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Good or Great?
2006-02-03 05:20
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

The Yankees new mouthpiece Johnny Damon (dubbed in the comments section the other day as "Johnny Talk Show") met with George Steinbrenner yesterday in Tampa to say "hi." Bob Klapisch has a piece on Damon's good pal, Jason Giambi over at ESPN. Otherwise, all is quiet. However, thanks to Baseball Think Factory, I came across an interesting article by Mike Green at Batter's Box, making a strong case for Mike Mussina (class of '68) being a Hall of Famer. Check it out and let's discuss.

Comments
2006-02-03 06:13:43
1.   minjd
Nice article, but Bob Klapisch should try using a fact checker:
"Further tests revealed that Giambi had a malignant tumor in his pituitary gland"
Giambi's tumor was benign not malignant. Ease up on the drama, Bob.
2006-02-03 06:33:17
2.   bp1
Well, Moose has a good Hall of Fame nickname, that's for sure.

His pitching? I dunno. The stats seem to be all there, but since he's been here on the Yankees, has he ever been considered the best pitcher on the staff? He was sort of the #1 by default in the Javy year, but it did not seem he was comfortable in the role.

He's certainly had his moments, and he's obviously a talented pitcher, but Hall of Fame worthy? I dunno. Maybe I listen to Michael Kay's radio show too much to have an objective opinion, ha ha ha.

BP

2006-02-03 06:59:10
3.   Alex Belth
Well, Moose was better than the Rocket back in 2002 was it? The year Clemens won the Cy. But you can't fault a guy for not being the "ace" when Clemens or Johnson were around. Yeah, in '04 he had a down season. But then again, he was the ace of the O's for a long time.
2006-02-03 07:01:44
4.   Felix Heredia
The argument against Moose will be the same as the argument against (pre-steroid) Palmeiro - he was never the "dominant" player at his position.

The lack of 20 wins or 300 overall will hurt his chances too. But the six gold gloves distinguish him.

2006-02-03 07:12:00
5.   Dan M
Mussina was the best guy on the staff with the division-winning '97 Orioles, and the wildcard '96 team.
2006-02-03 07:23:04
6.   Cliff Corcoran
Moose was the Yankees best pitcher in 2001 and 2003, not coincidentally the last two times the team made the World Series. In 2001 he should have won the AL Cy Young over Clemens, as Alex said. In his off year of 2002, he won 18 games and struck out 182 against 48 walks and allowed fewer hits than innings pitched. That's pretty much what he's done on average throughout his career (using B-Ref's 162-Game Averages: 17-9, 184K, 52BB, 231 IP, 220 H), and that includes his last two seasons in which age and injury have cut into his effectiveness.

The thing about Mussina is the annual expectation that "this will be the year he wins 20 games and takes home a Cy Young." Assuming he's in an irreversable decline (not a bold assumption by any means), I think the fact that neither of those things ever happened will be what keeps him out of the Hall. That said, I'm still torn over his candidacy.

2006-02-03 07:26:03
7.   bp1
Maybe he can get in the Hall on the snarkiness of his post game interviews. There was one last year with "Lil Kim" that freakin hilarious.

That aside - when he's on his game - man is he good. He just doesn't seem to carry himself as a "Hall of Fame" pitcher. His games are not must see's like Johnson or Clemens or Pedro or whoever. That's not his fault, of course, but I think it certainly affects people's perceptions of him and his career. Or maybe it's just me, who knows.

Here's hoping he gets his 20 wins and WS ring this year and checks off a couple more HOF requirements.

BP

2006-02-03 07:34:40
8.   Yankee Fan in Chicago
Good AP piece on the Scooter who's selling his memorabilia.
2006-02-03 07:38:36
9.   Yankee Fan in Chicago
Hyperlink won't render. Look up the piece tho. By Ronald Blum.
2006-02-03 08:10:08
10.   Sliced Bread
Is Moose good or great? Um, he's been consistently very good for a long time, and I think a case can be made that he's good enough for the Hall.
At the risk of being schooled by the numbers-nerds, it appears to me that Mussina has accumulated Catfish'esqe career stats.
He has Schilling'esqe numbers, and you know Senatah Schilling's going to the Hall as he's been campaigning since kindergarten.
Mussina doesn't have Schilling's rings, nor his chili-stained sock, but he has been awarded 6 Gold Gloves.
6 times Mussina has been among the top 5 Cy Young contenders, and he came in 6th twice.
It's worth noting that Mussina has pitched in the AL East his entire career. The hitters in that division (and there have been plenty of good hitters) know him better than any pitcher, and still, he has consistently remained among the best in the game.
Mussina's not Mr. Popular with the press, and he's somewhat of a hard luck guy. I mean, how many times has he blown a perfect game or no-hitter in the final frames?
How many times has he fallen short of 20 wins in a shortened season? How many games, even seasons, has he received anemic run support?
A 2006 championship would help his Hall of Fame cause, and be a most satisfying accomplishment for Mussina -- but I don't think it will be enough for the 'American Idol' judges, who hold the keys to the Hall.
2006-02-03 08:19:47
11.   Jeteupthemiddle
I would think Mussina will be helped tremendously if he even gets to 250 wins...which he should do assuming he plays in 2007. That's a nice milestone number to achieve that could possibly make writers realize how good he was.
2006-02-03 08:34:03
12.   joejoejoe
A ring and a 20 win season would help with the rubes who vote.
2006-02-03 08:50:13
13.   Mike A
Moose's consistency has been amazing, he gives you double digit wins, an ERA around or below 4, and 200+ IP each year (save 2004 & 2005 when he had some injury problems).

Moose has always had some seriously hard luck when it comes to his big playoff performances, which certainly won't help his HOF chances. With the Yankees facing elimination in Game 3 of the 2001 ALCS, he beat Oakland 1-0 only to have Jeter steal the show with "The Flip". Then in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, Moose saved the day for Clemens with 3.1 shutout innings in relief, then along game Aaron Boone...

The fact he's never won 20 in a season and never won a Cy Young will hurt him with the voters for sure.

2006-02-03 08:58:01
14.   NetShrine
In terms of relative career pitching performance and opportunity earned, and age, the pitchers that best line up to Mussina, since 1900, are Stan Coveleski, Kevin Brown, and Curt Schilling - in my opinion.
2006-02-03 08:59:48
15.   Levy2020
He comes up huge as an active leader (7) in WHIP and K/9 (20). I'd say this is - unlike total wins, strikeouts, etc. - DESPITE being 8th in active innings pitched.

Also, 9th All-Time in K/BB ratio is pretty, pretty good.

That said, I don't think I'd vote for him. . . I'm not sure.

But even in victory (5th active in shutouts, 6th active in complete games) he doesn't have that air of utter dominance that Pedro, Rocket, Mariano, and Randy have had. . . . .

2006-02-03 10:23:10
16.   Knuckles
I wish Moose could have converted at least one of his many near no-no's...

http://www.baseballlibrary.com/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/M/Mussina_Mike.stm

"On May 30, 1997 he retired the first 25 Cleveland Indians before catcher Sandy Alomar, Jr. lined a single to left field with one out in the ninth, denying him what would have been the first perfect game in franchise history...Less than a month later he tossed seven no-hit innings at Milwaukee before Jose Valentin opened the eighth inning with a single. He flirted with perfection again the next season, setting down the first 23 Detroit Tigers on August 4, 1998 before giving up a two-out eighth-inning double to Frank Catalanotto...His no-hit karma also followed him north. In a nationally televised Sunday night game on September 2, 2001 he tossed another near-masterpiece at Boston's Fenway Park. When the Yankees finally broke a scoreless tie with an unearned run off veteran David Cone in the top of the ninth, Mussina needed only three outs to complete a perfect game. After retiring the first two batters of the inning, he got ahead of pinch-hitter Carl Everett 1-2 before the BoSox outfielder punched a high fastball into left-center field to ruin his bid at pitching immortality."

2006-02-03 10:37:02
17.   Cliff Corcoran
Longtime readers are probably tired of me saying this, but I've been to exactly one game at Camden Yards and one game at Fenway Park. The former was 8/4/98, Moose's 7 2/3 perfect innings against the Tigers. The latter was 9/2/01, Moose's 9 2/3 perfect innings against the Red Sox. Those are also the only two times I've ever attended a Mussian start outside of Yankee Stadium.

I sat in the right field stands for the Fenway game and went down to the bullpen's edge to watch Moose warm up before the game. I even have a couple choice shots of Moose in mid pre-game motion. Crazy.

2006-02-03 11:24:41
18.   Dimelo
Cliff - That's great news. I didn't know that. Now that we have this piece of information, do you think we should send you on an all expense paid trip (BronxBanter bake sale to raise money and mojo for Moose) to every one of Mussina's starts on the road this year? You definitely have some Moose magic. There was that one guy from L.A who had tickets to Wilt's 100 point game in PA and never went, and the same guy had tix to Kobe's 81 point game and didn't go. This guy, obviously, we don't want anywhere near Da Bwonx because good things happen when HE IS NOT around. BUT YOU, you, you.....you got some magic kid. Start da Moose calling right now....Cliff is a coming!!!! We aren't greedy either, we don't need a perfect game (though it would be nice), 7 2/3 and 8 2/3 of perfect ball sounds quite alright with me. So Cliff, you game?
2006-02-03 11:27:29
19.   Sliced Bread
Mussina's Fenway performance, what a masterpiece.
Leave it to Everett to spray paint a moustache on Moose's Mona Lisa.
I remember watching every pitch of that game in my living room in Los Angeles. From the sixth inning on, I paced around in front of the TV, which was next to the air conditioner, and I was sweating.
2006-02-03 11:33:49
20.   rbj
As soon as I saw that Everett hit in Boston, I was yelling at Knoblauch to dive. He probably wouldn't have gotten it, but come on, you have to lay your body on the line to get that last freakin' out.

Moose has been very solid his whole career, just not spectacular or dominating (ISTM). I'm iffy on him in the Hall, I tend to put him in the Paul O'Neil category of a person who was able to have a long career as a major leaguer (no mean feat in itself), just not the creme de la creme.

2006-02-03 11:54:55
21.   The Mick 536
Where did that bending over come from. That is enough to keep him out of the hall. Not a fan favorite. Doens't have speed anymore. Can get ahead of lots of batters and then lose them. Don't like his short appearances. Seems to have it for regulation, then he goes off the pier fast. Always amazed at his quickness. Katt's too. But there is always next year. I'll keep an open mind.
2006-02-03 11:58:57
22.   The Mick 536
OOOOOOPs. Almos fogottt. How are Broadway Johnny, Mrs. Broadway Johnny, and Jason going to share housekeeping duties? Who does the dishes? Who does the bathrooms? Do the Johnny's screen Giambi's dates? Will they invite Sheff to dinner? This could be the story waiting to happen.
2006-02-03 12:41:25
23.   vockins
I love the delivery schtick. The stare, the bend, all of it. I use it in wiffle ball. Never fails to crack the opposing batter up, which makes it easier to get him out.
2006-02-03 12:51:14
24.   debris
Is there one career stat, even one, where Mussina stands up to Bert Blyleven?
2006-02-03 12:59:24
25.   Shaun P
IMHO Moose's stats should be good enough, though we've seen how much good that has done poor Bert Blyleven. I think the lack of 20 win seasons and a Cy Young (or two)/heroic postseason moment will hurt him. But as time goes by and the obvious guys (Clemens, Maddux, Randy, Pedro, and Glavine) go in, Moose has a hell of an argument. For his era, who else would you take over the Moose? Smoltz? Kevin Brown? Schilling? They just weren't as good for as long.

Time is also on his side. If Moose retires after, say, the '07 season, he'll be HoF eligible from 2013 to 2028. Something tells me that a decent enough majority of sportswriters in, say, 2020, will know enough to mostly ignore win totals and number of Cy Youngs won when evaluating a candidate. The dinosaurs can't live forever.

2006-02-03 13:04:40
26.   wsporter
Ok Trashman, Mussina 162 game career average record 17-9 Blylevin 14 -12. Next.
2006-02-03 13:05:48
27.   Shaun P
FWIW, here are some numbers from baseball-reference.com:

Black Ink: Pitching - 14 (149) (Average HOFer ~ 40)
Gray Ink: Pitching - 215 (30) (Average HOFer ~ 185)
HOF Standards: Pitching - 46.0 (46) (Average HOFer ~ 50)
HOF Monitor: Pitching - 102.0 (89) (Likely HOFer > 100)
Overall Rank in parentheses.

Pretty much matches what many of us said - lack of major awards hurts him, but the numbers are damn good.

debris, without looking at the stats I'd say, probably not - but what's the point of the question?

2006-02-03 13:48:02
28.   Knuckles
I think the only reason Blyleven's not in the Hall is because most people in the Baby Boom, subconsciously, are prejudiced against the Dutch. They had their period of free love and cheap, consequence-free dope smoking in the 60's/70's, and are angry that it still exists in Holland but not here. Consequently, they are taking it out on Bert Blyelven. whether they realize it or not. Bert was a Dude- he should be in.
2006-02-03 13:59:39
29.   Schteeve
Re #20: rbj, If Knobby had been 20 feet tall, he wouldnt have gotten that ball.
2006-02-03 14:01:16
30.   sam2175
I also failed to see a connection between Blyleven and Mussina comparison, but Blyleven and Goose are, by a distance, two most deserving people not in the Hall of Fame. Not having Blyleven should not be a base for keeping out Mussina, because, ummm, that base is unfounded to begin with.

That being said:

Career K/9:

Mussina - 7.16, Blyleven - 6.73.

Career K/BB:

Mussina - 3.50, Blyleven - 2.8.

Career ERA+ (keep the caveats about pitching in different era in mind):

Mussina - 125, Blyleven - 118.

So, Mussina had a much better strikeout rate and walk rate. Blyleven will trump him on durability and sustaining quality over a longer period of time, although Mussina has had a better peak.

I do believe Mussina needs at least one more season like 2003 and a couple more like 2005 to cement his case. But he compares admirably against all-time greats.

2006-02-03 14:25:12
31.   susan mullen
Re: Where did Mussina's bending over come from?
I heard him say he began doing it to check out
what the guy at first base was doing.
2006-02-03 14:33:04
32.   Dimelo
Has anyone been checking out "In George We Trust"? I've been checking out the site more frequently lately. The person/persons writing here do a great job with the current list of Yankee prospects:

http://www.ingeorgewetrust.blogspot.com/

2006-02-03 15:57:10
33.   Dimelo
Dodger thoughts, Jon Weisman, has some good stuff on defensive ratings and, specifically, our Golden Boy, Derek Sanderson Jeter. It was really good, not critical of Jeter but discussing the various metrics that exist for rating a players defensive abilities.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/writers/jon_weisman/02/03/defense.metrics/index.html

I have to agree with Steve from WasWatching though:
As a Yankees fan, at no point in time, over the last several seasons, has a ball been hit to Jeter at SS where I thought "Oh, no, why did you hit it to him?" - - the way one would think when balls were hit to the Jose Offerman or Wil Cordero types (when they were trying to play SS).

In fact, when a grounder is hit to Jeter, within normal range, my gut reaction and expectation is "that's an out." I have no fear whatsoever on a groundball to Jeter.

http://www.waswatching.com/archives/2006/02/the_jeter_meter.html

2006-02-03 16:27:36
34.   David
Regretably, I don't think Mussina is close. Maybe he deserved a Cy Young, but he never got one. Close to 20-game winner, but never happened. Never got the no-hitter or perfect game. Good pitcher for a long time, but not exceptional in any respect, such as number of wins, number of strikeouts, W-L %, post-season performance, etc.
2006-02-03 16:27:48
35.   Simone
Ummmm, I bet right now Jeter is on a beach somewhere with some hot chick not giving a thought about defensive metrics.
2006-02-03 17:36:02
36.   sam2175
34

Is that how a voter should vote for a candidate, or is that how you believe actual voters will vote?

2006-02-03 18:14:12
37.   Zack
Loved this out of SI's truth and rumors section, via the LA Times:
"The Red Sox made another strong push to trade disgruntled slugger Manny Ramirez to the Angels this past week , but talks bogged down again, with the Angels balking at Boston's asking price. Boston was believed to have asked for at least four players -- pitcher Ervin Santana, utility player Chone Figgins and two or three of the Angels' top four prospects, a list that includes shortstop Brandon Wood and second baseman Howie Kendrick. The Red Sox also wanted the Angels to assume virtually all of the $57 million remaining on Ramirez's contract, which runs through 2008. "

Well, hell, the Angels might as well throw in Vlad and their concession profits as well.

2006-02-03 21:26:03
38.   David
sam2175 asks, "Is that how a voter should vote for a candidate, or is that how you believe actual voters will vote?"

Mostly the latter. I definitely anticipate that Mussina's HOF vote total will never be close to the number needed for admission. However, I also tend to feel that just being a darn good (but not great) player for a substantial period of years should not be enough to get into the Hall.

2006-02-04 00:05:20
39.   markp
some of the con arguments are pretty weak, with "he never looks dominating" being the weakest. baseball is about results, not how you look getting them.

He obvioulsy has HOF credentials-better numbers than a lot of guys already in. The one thing that's going to keep him out is that he's a queit guy and a very intelligent person. Sportswriters and broadcasters tend to minimize the accomplishments of guys like that, while promoting loud-mouths like Jeff Kent (TO, etc.)

2006-02-04 03:00:06
40.   debris
But there is no career stat that voters care about where Mussina is in Blyleven's class. Strikeouts, wins, shutouts, rings, awards, and the like. Considering Mussina's age and chronic elbow problems, he's not likely to rack up Bert's numbers.
2006-02-04 03:03:28
41.   debris
"'My kids had a hard time dealing with it,' he said. 'I kinda told them [I was leaving the Red Sox] and they cried, and I cried with them. And I said, 'Hey, this team really just did not want me as much as I wanted them.'" -- Former Red Sox Center Fielder Johnny Damon

Posted without comment.

2006-02-04 05:32:27
42.   singledd
"... and I cried with them. And I said, 'Hey, this team really just did not want me.... (only 40 million dollars) as much as I wanted them (52 million dollars).'" -- Former Red Sox Center Fielder Johnny Damon

How touching. How sad. Boys, lets have a group cry for Johnny D.

P.S. ".... upon which time big Johnny showed little Johnny his truct fund amount (fatter by 50% of the 12 million cring dollars) and everybody starting laughing and lived happily ever afetr".

The End.

2006-02-04 06:09:57
43.   The Mick 536
Susan

I admit to many weaknesses in my arsenal of baseball knowledge. Don't remember any other pitcher who does a samuri bend, coming to a ninety degree angle before pitching with a man on base. Granted, I don't watch a lot of baseball. Too expensive. Live in New England where the Sox are a religion and Jank fans seen as sacreligious. Tell me. Who has a motion like Moose's?

2006-02-04 08:07:57
44.   sam2175
40

And if that logic is taken to it's extreme, Bernie Williams is the best postseason hitter ever: He has the most HRs and RBI, the two things voers care most about when evaluating a hitter, and coming in clutch postseason situations, which magnify their importance. He is a first ballot HoFer, right?

And as has already been conceded, those career stats where Mussina does not belong in Blyleven's class are more of a function of Blyleven's longivity (which, I concede is a sign of greatness) than anything else.

Like I said, 1 season like 2003, and two like 2005. We will see after that. And 4 seasons of 150 K's puts him in 3000 strike out category, and hopefully, 270 wins. Should be enough for HoF voters, if they have brains.

And this year, Bruce Sutter trumped Goose Gossage despite trailing him in every single career category that you can think of. That is more symbollic of voters general callousness or worse, their clear lack of understanding what is a true hallmark of greatness, rather than Gossage's unworthiness.

2006-02-04 08:45:43
45.   GrandConcourse
41.
Finish your sentence:

"Posted without comment" because I'm a pathetic Sux fan with nothing better to do than troll the internet for anit-Yankee news and post it at at otherwise trash-free Yankee blog...

2006-02-04 09:45:09
46.   debris
Sam2175,

In Politics of Glory, James came up with a list of things that impress HOF voters, assigning point values to each one. Because of his longevity more than anything else, Blyleven comes out real high in a number of them. His two WS rings also help him an awful lot.

I'm not sure that post-season performance, other than simply appearing in a lot of world series, particularly for a winning team, holds a lot of sway with the voters.

2006-02-04 10:45:31
47.   sam2175
Debris,

I am not sure what holds sway with voters either. You say Blyleven comes up high in a lot of things that impress Hall voters, and yet, Blyleven has barely been able to crack 50% of votes (which is a shame, really). So, maybe, Bill James is wrong with his psychoanalysis of Hall voters here?

What I said was there should be some internal consistency in an argument. If hall of fame voters are also MVP voters, then you will see how overall HRs and RBIs are lionized. And having all time high numbers in post-season HRs and RBIs will have to count for a lot, given that earlier premise. And deeply, that premise is about how you rank absolute numbers and how you rank rates, which are better measures of effectiveness.

My contention was simply that getting more opportunities increase your absolute numbers, and that is sometimes a poor indicator of greatness. Given sufficient longivity (15 years of above average pitching), what should matter are rate stats, and that is where Mussina proves his greatness, relative to incumbent and future HoFers. Your case for Blyleven being better than Mussina relied on absolute numbers, and I believe that is a faulty way of looking at player evaluation, whether or not Hall voters look at it that way.

Since I raised it, in my opinion, Bernie Williams is a borderline Hall of Fame candidate, and does have excellent credentials that sway voters, including playing for world series winning teams in which he was the biggest offensive force. Important thing to keep in mind is the position that he played, CF, which has not seen too many great offensive players (but the Hall has all time greats as Dimaggio, Mantle and Mays, and it might adversely affect him).

2006-02-05 03:42:20
48.   debris
Sam,

There are a number of places where Blyleven fall short, particularly in the rewards column. I haven't read the James piece in years, but as I recall he awards a certain number of points for various accomplishments: wins, strikeouts (2000,3000,4000, etc.), shutouts, complete games, all star appearances, Cy Young awards, Series Rings, etc.

Without judging wrong or right, he states that most players with over 100 points are in the hall, most players under 100 are not. All players over 120 are in, all under 80 are not, maybe with the exception of Rick Ferrell.

I'm not going to argue with the the validity of rate stats vs. longevity, but my sense is that James believes that longevity pulls more sway with the voters.

Bernie gets huge points for having four rings, but he's not helped at all by his awards accomplishments. He's also hurt as a candidate by his being an all round player, rather than a stud in certain offensive categories.

2006-02-05 04:13:56
49.   debris
Sam,

James has two sets of metrics for the Hall. The one I mentioned above. This I couldn't locate this morning.

He also has another set of formulas, which does include rate stats as well as cumulative, but does not include things such as awards or the company you keep. (ie. Bernie, who has received no awards but has four rings is neither penalized for the former, nor rewarded for the latter.) Using this metric, which maxes out at 100 points, the average Hall of Famer gets 50 points.

Blyleven comes in at 51, Mussina at 45, Bernie at 55. As Mussina gets many of his points from rate stats, his number in not likely to improve. Using these numbers, I don't think there is any real strong argument against enshrinement of any of these three.

2006-02-05 09:37:26
50.   sam2175
Ok, I think I understand better now where you are coming from. Thanks for the clarification.

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