Mussina garners low vote total in Hall voting
Former Orioles, Yankees right-hander nets 20.3 percent in first year on ballot
NEW YORK -- Mike Mussina could be facing a long wait to hear a "Moose" call on the doorstep of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., as suggested by the voting results produced by the eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
As announced on Wednesday, Mussina received just 20.3 percent (116 votes) of the 75 percent necessary for induction in 2014, which marked the former Yankees and Orioles right-hander's first appearance on the ballot. While Mussina far exceeded the five percent needed to stay on the ballot, history suggests that Mussina is looking at a slow climb.
Mussina's debut came on a crowded ballot that left many voters struggling to pick only 10 names. Greg Maddux (97.2 percent), Tom Glavine (91.9 percent) and Frank Thomas (83.7 percent) were all elected to the Hall on their first ballot, while Craig Biggio (74.8 percent) missed gaining admittance by just two votes.
It was not expected that Mussina would join that group, but his relatively light showing could be interpreted as a surprise. Pitching for 18 seasons in a career that began in 1991, Mussina compiled a lifetime record of 270-153 with a 3.68 ERA, with his entire workload coming in the American League East during an era of high offense.
Mussina's candidacy promises to create a compelling argument to be reviewed in years to come. A five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove Award winner, Mussina enjoyed six top-five finishes in voting for the AL Cy Young Award, finishing second to Pedro Martinez in 1999.
Mussina's 270 wins are tied with Burleigh Grimes for 33rd place on baseball's all-time list, and he retired after 2008 as the oldest pitcher to record a 20-win season for the first time. Only five pitchers have had as many wins as Mussina while matching his .638 career winning percentage: Grover Cleveland Alexander, Christy Mathewson, Roger Clemens, Lefty Grove and Randy Johnson.
"I think that's an argument that people are going to have opinions on both sides," Mussina has said. "There's some nice things that I've been able to do. There's both sides to the argument. My numbers match up well with guys that are in the Hall of Fame, and of course there are guys that have better numbers than mine."
A first-round Draft pick of the O's in 1990, Mussina compiled a record of 147-81 and a 3.53 ERA in 288 starts for Baltimore before signing with the Yanks as a free agent in 2001. He was 123-72 with a 3.88 ERA in 249 games (248 starts) for New York.
It has been suggested that Mussina could have held on for a few more years to further bolster a Hall of Fame case that -- as it stands -- compares nicely to past inductees like Juan Marichal and Jim Palmer.
That was never part of the equation for Mussina, who realized that his best days were behind him at age 39. There were no guarantees that Mussina would quickly be able to reach 300 wins; in his mind, it might have taken three more years of hanging on.
"I wanted to go out on my own terms," Mussina said. "I didn't want to go out with somebody telling me that it was time to go. I don't want to bounce around from one team to another to keep playing at 40, or 41, or 42, trying to scratch out eight wins this year and 10 wins the next year. I never wanted to do it that way."
In the years since his retirement, Mussina has returned to life in his beloved hometown of Montoursville, Pa., where he continues to avidly collect John Deere tractors and classic cars while serving as the head coach of the local high school varsity basketball team.
The Orioles inducted Mussina into their Hall of Fame in 2012, and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that he believes Mussina belongs in Cooperstown as well.
"There's no question in my mind he's a Hall of Famer," Cashman said. "What he's done in the period of the steroid era, unfortunately, in the American League East -- I don't care what that record is. Some people say 300 wins is an automatic plateau.
"What he did to get 270 total wins, with all those things combined -- in a division where the Red Sox and Yankees have been slugging it out ... [in] the toughest division in baseball for at least a decade -- I just think it has been spectacular for the length and consistency. He's one of the all-timers."
There is hope for Mussina's case. The most recent example of a Hall of Fame starter who received a lower total than Mussina in his first year is Bert Blyleven, who was named on just 17.5 percent of ballots when he appeared on the 1998 ballot and was finally elected in 2011. Don Drysdale also only reached 21 percent on the 1975 ballot but was inducted in 1984.
"To ask if I should be compared to Greg Maddux or to Glavine or anybody that's played in this era, that in itself is an honor," Mussina said. "People are going to talk about it any number of ways. I'm just glad that I've achieved enough and made enough of an impression that people are going to include me in the conversation."