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'As deserving as they come': Fellow Hall of Famers, former teammates react to Mike Mussina's election

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Tuesday’s election that sent former Orioles and Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina into the Baseball Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2019 was viewed by many around the game as a deserved reward for nearly two decades of high-level performance over the course of his career.

Mussina, who began with just 20.3 percent of votes in the election by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in his first year on the ballot in 2014, steadily climbed until he reached the 75-percent threshold this year with 76.7 percent of the votes, putting him in the 2019 class along with Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martínez, Harold Baines and Lee Smith.

Here’s what Mussina’s former teammates and some fellow Hall of Famers had to say about his election Tuesday.

Hall of Famer and teammate Cal Ripken Jr. (1991-1999, Orioles)

“I am so excited for Moose and his family. Having played with Mike for ten seasons I have always believed he was a Hall of Fame pitcher. He had some of the best stuff I had ever seen and he was a true number one starter for a very long time. His consistency and his ability to pitch so well in big games always amazed me. Mike was a great teammate and I look forward to seeing him in Cooperstown in July!”

Hall of Famer Jim Palmer

“He pitched in a very difficult era. The strike zone was smaller. Hitters were bigger and stronger for whatever reason. ... Some guys used [PEDs], some didn't. But he pitched in that era, and he was a marvelous pitcher. I always thought that he'd be a Hall of Fame pitcher.

"I always thought that maybe he wasn't a first-ballot guy because he didn't win 300 games, but 270 wins — the consistency of 18 and 19 wins and the last year he pitched he won 20 for the first time. But he was always on the cusp of being a 20-game winner when the game was on the cusp of where it is now, when you pitch 6 1/3 innings and everyone was happy with that.

“He pitched in Camden Yards, which is a hitter's park … and Yankee Stadium was tough, but he played in the steroid era. Just think about it. You have cartoon characters coming up to home plate, and he was able to win 270 games with a great winning percentage.”

Teammate B.J. Surhoff (1996-1999, Orioles)

“He was very smart, cerebral and he knew the game, but the best thing you could say about Mike is that he was a winner. He won. Every time he was out there, you had a chance to win.

"He never pitched outside the American League East and you can make a case that it was the toughest division in baseball. And there was a good chance that he was matching up against the other team’s best. He wasn’t matching up every fifth day against a fourth or fifth starter.

"Mike did everything well. Nobody mentions the fact that he could have been our fourth or fifth outfielder. He was just a great athlete. If he had pitched in the National League, he would have been a good hitter. He was a good hitter. And I don’t think people give him enough credit for how much of a competitor he was either.”

Teammate Brady Anderson (1991-1999, Orioles)

“In my opinion, Moose was a bona fide, first-ballot Hall of Famer. I could never really figure out why there was a debate about that. As it turned out, his numbers compare almost perfectly to another Oriole great, Jim Palmer. And if Jim Palmer was regarded as a marginal Hall of Famer, then that comparison wouldn't mean anything. But Jim Palmer is a bona fide, all-time great. An elite Hall of Famer. When you compare those numbers of the two, I don't know them by heart like I used to. I think Mussina had one or two more wins, one or two more losses. They're almost identical, right down from wins, losses, winning percentage, then you look at some other numbers and Mussina had far more strikeouts. And you could say, 'Well, he played in an era where players struck out more and hit more home runs.' Definitely a more offensive era, but he also had fewer walks.

“It's just because Jim Palmer was another great — and not just an Oriole great — but Jim Palmer was a bona fide, elite Hall of Famer, and there's becoming some grey areas in the Hall of Fame where there's becoming some disparities in performances of players inducted into the Hall of Fame. …

“When you were playing behind Mussina, you knew you were playing behind an ace. There's no pitcher on the other team that made it a mismatch. You knew you were going to get a good performance out of him every time out, and if he was really good, it might be a no-hitter. … Great teammate, good competitor, never in trouble, intelligent. Maybe his incredible, non-controversial career was the reason why he wasn't regarded as high as he should be. I couldn't really put my finger on it. I just know it was an honor to play with him, an honor to be really good friends with him, and he's as deserving as they come.”

Teammate Rick Sutcliffe (1992-1993, Orioles)

“The thing that I think of about Mike is, he, in this day and age, would be even better than he was then. Obviously, he’s one of the best ever. He’s a Hall of Famer. I knew that when I left in ’93. I don’t know that I could have said that after ’92. I played with a lot of them. I’ve seen a lot of Hall of Famers, and I knew that when I left in ’93.”

“He threw 98 miles per hour. I think people might have forgotten that because they saw him in New York and he wasn’t throwing that hard then. Mike is one of those guys who could have combined the Sabermetrics and all these analytics. He would have thrived with that stuff having that kind of information. We know the numbers. You put a shift on a lot of guys and if you’re able to locate and it’s like 80 percent of the time this will happen. Well, Mike could locate from the very beginning. As great as he was, with the information we have now, we didn’t have that. … He would have thrived on stuff like that.”

Teammate Jorge Posada (2000-2008, Yankees)

"Moose was the most intelligent pitcher I ever caught. He made catching fun because he was so well prepared. When we took the field together, he was always two steps ahead of everyone else wearing a uniform. This special recognition is well deserved. Congrats Moose."

Teammate Andy Pettitte (2000-2003, 2007-2008, Yankees)

"Congrats Moose. This is such a deserving honor. What you were able to accomplish while spending your entire career in the AL East was absolutely amazing. You were one of the best pitchers I've ever played with, and I was always in awe of the way you attacked hitters — exploiting their weaknesses with control and precision of such an array of pitches. You were a true master of your craft."

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