying Mussina is better than players already in the Hall doesn’t pass for an argument because the players he is better than don’t deserve to be in either.
To this point, I actually agree with Trevor. The Hall of Fame should be reserved for the greatest players of the game. I’ve always thought Bill Simmons’ (also of ESPN fame) idea of having no more than 200 Hall of Famers at any time was brilliant. Mike Mussina is, in my opinion, behind Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz in terms of Hall worthiness. Seventh-best. Does that make him the “best of the best”? Not at all. In fact, it pretty much says “You don’t belong in the Hall, Mike.” I’ll admit that.
Here’s the problem: Let’s say Mike Mussina is better than, say, Pitcher A, who for argument’s sake, represents the “worst” pitcher in the Hall of Fame. Suppose voters essentially say to Mussina, “Well, yes, you’re better than Pitcher A is, but he probably shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame, so you can’t use that as an argument, because we’ve realized our mistake and now we’re keeping higher standards, which you don’t meet so you’re out.” The problem is, despite admitting Mussina is a superior pitcher, he’s not actually in the Hall while the supposed “inferior” pitcher still is! Sure, we may “know” that the other guy isn’t deserving, but his plaque is still hanging on the wall so what’s the point? I’m all for re-establishing Hall rules and allowing only the best of the best in the Hall of Fame, even if it leaves out Mussina. But if we’re going to do this, we better get the crowbars and rip some other plaques down (I’m looking at you Phil Rizzuto, Jesse Haines and Don Drysdale, to name others). And while we’re at it, we’re taking down Ty Cobb’s because well, he was a racist prick.