Appreciating Mike Mussina

January 6, 2014
 
(Voting is still underway for the BJOL Hall of Fame. If you haven’t cast your vote, please go here
, and post your ballot in the comments section below.)
 
 
I saw Mike Mussina pitch exactly once in my life. This was in late September of 2000, during Mussina’s last season in Baltimore. It was a Sunday game at Fenway Park: the weather was gray and cold. The Orioles, well under .500 at that point, were just playing out the schedule. The Red Sox were third place in the AL East, seven games back of the Yankees.

I was in college at the time, plugging away at a dissertation on William Faulkner. The school had organized a trip to Fenway - a free ride and tickets for the first eight students who signed up – but the seats didn’t fill up. I signed on late, convincing a friend who had never seen a baseball game to come along. I promised to fill her in on the most pertinent details about the game.
 
I knew Mussina was pitching. I also knew that Tomo Ohka, a Japanese-born pitcher the Red Sox had acquired in 1999, was starting for Boston. I was slightly interested in seeing Mussina pitch, but I was very interested in seeing Ohka. At that moment in the team’s history, Ohka was the Red Sox best pitching prospect.
 
Tomo Ohka had a perfect first inning: groundout, pop out, groundout.
 
Mike Mussina is slightly less perfect: he strikes out Trot Nixon, and then allows a single to Jose Offerman. He whiffs Dante Bichette. Nomar Garciaparra flies out.
 
*          *          *
 
Sometime next week, the BBWAA will announce their voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
 
Greg Maddux will be elected, and Roger Clemens will not be elected. Both are superlatively great players, individuals who comfortably rate among the top-15 pitchers of all-time.
 
Tom Glavine, a 305-game winner, might get elected. So might Jack Morris, a 254-game winner. I wouldn’t bet on either of them making it this year: the voters are fickle, and it’s a really crowded ballot. But both players will get above the 50% mark.
 
Curt Schilling will not be elected to the Hall of Fame this year. He won’t cross the 50% threshold. He was at 38% last year….that should drop a bit.
 
And Mike Mussina will not get elected to the Hall of Fame this year. Like Schilling, he will not cross the 50% threshold. He’ll get half the votes that Jack Morris gets. There is a chance that he’ll slip behind Lee Smith in the inal tally.
 
*          *          *
 
In the top of the second, Jose Offerman makes an error on a groundball. I probably note to my friend that this is to be expected, as Offerman is a notoriously bad defensive player. The perseverant Ohka retires the next three batters.
 
Mussina’s second inning is an exact parallel of his first inning: strikeout, single, strikeout, out.
 
*          *          *
 
Mike Mussina was the salutatorian of his high school class. One of the seemingly apocryphal stories about him is that he intentionally failed an exam, so that the other student in the high school could finish ahead of him. The rumor is that Mussina didn’t want to give a speech at graduation.
 
Does this story seem likely to you? Are you buying it?
 
*          *          *
 
Third inning: Ohka’s no-hitter is broken up by a one-out single by Luis Matos. Matos steals second. Undaunted, Ohka strikes out the next two Orioles batters.
 
Mike Mussina strikes out the side. Twelve pitches.
 
*          *          *
 
Mike Mussina is not in the class of Roger Clemens, or Greg Maddux, or Randy Johnson. Here are some knocks about Mike Mussina:
 
-He never led the league in ERA.
-He never led the league in strikeouts.
-He never won a Cy Young Award. He was never thought of as the best pitcher in the league.
-His Black Ink – those catagories where he led the league, is small: he led in wins once. He led in innings pitched once. He led in shutouts once.
-His postseason record is a losing one: he went 7-8 in twenty-three playoff games, posting an ERA a few ticks lower than his career mark.
-He won twenty games exactly once.
 
It’s that last point that is, I think, the single greatest ding against Mussina. That was the constant criticism of Mussina throughout his career: he never won 20. He won 19 three times. He won 18 two more times. But he never won 20. Not until 2008, during his last year in the majors.
 
*          *          *
 
Fourth inning: Ohka is dealing. Fly out. Strikeout. Fly out.
 
I remember, around this point, realizing that a pitching duel is just about the worst introduction to baseball for a first-time viewer. There’s just not a lot going on….not a lot to keep the casual viewer entertained. And the bleachers are far away from home plate: all of the dynamic action between pitcher and catcher was happening at a distance too far to be engrossing.
 
Her: What pitch did Ohka throw there?
Me: I haven’t a clue. We’ll say fastball.
 
Mussina gives up a leadoff single to Dante Bichette. This brings up the heart of the Red Sox order. Nomar (No-mah!) strikes out. Troy O’Leary strikes out. And Lou Merloni –a man whose first name is ‘Governor’ within the greater Framingham region- he strikes out.  
 
0-0.
 
*          *          *
 
There are positives about Mike Mussina. Lots of positives.
 
-He won a lot of baseball games. 270, to be exact.
-He didn’t lose many baseball games: his career winning percentage is .638, good enough for 41st all-time. He won 117 more games than he lost
-If his Black Ink is lacking, his Gray Ink (times finishing in the top-ten in the league) is superlative: he had a Gray Ink score of 250, which is the 21st best tally of –all-time.
-Advanced metrics all argue that Mussina was a Hall-of-Fame level player. His rWAR is83.0, good enough for 28th among starting pitchers. He has 270 Win Shares.
-While he never won the Cy Young Award, he received votes in nine seasons.
-He won six Gold Gloves.
 
The most important statistic here is 117: no pitcher in baseball history has ever retired with 100 more wins than loses, and not been elected to Cooperstown.
 
*          *          *
 
Ohka’s fifth inning is a fly-ball kind of inning: he gives up a deep fly out to Greg Myers, the Orioles DH. He gives up a fly ball to Mark Lewis. Someone names Fernando Lunar hits a line drive off the Monster, good enough for a single. Then Luis Matos flies out to deep center.
 
Mussina strikes out the first batter, Scott Hatteberg. Darren Lewis pops up a bunt. Rico Brogna grounds out.
 
The score is still 0-0. I offer to buy her a Fenway Frank, but she’s a vegetarian. I suggest to her that the hot dogs at Fenway have surprisingly little ‘meat’ in them. They’re 80% boiled cabbage, and everyone in Boston knows it.
 
*          *          *
 
It’s interesting that Mussina shows up on a ballot with Tom Glavine and Curt Schilling. As I see it, Schilling and Glavine represent the two significant challenges to our evaluation of Mike Mussina’s career.
 
Here are Mussina’s best seasons, according to Baseball-Reference’s WAR:
 
rWAR
Year
8.2
1992
7.1
2001
6.6
2003
6.1
1995
5.6
2000
5.5
1997
5.4
1994
5.2
2008
5.0
2006
5.0
1998
 
Those are Mussina’s seasons with a WAR over 5.0….what we’d call All-Star seasons. Mussina has nine of them.
 
Look at those years: they’re scattered. His two best years…the two years when he was a great pitcher …happen eight years apart. The rest is roller coaster: he was very good in 1994-95, 1997-98, 2000, 2003, 2006, and 2008. He was a great pitcher in 1992 and 2001.
 
Let’s compare that to Curt Schilling’s best seasons:
 
rWAR
Year
8.8
2001
8.7
2002
7.9
2004
6.3
1997
6.2
1998
6.0
2003
5.9
1992
5.5
2006
4.9
1996
4.8
1999
 
Curt Schilling was a monster of a pitcher between 2000 and 2004: three Cy Young-caliber seasons, and another All-Star year. He was very good in the four years leading up to that peak: he was an All-Star-level player in 1996-1999.
 
Mike Mussina didn’t have the peak of Curt Schilling: he didn’t come close to having the peak that Schilling did. At his very best, Curt Schilling was a better pitcher than Mike Mussina. If you are a voter who values peak performance, who wants to see the truly elite players in baseball history represented in Cooperstown, Curt Schilling is a better candidate than Mike Mussina.
 
On the flip side, Tom Glavine wasn’t really as good as Mike Mussina. Sure, Glavine won a few Cy Young Awards, but his year-by-year value isn’t as impressive as Mussina’s:
 
 
Mike
 
Mussina
 
*
 
Tom
 
Glavine
 
rWAR
 
Year
 
*
 
rWAR
 
Year
8.2
1992
 
*
8.5
1991
7.1
2001
 
*
6.1
1998
6.6
2003
 
*
5.8
1996
6.1
1995
 
*
5.5
1997
5.6
2000
 
*
4.9
2000
5.5
1997
 
*
4.8
1995
5.4
1994
 
*
4.1
2005
5.2
2008
 
*
4.1
2002
5.0
2006
 
*
4.0
2004
5.0
1998
 
*
3.8
1992
4.5
2002
 
*
3.6
2001
 
Leaving aside Glavine’s brilliant 1991 season, Mussina rates as a better pitcher, year-by-year. If we take 5.0 as being an All-Star level of performance, Mussina has ten All-Star seasons. Glavine has six, if we round generously.
 
But Glavine will receive more votes than Mussina does this year, because Glavine stuck around. Glavine tossed 4413.1 innings in the major leagues, while Mussina threw 3562.2 innings. Those eight hundred extra innings brought Glavine over the 300-win threshold.
 
I don’t mean that as a knock against Glavine: he was an excellent pitcher, and he deserves all the credit in the world for reaching 300 victories. Tom Glavine, late in his career, was as smart a pitcher as his teammate Greg Maddux is credited as being. He relied on every trick in the book to get to 300 wins, and I wouldn’t want to discredit that accomplishment. Tom Glavine deserves a spot in Cooperstown.
 
But pitch-for-pitch, inning-for-inning, Mike Mussina was a betterpitcher than Glavine.
 
So Mussina sits in the middle of Schilling and Glavine. He doesn’t have the peak of Schilling, but he had a longer (and more steadily excellent) career. He didn’t stick around like Glavine, but he was a better pitcher, inning-by-inning, than Tom Glavine.
 
*          *          *
 
6th inning:
 
Ohka: Strikeout. Fly out. Fly out.
 
Mussina: Fly out. Fly out. Strikeout.

It happens sometimes when you’re watching baseball: you’re paying attention to one thing, and then you realize that the thing you’re paying attention to isn’t the most interesting part of the game.
 
*          *          *
 
On September 18th, 1996, Roger Clemens took the mound against the Detroit Tigers. This was his last year in Boston, and it wasn’t a great season. He’d finished with a 10-13 mark, and a 3.63 ERA. Dan Duquette, the Red Sox then-General Manager, would predict that Clemens was entering the twilight of his career.
 
Clemens struck out twenty Tigers hitters that night. He made two more starts in a Boston uniform, before signing with Toronto.
 
Four years later, on September 24th, Mike Mussina went on the road in Fenway Park. This was his last year with his first team, his second-to-last start wearing the Orioles uniform. Like Clemens, Mussina’s career with his first team would end on a down note: Moose finished 2000 with an 11-15 mark, his first losing season since his rookie year.
 
*          *          *
 
Seventh inning now. The Orioles get a leadoff single from Cliff Richards, their first baseman. The next batter is Melvin Mora, who grounds into a fielder’s choice to the pitcher: Richards is out at second. Mora then tries to steal second, and is thrown out. The next batter grounds out.
 
The bottom of the seventh proves to be the most interesting half-inning of the game. Nomar Garciaparra leads off with a single. Troy O’Leary strikes out. The Governor hits a single to left, and Scott Hatteberg reaches on an error. The bases are now loaded, with one out.
 
Midre Cummings is brought in to pinch-hit. He strikes out. Two outs.
 
Rico Brogna strikes out. Three outs. Still goose eggs.
 
*          *          *
 
I don’t know exactly when I realized that Mike Mussina had tallied an astonishingly high number of strikeouts, whether I noticed it in the sixth inning, when he whiffed Dante Bichette, or the seventh, when Mussina struck out O’Leary. I think it was the O’Leary strikeout: I looked back to the big scoreboard and saw that that was Mussina’s 13th strikeout. Cummings was 14. Brogna was 15.
 
I tried to express what this meant to my friend: I told her what the record for strikeouts in a game was, and who had set it. I explained that Mussina was a really good pitcher, and that all of the ‘most strikeouts in a game’ record were held by really good pitchers: Clemens (AL) and Kerry Wood (NL). Bob Gibson (World Series). I might’ve mentioned that Steve Carlton and Tom Seaver each reached 19.
 
This was difficult: it is difficult to explain how significant an event might be, as that event is unfolding. I tried to get across just how remarkable it would be to see a 19- or 20-strikeout game, how staggeringly rare it is, and how fortunate we were to be witnessing this. I doubt that I convinced her.
 
The Orioles plated a run in the top of the eighth, off a couple singles and a sacrifice fly ball. In the bottom of the th the Orioles went to the bullpen, bringing in Mike Trombley to relieve Mussina.
 
*          *          *
 
It is very possible that Mike Mussina was tired. He had thrown 106 pitches at that point in the game, and a lot of the last pitches he threw were with the bases loaded. It was the end of the season, and the Orioles weren’t playing for anything. Maybe he was tired.
 
And maybe he didn’t care about the strikeout record.
 
This brings us back to the story about Mussina failing a test to become the salutatorian. I believe that story. Maybe it’s silly, but almost all anecdotal accounts of Mussina suggest that he’s the kind of person who doesn’t care about things just because he’s supposed to. What was the difference between first and second in his high school class? He had already been drafted by the Orioles, and he had already been accepted to Stanford….what was the difference between #1 and #2? Who does that matter to?
 
You can read the same philosophy into the end of his career: he is the rare pitcher to leave baseball a 20-game winner. He finished 20-9, with an ERA of 3.37. He was sixth in the Cy Young vote, 19th in the MVP vote. He could’ve asked for a three-year contract and gotten it, probably from the Yankees, and probably from half the teams in the league. He could’ve stuck around to get 300 wins.
 
But what’s 300? What’s so important about that? He wasn’t really great in his last year, and he had had three bumpy years in New York prior to that. Maybe 300 wins wasn’t worth the trouble.
 
Or maybe I’m reading too much into things.
 
Here’s what I know: on September 24th, Mussina struck out fifteen Red Sox hitters through seven innings of shutout baseball. He left the game having thrown 106 pitches.
 
Here’s something else I know: I know that Mike Mussina threw 137 pitches on April 29th of that same year….137. Over the 2000 season, Mussina had thirteen starts where he threw at least 115 pitches. He had seven starts when he was over 120 pitches. Pitching past 106 wasn’t rare for Mussina: it was par for the course.
 
I can’t tell you how frustrated I was when I saw Trombley come out of the bullpen for the 8th inning. I felt cheated out of seeing history, disappointed that I had lucked into a game that was nearing ‘historic,’ only to see a relief pitcher come out of the bullpen.
 
Now, I imagine that Mussina’s decision to leave that game without going for the record is a decision that fits entirely with the rest of his career. Mussina took a long time to have that 20-win season, because it just didn’t matter to him. He had lots of years where he was in the top-ten in multiple pitching catagories, but he almost never finished first in those catagories. He retired with 270 career wins, when 300 wins (and many millions of dollars) were on the table.
 
*          *          *
 
Someday, the Hall of Fame will open its doors to Mike Mussina, a fully deserving candidate. He will likely be elected after Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling and John Smoltz. He might have to wait until after Roger Clemens gets in, and after the Jack Morris voters get their way. But he’ll get there.
 
And I’ll argue his case until he gets in. Because I’ve never seen a pitcher pitch as well as Mike Mussina did on that cold day at Fenway, where I counted K’s and followed pitches from the cheap seats, while trying to explain baseball to someone who had never seen the game, and didn’t know how remarkable a player Mike Mussina was. 
 
Dave Fleming is a writer living in Wellington, New Zealand. He welcomes comments, questions and suggestions here and at dfleming1986@yahoo.com
 
 
 

COMMENTS (53 Comments, most recent shown first)

thegue
Just wanted to add my two cents.

1. Dave, great read. I'm a "small-Hall" kind of guy, and Mussina was the pitcher I always had as my cutoff; whether it be "in" or "out", I felt his career was right about where I thought the line should be.

Needless to say, I don't think Morris deserves it.

2. jwilt and Dave, you beat me to the punch concerning WHY players of the 19th century would continue to play beyond the major leagues. They didn't earn enough in their major league playing days, and I'm sure they didn't want to work in the steel mills after retiring...so they kept playing. And playing. It had nothing to do with respecting the game.

3. I am curious if oliverp only believes baseball to be sacrosanct. If so, this conversation isn't worth pursuing (i.e., what in God's name makes it more important than other sports??!!), but let us presume there are other people who feel as strongly about their sports. Would he argue that football players, upon being cut by the NFL, continue to ply their trade in lower leagues even as their brains are turned to mush? Should they make the ultimate sacrifice for their sport?

4. I don't think oliverp has ever played any sport at any type of level. Athletes who do know the work that takes into competing at a certain level, know the difficulty it takes to recover from each game, the PAIN that simply doesn't go away like it did when they were twenty years younger. Chipper Jones could take the field in ten years and still contribute - he's had six surgeries. oliverp doesn't seem to care that some players are interested in having some quality of life beyond the field.
9:07 AM Feb 9th
 
belewfripp
Don't feed the troll, guys...
12:02 PM Jan 18th
 
oliverp
Once again, you are wrong, Dave. The young players don't deserve a roster spot if they can't beat out the haggard veteran who came down from the major leagues. As a fan, I want to see players I recognize. I would much rather go to a minor league game and see a 46 year old former major leaguer still trying to play than some no-name young punk who's going to be nothing but a washout anyway. And all minor league teams should try to win and get the best players available, especially independent teams. Independent teams have no incentive to "develop" young players for the majors. And yes, it honors the game by playing as long and as hard as you can at any level after leaving the majors. You are just too stupid to understand that true fact.
12:40 PM Jan 17th
 
DaveFleming
The other flaw is his assumption that the minor leagues are interested in old, declining players. That's not what they're for: a minor league team isn't generally interested in giving innings to a forty-two year old player, three years out of the majors.

Back in the 'old days', older players hung around because it benefited both the player and the minor league teams: the player got a bit of extra money, and the team had a 'draw' for fans.

Nowadays, minor league baseball exists to develop talent for the major league teams: there's no space for old guys who want to keep playing.

And: there's absolutely nothing noble or honorable about a bunch of 40-year old millionaire taking up roster spots that would otherwise be going to high school or college players.
1:09 PM Jan 9th
 
jwilt
I don't want to necessarily continue oliverp's crazy talk, but if he is serious he's suggesting that every player who's no longer of MLB quality go down the minor league ladder to find a playing job he's missing an important point: The average salary in a place like the Atlantic League is maybe $2000 a month, for the six months of the season.

Sure, a lot of ex-MLBers are rich and can handle essentially not being paid. But its beyond ridiculous to say it's each player's duty to resign themselves to making $12k a year for many years, switching teams and moving constantly, while riding busses around the country, eating bad food and staying in Super 8 motels. For a 35-, 40-year-old guy with a family that's insane.

Baseball is not more important than life, and if oliverp doesn't realize that he's nuts.
10:47 AM Jan 9th
 
rgregory1956

Terry, it's definitely a sign of my influences, but in my head I hear "oliverp" as if Eva Gabor is pronouncing her husband's name in Green Acres, as in Ollie Verp, in a female Hungarian accent.


11:59 PM Jan 8th
 
ventboys
Am I the only one who reads "Oliverp" as a single word? Instead of "Oliver P", I read it like I was reading Olive Oil.. Olive-erp.

Am I nuts? Olive-erp, or Oliver P... which one is it? I feel as if it couldn't be Oliver P, because that would mean that he didn't honor his name by finishing the last one completely. He could at least change it to "OliverUrine" or something.
11:27 PM Jan 8th
 
rgregory1956

You know, I find myself agreeing with Oliverp. I always thought Dave Dravecky was a wuss for not going down to the minors to learn to pitch right-handed. Heck, if Monty Stratton could play in the minors and win 30 games......


9:30 PM Jan 8th
 
chuck
Nah, I don't think oliverp is one and the same. The other fellow would offer only the most cursory analysis and usually egged folks on to "prove" some negative (players from the 20's wouldn't beat players now, size doesn't matter at all, etc).
Oliverp, I've got what's probably an easy one for you. Taking you at your word, now, and not assuming you're tongue-in-cheek... Manny Ramirez. Is someone like Manny Ramirez, prolonging his career to the max partly through repeated use of performance enhancers, honoring the game or dishonoring the game? Both? Does his honor of max-ing out his talent outweigh the dishonor of doing it with banned substances?
12:35 PM Jan 8th
 
shinsplint
re-ventboys...I think oliverp may be the same troll we had recently, just with a different name. I can tell by this statement he has below. It is similar to the prior user who said something like "My ideas are very compelling" or something like that. He's baaack.

"My thinking is the deepest and broadest of all who have commented. "

Oh yeah....Good article Dave. I didn't need any reassurance that Mussina was a HOF pitcher, although I know he's underrated by many.
10:02 AM Jan 8th
 
oliverp
Again, I don't know why you think I was joking. It sincerely disappoints me when major league players just quit without trying to continue their careers in the minor leagues! How can I say it more clearly? The problem is that the idea is so totally foreign to you that you think that I can't be serious. But I really am serious.

If you go back through the records of the old days, many HOF caliber players played in the minors after they left the majors. Sam Crawford, Dan Brouthers, Billy Hamilton, Tris Speaker, Goose Goslin, Babe Herman, Napoleon Lajoie, Joe McGinnity, Rube Waddell, Zack Wheat, Jimmy Ryan, Kid Nichols, Bobo Newsom, Tommy Leach, Harry Hooper, Elmer Flick, Lave Cross, Jesse Burkett, Sherry Magee, Gavy Cravath, and Jake Beckley all logged significant time in the minor leagues after they left the majors.
9:07 AM Jan 8th
 
oliverp
Bill James argued against Jackson being put in the HOF. He was making a point that he felt Jackson was dishonest and that he'd rather see ANY honest player put in before Jackson. Obviously he wasn't really arguing for every mediocre player to be selected to the HOF, he was just making his point against Jackson. I don't agree with Bill James there. Shoeless Joe Jackson should be in the HOF.
8:59 AM Jan 8th
 
ventboys
We've had trolling before, Marisfan :)
8:00 AM Jan 8th
 
MarisFan61
P.S. Oh OK -- I see those last couple of posts.
Yeah -- when all else fails, take it beyond the extreme.

I still call it trolling, although I suppose not intentional trolling.

Actually it reminds me of an article that Bill had in the original Historical Abstract (I think) about Joe Jackson not being in the Hall of Fame. It was (I guess) :-) a sarcastic tirade, ostensibly arguing for every Tom Dick and Harry to be put in there before considering Jackson. I honestly couldn't tell for sure that he was being sarcastic, as opposed to really feeling Jackson should be kept out (although I figured sarcasm), partly because he wasn't making it clear why he thought it was necessarily so ridiculous to be keeping him out, especially because he also had written about how he didn't see much point about putting dead guys in the HOF.....or maybe he didn't write that till later on. Anyway, in the next version of the book, Bill made some little modifications, including adding a final 3-word paragraph, I guess to make his intent clearer. I didn't think it helped.

Don't get me wrong -- I'd lay odds that Bill was being sarcastic. But to make it really clear, I think he would have needed to take it to an extreme too. :ha:

By the way, Dave -- this Mussina article reminded me a lot of Bill's style. (That's a compliment.) :-)
2:24 AM Jan 8th
 
MarisFan61
Is this the very first 'anything' on BJOL (I mean, counting everything: Reader Posts, Hey Bill, comment strings, anything) where we've had trolling?
I think it is.
I don't think I've seen anything like this anywhere on the site before. Elsewhere, all the time. Here, no.

Whether he's been kidding or not (and as I said down there, I thought from the first that he was, but I'm still not sure that's right), IMO this is trolling.

Olive, if you're serious, then you're just too angry. :-)
Really.
1:33 AM Jan 8th
 
DaveFleming
Alright....I get the joke now, OP. Sometimes the comedy just gets lost in translation. You're very funny.

I just wish you could've gotten to Gehrig. He couldn't stick with the Yankees, but I'm sure there was some team that needed him.
12:48 AM Jan 8th
 
oliverp
I was extremely disappointed when Jamie Moyer and Omar Vizquel quit. They both had a lot of gas left in the tank. Moyer was only 49 years old and was still pitching somewhat effectively at the major league level when the Rockies cut him. He should have shopped around to all the independent leagues to see who could use a pitcher.

And Vizquel was only a young 45 years old when he quit and he was still chugging along batting .235. You have to figure that he could probably have hit at least .280 with good defense in a low-level independent league. It's a waste of talent that he didn't even try to do that.
10:55 PM Jan 7th
 
oliverp
I'm not pretending to believe anything. I mean what I say. I absolutely and sincerely despise it when a great player like Mike Schmidt, George Brett, Robin Yount, Willie Mays, Nolan Ryan or anybody else just quits without even making any attempt to catch on with a minor league ballclub where he can be of service and still help them win ballgames, even with diminished skills compared to his peak.​
10:35 PM Jan 7th
 
oliverp
For example, Willie Horton was a pretty good player who was in the majors from 1963-1980. In 1980 he was slipping and hit only .221 in 97 G for the Seattle Mariners. But he went back down to the minors in 1981 and hit .302 in 104 G for Portland of the PCL. Then he played 119 G for Portland in 1982, and then played for Nuevo Laredo of the Mexican League in 1983. Willie Horton honored the game by not quitting when the major leagues would no longer have him.
9:54 PM Jan 7th
 
oliverp
I'm not a jackass, and I don't know why you think I'm not 100% serious. I sincerely admire every player who continues playing in a lower league after he can't find a major league roster spot anymore. Every player should continue playing at whatever level he can still compete. A major league player who was once great but now slipping should definitely go back down to the minor leagues and play as hard as he can for as long as he can.
9:50 PM Jan 7th
 
steve161
ventboys, you beat me to it by an hour. I admit that I fell for oliverp's first post, but after that it simply became impossible to believe he was serious. Now of course he will protest mightily that he means every word he wrote, but he overdid the joke by pretending to believe that every player should keep trying to find some league that will have him, until his limbs fall off like the knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
9:14 PM Jan 7th
 
ventboys
He's obviously yanking you guys... nobody is that big a jackass. Hell, I'm not even that big a jackass. Gman's not that big a jackass. Hitler....
7:44 PM Jan 7th
 
oliverp
According to Wikipedia, regarding Clemente's fatal crash:

"The airplane he chartered for a New Year's Eve flight, a Douglas DC-7, had a history of mechanical problems and sub-par flight personnel, and it was overloaded by 4,200 pounds."

Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Yes, I'm critical of Clemente, and anyone who isn't needs a checkup from the neckup. Why is it considered improper to apply criticism where criticism is obviously due? Does the fact that he died mean that nobody can ever question his questionable judgement?
7:09 PM Jan 7th
 
oliverp
What if I said that everyone should try to be a good person? What if I said that everyone should stop committing bad crimes against other people? What if I said that every nation should try to avoid excessive wars if possible? What if I said that every dictator should stop oppressing his people? Would you disagree with any of that? Is that too reductive for you? Sometimes there IS such a thing as a right thing that everybody should try to do. I am sick of your moral relativism bullshit and the way you try to apply it to these quitters who dishonor the game of baseball while quitting when they still have loads of talent left in their body!
6:59 PM Jan 7th
 
oliverp
My thinking is the deepest and broadest of all who have commented. You just don't have any clue about the richness of baseball. Of course I'm coming from a position of certainty. If you had the intelligence to understand the true meaning of the game the way I do then you would be certain that I am right.

You are wrong, though, I'm not reductive, I just follow the truth. I acknowledge the existence of other sides, and I acknowledge that those other sides are wrong.

By the way, the Nicaraguans were NOT Clemente's "countrymen". Clemente was from Puerto Rico, which is part of the USA. Not that it matters whether they were or not, but you should at least get your facts straight.
6:54 PM Jan 7th
 
oliverp
I didn't say Clemente's intentions weren't noble, I said they weren't smart, which they weren't and you can't deny that. It wasn't necessarily just a fluke accident. The plane was badly overloaded and obviously unsafe. Ultimately, what were the results? He died and NO AID from that plane made it to Nicaragua. It's like when a player crashes into a wall and injures himself on a ball that he only had a 5% chance of catching anyway. Sure, you want him to hustle, but you have to be smart also because a slim chance of one catch isn't worth another long trip to the disabled list.
6:46 PM Jan 7th
 
oliverp
HOFer Orator Jim O'Rourke is perhaps the best example for professional baseball players to follow. He began his pro career in 1872 for Mansfield of the NA. Then he played in the NL until 1893 when he was 43 years old. But he still wasn't done playing. He went back to his hometown and caught on with the Bridgeport ballclub of the Connecticut St. League. In 1897 he hit .405 in 73 G. At the age of 50 in 1900 he hit .358 in 93 games. 3 years later, he was still going strong, hitting .275 in 101 games, mostly as a catcher. In 1904 he made it back to the majors for 1 game with the NY Giants, and also played 66 for Bridgeport. In 1906 at the age of 56 he was starting to slip, batting just .244 but he gamely participated in 93 contests, mostly as a 1st baseman. By 1908 at the age of 58 he finally petered out, batting .158 in 18 games. If there ever was a pro player who got the most out of his talent and rightly deserves to be in the HOF, it's Orator Jim O'Rourke.
6:40 PM Jan 7th
 
DaveFleming
This is threatening to go off the rails, but what the hell...

The comment: "Everyone should do X" reflects narrow thinking in its purest, most absolute form.

It is beyond reductive; reductive thinking at least acknowledges the existence of other sides. The perspective you espouse emerges from a place of complete certainty. It's not just that you're unwilling to consider the other side: you are baffled that another side even exists.

I'll give you credit, though: I didn't think I'd ever encounter someone critical of Roberto Clemente trying to help his countrymen after a terrible earthquake.
6:40 PM Jan 7th
 
oliverp
I'll tell you why every player should do it. It is the duty of every player to love and honor the game. The longer you play and the older you are when you are still trying to play, the more you honor and love the game. It is the duty of every player to give to the game all the talent he has in his body. And when it's all said and done in the end, that will bring the greatest satisfaction to the player, whether he knows it or not.

Rickey Henderson is a good example for other players to follow, yet even he quit far too soon. After playing 25 years in the majors, his skills had finally diminished below major-league standards and no MLB team wanted him. So he played with the Newark Bears of the Atlantic League in 2004, drawing 96 walks in 91 games and posting an OBP of .462. Then in 2005 he played for the San Diego Surf Dawgs of the Golden Baseball League and had an OBP of .456 in 73 G. But unfortunately, he then quit at the tender young age of only 46. He's only 55 now and he really should still be playing! He probably could still get on base at a .350 clip or better in the independent leagues if he hadn't stopped playing!
6:26 PM Jan 7th
 
oliverp
As far as players like Sandy Koufax (bad elbow), Kirby Puckett (glaucoma), or Roy Campanella (paralyzed), I can certainly make some allowances for injuries. But I'm not convinced that Koufax's arm would have been ruined by one more year. He didn't even try to pitch through the pain. Or he could have gone down to class A ball where he wouldn't have had to throw as hard or maybe could get by without curve balls. Puckett might have been able to play sandlot ball, even with his diminished vision, and it would have kept him in better shape and maybe delayed his tragic death. All players should aspire to be like Julio Franco, who played in the major leagues until he was 49, and after he was cut he played in the Mexican League when he was 50.
6:11 PM Jan 7th
 
oliverp
Roberto Clemente was extremely stupid to risk his life in such a dangerous situation. In the end, the plane crashed and none of the supplies got to Nicaragua anyway. It was just a total waste of life, and yes, he should have thought of a more sensible and less dangerous way to give aid!
6:04 PM Jan 7th
 
oliverp
You've got that right, all of them are quitters! There is no doubt that they should have kept playing! As to wanting to do other things with your life, well, if a guy is only about 40 years old he's most likely got decades to do whatever else he might want to do. It isn't going to hurt him to hang on in baseball a few more years. And besides, a lot of guys who retire early end up becoming coaches anyway. Look at Jason Kidd in basketball! Why isn't he still playing? He absolutely sucks as a coach and he's badly hurting the Nets. He should be in a jersey, not a suit. Playing would be the only way he could help his team at this point. He was still good last year.
6:02 PM Jan 7th
 
chuck
Well, yeah. I thought of Koufax first, but you know- if it's a choice between using your left arm again in your life or what you owe to your team and baseball, I let him slide.
But on 2nd thought- he should have at least TRIED throwing right-handed. But did he, the lazy bum?

Clemente too. He should have stayed home and just sent in a donation. He owed it to his team and the game to avoid dangerous things like small planes in bad weather.
4:55 PM Jan 7th
 
DaveFleming
You're forgetting the most famous quitter of all-time, Chuck!

Sandy Koufax 10.3
4:17 PM Jan 7th
 
chuck
Other famous quitters and their last season's WAR:
Jackie Robinson 4.6
Hank Greenberg 3.4
Mike Mussina 3.3
Ted Williams, 3.0
Joe DiMaggio 2.8
Mickey Mantle 2.6
Curt Schilling 2.5
Roger Maris 2.3
Ty Cobb 1.9
Joe Morgan, Ozzie Smith 1.5
Mariano Rivera 1.4
Stan Musial 1.3
Mickey Cochrane 1.2
Johnny Bench 1.1
Tom Seaver, Carl Hubbell, Fergie Jenkins 1.0
Whitey Ford, Al Kaline 0.9
Barry Larkin 0.7
2:50 PM Jan 7th
 
DaveFleming
Why? Why should everyone do that?

I certainly wouldn't begrudge you doing that. I don't begrudge Bill Lee for doing it, or Steve Carlton. But why does everyone have to do it?

What if Mussina has other ambitions? What if he'd simply prefer doing something else, with the time he has on this earth? Doesn't he get to call the shots? Isn't it his life?


2:43 PM Jan 7th
 
oliverp
You should be criticizing Mussina for dishonoring the game by being a quitter, not me for what I said. Everything I said is 100% true. Players should never quit when they have an ounce of productive talent left in their body. But almost every player quits way too soon. Every player should play until their skills won't carry them to a roster spot anymore, and then they should go back down to the minors and keep playing until they can no longer hack it at the lowest level of independent ball.
1:13 PM Jan 7th
 
wovenstrap
Career W/L, I meant. Their career W/L records are almost identical.
12:49 PM Jan 7th
 
wovenstrap
The interesting comparison is the other great Oriole pitcher, Jim Palmer. Their records are almost identical, and at a glance their peak WARs look very comparable. But Palmer has those three Cy Young awards.​
12:48 PM Jan 7th
 
wovenstrap
The case for Mussina for the Hall of Fame is strong, and not statistical as such. I was a semi-serious fantasy baseball player for most of Mussina's career, and for most of his career it was just a given that he was one of the top 5 pitchers in baseball -- never number 1, but always very high in the mix. I agree completely with the premise that his peaks didn't match Schilling's. Schilling, Glavine, and Mussina all belong in the Hall.
12:37 PM Jan 7th
 
tigerlily
Wow! Excellent job Dave.
11:04 AM Jan 7th
 
David Kowalski
Sorry, that last game in 2007 was September 30, game 162.

Not September 3. It was a bad, lazy typo (should have proof-read).
9:05 AM Jan 7th
 
David Kowalski
Mussina. I remember him as a very, very good pitcher for a very long time. He's a case in career value, not peak value.

Funny thing, but my memory of Glavine is extremely sour. In 2007, the Mets blew a small lead down the stretch and Glavine was the main culprit. On September 25 the Mets entered with a 2 game lead and Glavine lasted 5 innings and gave up 6 runs, 5 earned. He topped that in the last game of the season with perhaps the worst game of his storied career and one of the more meaningful.

On September 3, 2007 the Mets had slid to a tie in the standings with a single game left. Glavine was on the mound but not for long. He pitched one third of an inning and gave up 7 runs, all earned. The Mets relievers did well but it hardly mattered as the team closed its season with a crushing 8-1 loss.

Glavine rarely pitched poorly but he always seemed to lose big games, going 6-10, for example in the NLCS. Sure his ERA was 3.16 in those games but 10 losses. I always remember Glavine losing when it counted most for his team.

Mussina's stats in the ALCS were similar but not so bad, 2-3 and a 3.34 ERA.

What sticks with Mussina is a long, solid career and love of his hometown of Montoursville, PA. he'd only pitch for teams within an easy (or at least possible) commute to Montoursville. What sticks to me about Glavine are those 12 losses.

Fair, no.

They are both Hall of Famers but Mussina would get my vote ahead of Glavine.
9:04 AM Jan 7th
 
ventboys
Oh, and nicely done, Dave. Strictly from a writer's standpoint this article may be your best work yet.
8:20 AM Jan 7th
 
ventboys
Yeah, that hundred over argument strikes me as the kind of oversimplifying argument Wilbon is famous for "How many rings? HOW MANY (insert a gallon of spittle, paint his face a nice, dark maroon and bulge those neck veins out) REEEEEEEEENGS!?!?!?

In my opinion, his most impressive number is the nine Cy Young mentions. They don't list down to ten like the MVP; even a single vote is evidence that he was a top drawer pitcher that year.
8:19 AM Jan 7th
 
jwilt
Oh, and Parisian Bob Caruthers won 119 more than he lost and isn't in the Hall of Fame.

Sam Leever was +94 and his only appearance on a HOF ballot was a single vote in 1937.
6:39 AM Jan 7th
 
jwilt
Mussina is a fully deserving HOFer, and eventually even the BBWAA will realize that. But many in Baltimore will never forgive him for defecting to the Yanks. Any other team would have been fine, even the Red Sox. But not the Yanks, not the rival with all the money in the world, the team we play 19 times a year, the team that actually used to be the Orioles 1901-02 before running away with our city's MLB hopes and dreams.

I was in the stands for both Mussina's 1st and 100th MLB wins, and was a huge fan of his in the 90s. I have mostly forgiven him for leaving a crumbling Orioles team and going to the Yanks, but not totally. He was a notoriously prickly guy, didn't suffer fools, and with a Stanford economics degree he seemed to count many in that category. Maybe that's beside the point, but doesn't help his reputation among O's fans.

By the way, it was Chris Richard, not Cliff.
6:30 AM Jan 7th
 
DaveFleming
Well...it's not every pitcher that can finish out their careers with the grace of Steve Carlton.
2:34 AM Jan 7th
 
MarisFan61
(I thought Oliverp was kidding, but I wasn't sure and I'm still not.)'

Beautiful work, Dave -- love it! Including how your feeling and even your judgment on a player can be so affected by what you experienced in one game that you happened to be at. I love sabermetrics and I love objectivity, but I love it even more when it's peppered with subjectivity and love.

Main thing I learned from the article is that stadium hot dogs might have a lot of CABBAGE in them. Is that really true? (Even if it's not quite 80%.) I need to know!!! ....because I react very badly to cabbage. I've eaten a lot of stadium hot dogs (although not yet at Fenway) and never reacted particularly badly, but now that I know about it, I would probably drop right dead.
1:55 AM Jan 7th
 
DavidTodd
Wow, you are a piece of work, oliverp.
12:58 AM Jan 7th
 
oliverp
Mussina cooked his own goose by being a quitter. He won 20 in 2008 and was only a measly 30 wins away from 300 and he just quit. He was still strong and healthy and he could have cruised by 300 wins with 2 more good seasons or 3 more so-so seasons. But instead he chose to dishonor the game by quitting. He wasted all that talent that was still left in his body and deprived the game by forcing the Yankees to call up some lesser pitcher to replace him.
12:25 AM Jan 7th
 
OldBackstop
Very nice, Dave.
9:11 PM Jan 6th
 
evanecurb
Dave:

Very well done. Thanks. And anyone who doesn't think Mussina is a Hall of Famer doesn't really understand much about baseball.
8:05 PM Jan 6th
 
 
©2019 Be Jolly, Inc. All Rights Reserved.|Web site design and development by Americaneagle.com|Terms & Conditions|Privacy Policy