The voters have spoken and Mike Mussina will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 21, but there’s one more big decision to make before his plaque gets hung in Cooperstown.
Will he go in representing the Orioles or the New York Yankees … or neither?
It’s not entirely up to him. The decision will be made in consultation with Hall of Fame officials, but Mussina’s preference probably will be honored, since there’s a legitimate case to be made either way.
Mussina spent nine years and a couple of months in the majors with the Orioles and eight seasons with the Yankees, so the difference in service time isn’t particularly compelling. He won 147 games with the Orioles and 123 with the Yankees, which isn’t a particularly compelling difference either.
If there is a real tiebreaker, it might be that all of his five All-Star appearances and the best of his Cy Young rankings came while he was in Baltimore. Or it might be the fact that he made 15 of his 21 postseason starts and had his only 20-win season in pinstripes.
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He also might have the option of having his plaque show no team designation on the cap. The only thing certain is that he wasn’t ready to reveal which way he might be leaning a couple of hours after the announcement.
“I think this is January and we’ve got a little time to figure out what the best plan is,” Mussina said during a conference call Tuesday night. “I know that a few guys have gone in without anything on their hat. And like I’ve said, both organizations were tremendously valuable and important in my career and I wouldn’t be sitting here if it wasn’t for Baltimore and New York.
“So I can’t sit here and make a decision on how we’re going to go with that. We’ll get that figured out and by July we’ll have something worked out.”
Well, it probably seems pretty clear to Orioles fans. Mussina was drafted by the Orioles twice, first out of Montoursville (Pa.) High School in 1987 and then in the first round out of Stanford University in 1990. Fourteen months later, he was in the major leagues and quickly established himself as one of the best pitchers in the game.
He pitched very well in a late-season call-up in 1991 and won 18 games in his first full season in 1992, making the All-Star team and finishing fourth in the voting for the American League Cy Young Award.
The Orioles also might seem like a logical choice because the Yankees will be represented on the stage at the Clark Sports Center by closer Mariano Rivera, who became the first unanimous choice in the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voting.
If Mussina goes in as an Oriole, he’ll be the sixth player to be enshrined wearing an Orioles hat and one of three players on stage in July who played for Baltimore. Harold Baines and Lee Smith were chosen by the Today’s Game Era Committee at the winter meetings, but Baines spent the largest part of his career with the Chicago White Sox and Smith spent just one season in Baltimore.