If former Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina reaches the vote threshold for enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday, it will double as both a proud day for the organization and a reminder of how far it still has to go still to replicate that.
Drafted in 1990 in the first round out of Stanford, Mussina not only represents the last homegrown ace the organization has selected and developed, but the last homegrown Orioles starter to even make an All-Star Game.
Since the last of his five All-Star appearances in an Orioles uniform, the team has sent just seven pitchers to the All-Star Game. Six were relievers — with only closer Zach Britton drafted by the Orioles — and the one starter, Chris Tillman, an All-Star in 2013, was acquired early in his career in a trade for Erik Bedard.
Since then, the club's pitching troubles have been well-documented. Starting with Matt Hobgood in 2009, the Orioles have used their top first-round pick on seven pitchers —the past six being Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Hunter Harvey, Cody Sedlock, DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez. Three of those were in the top five, and Hall and Rodriguez are too recent for there to be any evaluations, though Hall could be the best of the bunch.
Bundy made it through three years of injury nightmares to make it to the majors, though he's been uneven while there, bouncing between dominant stretches and weeks-long struggles.
Gausman grew into a valuable and durable pitcher for the Orioles, but never took the final step toward being an ace before being shipped to the Atlanta Braves with Darren O'Day's contract in July.
Harvey and Sedlock have struggled with injuries, and Hobgood washed out in Double-A in 2015.
So as the team possibly celebrates Mussina for his 10 years in Baltimore before he went north to join the New York Yankees, the magnitude of what the new management team is up against historically comes into focus as well.
Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias and two of the men he brought to the Orioles from the Houston Astros, assistant general manager for analytics Sig Mejdal and minor league pitching coordinator Chris Holt, have come in with that specific task in mind. While Elias led Houston drafts that produced pitchers such as Lance McCullers Jr. and Forrest Whitley, Mejdal has been tasked with replicating the technological infrastructure that helped the Astros improve so many arms, and Holt will be directing the system of implementing all that.
A few stronger pitching drafts have yielded the likes of Rodriguez, Hall, Keegan Akin and Blaine Knight — all top-10 prospects according to Baseball America — plus an intriguing group of arms including Brenan Hanifee, Zac Lowther, Alex Wells and Michael Baumann. Last year's July trades brought back starters Dean Kremer, Luis Ortiz, Dillon Tate, Josh Rogers and Bruce Zimmermann.
So the raw materials might be there for the Orioles to mold to try to get themselves another frontline starter before long. There might not be a Mussina in the group, but sending a pitcher they drafted and developed to an All-Star Game will be as sure a sign as any that the Orioles are on the path to turning things around.