Friday, November 21, 2008

Moose Deserves a Trip to the Hall of Fame

There are several arguments one can put forward for why Mike Mussina deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but where voters will get caught up will be in his lack of a Cy Young, lack of 300 wins, and lack of a World Series ring. Though those are great achievements, they also aren't necessarily a good measure of a pitcher. Would the writers look upon Sandy Koufax's 165 wins and write him off as not being Hall of Fame worthy? Or was Juan Marichal any less Hall of Fame worthy despite never winning 300 games or a World Series or a Cy Young? And then there's the case of Tommy John who kept pitching to try and reach 300 wins, and the voters held that against him. The achievements are nice, but shouldn't be the only measure by which a player is judged for the Hall of Fame, and historically speaking, they haven't been. So then what is the case for Moose? I will break it down in three sections: the Johnny Damon argument, the numbers argument, and the miscellaneous argument.

The Johnny Damon Argument

Earlier in the year, Johnny Damon made the argument that Mussina should be considered for the Hall since he made his career in the American League East and during the steroid era. Why are these factors important? Well, in the time that he pitched in the AL East, the AL East was easily the most dominant league in the majors. While he was with the Orioles, he had to pitch against the Yankees who were going on their amazing championship run. When he came to the Yankees, the Red Sox went on a championship run. Since his career started in 1991 in Baltimore the AL East played in the World Series 11 times, and were World Series Champions 8 of those times. More than any other division by far. This was the league Mike Mussina made his career in. Now lets think of some other likely Hall of Famers from this era. There's Tom Glavine, who reached 300 wins in 2007, and has pitched consistently well in the NL East. If you don't remember the NL East of the 90's, let me refresh your memory. In 1995, when Glavine and the Braves won the World Series, they were the only team in the NL East to be over .500. Two teams tied for second place and finished 21 games back of Atlanta. The next season, when the Braves made it back to the World Series, the NL East saw one other team, the Expos, finish above .500 but still 8 games back of the Braves. In 1997, things got a little more competitive, but the Braves won 101 games, and still finished 8 games ahead of the second place Marlins. Then in 1998, the season Glavine pitched his 4th 20-win season, the Braves won 106 games and finished 18 games ahead of the second place Mets. This is in no way to disparage Glavine's accomplishments or the amazing run of the 90's Braves, but rather I'm proving a point of comparison. Glavine reached 300 wins pitching the majority of his career for a powerhouse team in a weak division. Would Glavine's numbers look as impressive if he pitched in the AL East? I seriously doubt it. Remember, when the Yankees were on their championship run, Mussina was with the Orioles. Mussina came to the Yankees after they won their last championship in 2000. Since then, the Red Sox have emerged as a power in the AL East, and this last season so have the Rays.

You can use this same argument about Pedro Martinez who pitched the prime of his career in the AL East, but was a veteran of 5 years by the time he came there, and left the AL East at the start of his decline. Mike Mussina has spent his ENTIRE career in the AL East.

Or how about Randy Johnson? One of the most dominating pitchers of our era who is a likely shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. He made his career in the AL West, before the Angels were a relevant team. In 1995, when the Mariners (his team) advanced to the World Series, they had finished in first place in their division despite having a 79-66 record. Randy Johnson spent a considerable part of his career with the Diamondbacks, but no one in their right mind would dare say that the NL West of 1999-2004 was a tougher division than the AL East. Its no surprise that when Randy Johnson came to the AL East his ERA increased by more than one run his first season, and ballooned to 5.00 his second and final season with the Yankees.

Yet Johnson and Glavine are nearly guaranteed Hall of Famers while Moose is in question. Moose was pitching against the Yankee lineups of the 90's and the Red Sox lineups of the 2000's, and most would agree that those have been the most potent lineups in the Majors.

The other part to this argument is that he pitched during the prominent steroids era. Where players were getting bigger and hitting more homeruns, Moose was learning to use less velocity and smarts to keep these freak hitters off balance. It is yet to be determines how the steroid era will effect voting for the Hall of Fame, but at the very least it should be considered.

The Numbers Argument

Despite never having won a Cy Young, a World Series, or 300 games, Mussina has pitched exceptionally well. Consider these pitchers whom Mike Mussina has surpassed on the wins list: Jim Palmer, Red Ruffing, Bob Feller, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Waite Hoyt, Whitey Ford, Bob Lemon, Lefty Gomez, Sandy Koufax, and Dizzy Dean. Might I add that these are all Hall of Famers. Mussina's career ERA is a respectable 3.68, but considering that the league average throughout this time was 4.51 can help you appreciate it a little more. His .638 winning percentage puts him in a tie with Jim Palmer for 11th place amongst all Hall of Fame pitchers. His 2813 strikeouts also puts him in 11th place of all Hall of Fame pitchers and his 3.58 strikeout to walk ratio, a good measure for control pitchers, puts him second on the Hall of Fame pitchers list. When you compare Mussina to other Hall of Famers you come to realize that his numbers are Hall of Fame worthy.

Miscellaneous Arguments

Lastly, I put forward a few miscellaneous points that hopefully help further my argument. First, Mussina finally reached 20 wins for the first time in his career this last season, removing one argument used against him. He did this while pitching. Not throwing. Pitching. His velocity has never been lower yet he moved his 85 mph fastball around the plate and won because of it. Does anyone doubt that if Mussina came back for three more seasons that he wouldn't reach 300 wins? But the fact that he's choosing to retire now shows that he's not going to play these number games. Hall of Fame voters have often held against players that they kept playing past their prime to reach their personal goals (Jim Rice and Tommy John for example). Will these same voters now hold against Moose that he retired early as to not pursue a personal goal?

The Cy Young is a great award for a pitcher, but the lack of a Cy Young is not a good argument for why you would not give a player a Hall of Fame vote. Considering that Roger Clemens won 4 AL Cy Young's while Mussina was pitching should tell you that perhaps other factors should be considered in place of this prestigious award. Cy Young awards go to players who have an exceptional season. Consider this, Pat Hentgen won the Cy Young in 1996. Who? That's exactly my point. The Cy Young measures your performance in one season, it does not measure your consistency as a pitcher over time. Unfortunately there is no award for that. Until this last season, Moose never won 20 games though he won 17 or more 7 times. Excluding his rookie year, Moose has never had a sub-.500 season, and has won at least 11 games in a season in every full season he's ever pitched.

These arguments are a strong case for Mike Mussina to be in the Hall of Fame, and now I can only hope that the Hall of Fame voters of 2014 agree. Despite what may happen then, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Mussina pitch for the Yankees these last few years, and believe he was one of the most consistent forces on this team. His 20 wins were the one bright spot in an otherwise forgetful season. I wish Mike Mussina the best in his retirement, and will keep my fingers crossed for 2014.


Roberto Alejandro said...

Another thing people bring up is this idea of "dominance." A HOFer should be a "dominant" pitcher. I don't really know what that means. But think back to the mid 90s, you did not want to face Moose. As a Yankee fan, you'd see we were playing three against baltimore, and if Moose was pitching you hoped to win the other two. Granted, I think that whole "dominant" argument is bull$#!%, but what can you do. Apparently sports writers think catch phrases make for better HOF criteria than actual careers. Good for them.

Fred Trigger said...

Not to mention when he saved the yankees ass in 2003, when Clemens couldnt get out of the 4th inning. Another writer said that when he comes up for the hall, he is going to be the Bert Blyleven of our time. I think that is a pretty good description. said...

Forgive me if I'm repeating myself, but for me Moose's finest achievement was his '08 season. Lots of fans (including me) wrote him off in '07. He sucked it up, made adjustments, learned how to throw inside, came up with a zillion arm angles, and won 20 games. Pretty amazing.

Quinn said...

i killed moose on this site. multiple times in my comments two years ago. but it shouldnt go unnoticed what damon said about him being in the AL East.

Fernando Alejandro said...

Not only did he win 20 games, but he won 20 games for a pretty crappy Yankee team.

raven said...

You guys should really make some "Respcet Moose's Super-Slow Curve Ball" T-Shirts.
And maybe some "Respect Moyer's Super-Slow Fast Ball" or "Respect Utley's Hairgel" for the Phillies market.

TribeGirl said...

How come you never write an article that long about A-Rod? Do I have to be a guest blogger??

Fernando Alejandro said...

One day, Tribe girl. One day.

TribeGirl said...

I'll be waiting ever so patiently....