Never one to shy away from controversy, Mike Mussina, by pitching above and beyond expectations, may be courting the biggest debate of his career this season.
On one side are those who love Moose. They want him to land in the Hall of Fame when all is said and done. On the other hand are those people so hung up on the Big Nmbers that they can’t adequately judge a player’s Hall of Fame credentials.
Foremost among those detractors is Murray Chass. The one-time Times scribe who now keeps a Website he refuses to call a blog wrote about Mussina and the Hall this weekend. Says Chass:
Mussina, with a 15-7 record and 3.27 earned run average, is only five wins from the 20-win plateau that has eluded him in his 18-year career. Twice he won 19, three times 18, but never 20. No starting pitcher is in the Hall of Fame without a 20-win season on his resume. Even Dennis Eckersley, who became a relief pitcher halfway through his career, had a 20-win season.
Only four Hall of Fame pitchers reached that status without a 20-win season, and they were all relief pitchers – Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, Rich (Goose) Gossage.
Mussina hasn’t won the Cy Young award either. No pitcher who has been virtually invisible in Cy Young award voting is in the Hall of Fame…
Mussina has an impressive career won-lost record (265-151) but not much else. He has never been a dominant pitcher, has never pitched his team to a World Series championship. He, in fact, is the darkest symbol of the Yankees’ failed post-season teams of recent seasons.
Chass concludes by noting that even a 20-win season by Mussina this year wouldn’t be enough to resurrect Moose’s Hall of Fame chances. That’s stellar logic.
The problem I have with Chass’ argument is that it ignores anything that makes sense. Are we to judge Hall of Famers solely by their awards and postseason success? Should Ted Williams — zero World Series rings — keep his plaque in Cooperstown? Should Ty Cobb, one of the game’s great racists, be lauded?
What I do know abut Mike Mussina is that his 3.42 ERA in the postseason is better than his career regular season ERA. What I know about Moose’s postseason pitching performance is that his teams lost despite his efforts. Just because a select few writers who have repeatedly shown their ignorance of baseball failed to vote Mussina a largely meaningless Cy Young award does not mean he doesn’t deserve Hall of Fame consideration.
Rather, for 18 years, Mike Mussina has been among the best in baseball. His career ERA is significantly better than average over that time period. He has 265 wins to his name and 2759 strike outs.
In the end, it all boils down to that hot-button question: Does Mike Mussina deserve a spot in the Hall? Right now, he’s on the fence, but it’s not for lack of postseason success or Cy Young Awards or 20-win seasons. Anyone who judges a pitcher solely on those metrics is missing the bigger pitcher. If Mike Mussina has been one of the best pitchers of his generation, then he deserves that spot in Cooperstown. There’s more to that evaluation than those three considerations. Someone tell that to Murray Chass.