An Oriole all the way
By Ray Frager
Mike Mussina won't get to decide whether his cap on a Hall of Fame plaque features a bird or the "NY" logo that can make Baltimore fans want to flip the bird. That call is up to the poohbahs of Cooperstown.
But listen up, you guys, it should be an Oriole.
Mike Mussina became Mike Mussina in Baltimore. Let's run some numbers: He spent 10 of his 18 major league seasons here. He recorded 147 of his 270 victories and 1,535 of his 2,813 strikeouts as an Oriole. All but eight of his 23 career shutouts came in orange and black. His five All-Star selections were as an Oriole.
Despite what Maese says - and my argument certainly is strengthened merely by the fact I disagree with him - his best seasons were probably 1994 and 1995 with the Orioles, years in which he likely would have won 20 games if not for schedules that were shortened by baseball's labor woes.
Yes, Mussina got to more postseasons and the World Series in New York, but his signature playoff performance came for the Orioles in 1997 - four games, 29 innings, four earned runs, 41 strikeouts.
Some fans might never forgive Mussina for spurning the Orioles for the bigger stage and bigger bucks of New York - though others would hold that the club blew its chance to keep him - but no one can deny he was a terrific pitcher in Baltimore.
Mussina's induction likely won't inspire bus caravans from Maryland to upstate New York, but given how long it might be before another Oriole enters Cooperstown, Baltimore fans should get to enjoy the enshrinement of the team's ace of the 1990s.
A pitch for pinstripes
By Rick Maese
Wearing an Orioles uniform, Mike Mussina wrote the rough draft of a Hall of Fame resume. But when he became a Yankee, he spent the next eight seasons polishing that resume, building - and even improving - on what he had done early in his career.
The fact of the matter is, Mussina bolted on Baltimore and found himself pitching in the postseason for seven of the next eight seasons. Playing on the giant New York stage and pitching in October provided him much-needed exposure. (I'll concede his best postseason performance was actually in 1997. However, over the course of 16 playoff starts for the Yankees, he had a 4-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His time in pinstripes proved he wasn't merely an April-July pitcher. It also proved he could handle the spotlight, pressure and New York microscope.)
Not only did Mussina's best game come with the Yankees (Sept.2, 2001, against the Boston Red Sox, when he retired the first 26 batters), but so did his best season. Yes, his arm was younger and livelier in Baltimore, but 2008 will stand as Mussina's most impressive year. It was when he couldn't simply rely on natural tools, when he had to dig deep and make difficult adjustments. The result was the only 20-win season of his career. (The last pitcher to call it quits immediately after a 20-win season? Sandy Koufax.)
Mussina was so reliable and so consistent over the years that there isn't much statistical variation between his Orioles years and his time in New York. He is a guy who fell just short of a perfect game. Just short of a World Series. And until last season was just short of a 20-win season. He won't finish just short of Cooperstown. And his time in a Yankees uniform is the reason.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun