Mike Mussina

Mike Mussina exits the field between innings in his last game as an Oriole. (David Hobby, The Baltimore Sun / September 30, 2000)

The Baseball Hall of Fame reduced the number of years a player can remain on the ballot from 15 years to 10 last weekend.

Though no one has come out and said it, the change seemed to target high-profile steroid users and limit their chances to enter the museum in Cooperstown.

Unfortunately, it could have the same effect on former Orioles great Mike Mussina.

FiveThirtyEight.com’s Nate Silver wrote about the rule change on his site Monday, and noted how the shorter ballot terms could keep players who voters might view as Hall of Fame tweeners from reaching the 75 percent vote threshold needed to enter the Hall.

Without getting into the math -- which Silver does well and I suggest everyone concerned should read -- Silver says the rule change cut Mussina’s chances of making it into the Hall by around 13 percent, leaving a one-in-10 chance he’s enshrined through the baseball writers’ vote within ten years.

That’s the same Mike Mussina who made five All-Star Games in his 18-year career, with a 270-153 career record and a 3.68 ERA in his time with the Orioles and Yankees.

Sure, he’s short of some of the benchmarks. He never won a World Series. He never won a Cy Young Award, but finished second to an otherworldly Pedro Martinez in 1999, and was in the top-five of voting five other times. He didn’t win 300 games, but that might never happen again for all we know, so that won’t be a ding on guys for much longer.

Mussina was named on 20.3 percent of Hall of Fame voters' ballots in his first year of eligibility. As the voting body changes, which it to say it gets younger, which it to say it values different (read: modern and relevant) things, Mussina might meet some new criteria.

Young writers might look at Mussina’s career WAR of 82.7 and realize it’s not far behind that of Martinez, who will surely get more than 20 percent of the vote in his first try next year and is, to me, a shoo-in for the Hall.

In 2014, Mussina had the highest WAR of any player on the ballot that is not in Cooperstown or named Roger Clemens.

So, I don’t know. I guess this isn’t the time to make a case for Mussina for Cooperstown. It’s more a time to note that he might not ultimately make it, all because the Hall of Fame is trying to keep out the very players Mussina’s success was measured against and, in many cases, came against.

jmeoli@baltsun.com

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