Welcome back to the bar. We got the furnace and leaky roof fixed just in time, apparently.
Today, I want to discuss a person whose name triggers some of the best arguments in Connolly's Bar history: Mike Mussina.
Every time we bring up the former Orioles right-hander — who left for greener pastures and pinstripes — people leap onto their soapboxes. It occasionally gets a little ugly, which I kind of welcome.
Today, though, I want to put a little different twist on the Mussina argument. In the past, I’ve asked whether he should be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. And I’ve also asked you whether, if elected, you think he should go in as an Oriole or a New York Yankee.
My two cents: Yes, Mussina, who on Tuesday made the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, will make it to Cooperstown. My guess is that it will take him a couple years, partly because the current ballot is jammed with deserving candidates and writers get to choose only 10 per ballot.
The steroid-suspected players have created a logjam on the ballot, so Mussina, like Curt Schilling and Jeff Bagwell, may have to wait his turn before he eventually gets in.
But I’m pretty confident, after talking to a bunch of other writers, that Mussina will get in at some point during his eligibility, which is 15 years on the writers’ ballot.
Pitching in a slugger-swelled era, Mussina posted a 270-153 record, a career 3.68 ERA in 3,562 2/3 innings over an 18-season career. He posted an ERA of 3.51 or better in 11 of those seasons — all in the American League East. He won 15 or more games 11 different times (but only 20 once, in 2008, his final year), was a five-time All Star and seven-time Gold Glove Award winner.
He finished in the top five of Cy Young Award voting six times, but never won. He was on two World Series teams, but never won a championship (much to the glee of many Orioles fans, who won’t forgive him for leaving Baltimore for New York).
So, yeah, my sense is that he will get into the Hall of Fame eventually.
The argument then, which we have done in here before, is what hat will be used as part of his Hall of Fame plaque?
The player has input — and the guess is that Mussina would say Yankees, though he typically doesn’t publicly address the issue — but the Hall, ultimately, gets to decide.
Mussina was 147-81 with a 3.53 ERA in parts of 10 seasons with the Orioles, the club that drafted him. He was 123-72 with a 3.88 ERA in eight years with the Yankees, for whom he left Baltimore after the 2000 season. His Wins Above Replacement was 5.0 or higher six times as an Oriole and four times as a Yankee.
His numbers are slightly better in Baltimore. But he did pitch in eight postseasons for the Yankees and just two postseasons (and no World Series) for the Orioles. So the case can be made that his most meaningful pitching was in New York.
So the matter of which team he would represent in the Hall of Fame intrigues me. What I didn’t realize until fielding Twitter responses on Tuesday, though, is that a chunk of Orioles fans don’t want him to go in as an Oriole. Period.
They still view Mussina as a traitor, and don’t want his legacy to be intertwined with the Orioles’ six Hall of Fame representatives: Brooks and Frank Robinson, Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr.
Those six men have their Orioles numbers retired, and were honored with statues at Camden Yards last year. One of the questions I received on Twitter was whether Mussina would get a statue if he went into the Hall of Fame as an Oriole.
There’s no official club statement or official policy on the numbers and statues. My best sense is that the club would look at any future statues (or potential number retirements) on a case-by-case basis. Just because a player is in the Hall of Fame as an Oriole doesn’t mean the club has to erect a statue for him. Conversely, they could retire a number or erect a statue of a player not in the Hall of Fame. It’s just that, right now, those honors have been afforded only to the Orioles’ Hall of Famers.
There are three important members of the Orioles family whose numbers have not been used recently: Cal Ripken Sr.’s No. 7, Elrod Hendricks’ No. 44 and Mike Flanagan’s No. 46 (after Jeremy Guthrie left before the 2012 season). None is retired; the numbers just have not been given out.
In contrast, Mussina’s No. 35 was given to Josh Towers in 2001, months after Mussina left for New York. It has since been worn by Daniel Cabrera, Rick Helling, Greg Aquino, Brad Bergesen and, currently, Danny Valencia, among others.
So it’s not a slam dunk that Mussina would get a statue at Camden Yards if he went in to Cooperstown as an Oriole (though I think that’s more likely than having his number retired, since the process of retiring the other numbers happened before the specific player was inducted into the Hall of Fame).
But what I really want to know is whether you, Mr. or Mrs. Orioles fan, want Mussina to go into the Hall as an Oriole. Not whether he belongs in the Hall, or whether he should go in as a Yankee or an Oriole.
I want to know whether you WANT him to be immortalized in Cooperstown as an Oriole.
Daily Think Special: Do you want Mike Mussina to be the seventh modern-day Oriole in the Hall of Fame?Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun