The 40 Greatest Orioles of All-Time - No. 7 - Mike Mussina

7. Mike Mussina, RHP (1991-2000)

All-Star: 1992, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1999
Gold Glove: 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999

Let's get over everything about Mike Mussina leaving for the Yankees. At this point, the wound is about six years old, he hasn't won anything, and Mussina is an aging pitcher being paid a ton of money. Moose left, and I've never had anything less than respect for his decision to leave. I don't care for where he went, but that's not the most important part of it, I don't think. Mussina felt disrespected by Angelos, and I felt Angelos was disrespecting Mussina.

The Orioles were a sinking ship at the time. Mussina knew it, we knew it, Angelos may or may not have known it, Syd Thrift had no damn clue about anything. Mussina was a pitcher at age 31 that had spent his entire career with one organization and wanted to get to a World Series, wanted to win something. He thought Baltimore wasn't going to give him that opportunity. Not only that, but again, Angelos treated Mussina like a second-class pitcher.

Mussina was right, Angelos was wrong. That's the story there, at least in my opinion. I wish Mussina had stayed. He was a hero of mine as a kid pitching in little league. I wanted to be like Mike.

Anyway, Mussina's career with the Orioles was great. He was drafted in 1990, 20th overall, out of Stanford. He came up in 1991, making 12 starts and going 4-5 with a 2.87 ERA. In 1992, he went 18-5 with a 2.54 ERA. In some ways, you can say Mussina was never again as good as he was in his rookie season, and that's fair, but it also gives the impression that he had a disappointing career. He didn't.

He struggled with injury in 1993, making 25 starts and going 14-6 with a 4.46 ERA (99 ERA+, the only time as an Oriole he was any worse than the league, and it wasn't much worse). In 1994, he was 16-5 with a 3.06 ERA over 24 starts in the strike-shortened season. He won 19 games in 1995, which led theleague, and won 19 more in 1996 in a down year for him.

Moose bounced back in 1997 with a 3.20 ERA and a career-high 218 strikeouts (making three straight years he'd set a new career high, topping 158 and 204 the previous two seasons). He won 15 games that year, 13 more in 1998, and 18 in 1999.

The 2000 season was frustrating. I think we all knew that was it for Mussina as an Oriole. He went 11-15, but he pitched really well. He struck out 210 batters with a 3.79 ERA (125 ERA+). The 3.79 ERA was third in the league that year. He was still a very good pitcher.

Then what happened happened, and Mike went off to be a Yankee. I always kind of thought New York wouldn't be the best fit for him, and I don't know how he really feels about it at this point, because Mussina isn't a talker. He never was. To me, he seems like a quiet, reserved, intelligent guy, which is going to rub some people the wrong way. He also seems like the kind of guy that can get agitated easily and maybe say the wrong thing, which has happened of course. But he also never seemed to let that get to him, either.

Mussina has always been a pitcher that does his job. It wasn't until 2004 that you could even consider him anything but reliable. Age is catching up with him, injuries are starting to nag, and sooner rather than later, Mike Mussina will retire. He has 224 career wins, a .638 career winning percentage, and better numbers than a lot of guys in the Hall of Fame. He's never won a World Series, never won 20 games, and never was a highlight reel type of guy. I have a feeling that when Mussina retires, he'll soon be forgotten, which would be a shame.

As for his Hall chances, I'd doubt it. He's just never really made enough noise, the most noise he's ever made being signing an enormous contract with the Yankees. His HOF Standards are currently at 46 (average HOFer ~ 50) and his HOF Monitor is at 102 (likely HOFer > 100). Maybe I'll be surprised and Mussina will get in there, and hopefully if he does, he'll wear an Orioles cap. He's had a career a lot like Pappas, only better.

FRANCHISE RANKINGS
7th, ERA (3.53, min. 800 innings and being a starter)
1st, adjusted ERA+ (130, same qualification)
3rd, Wins (147)
1st, W/L Pct. (.645)
6th, Innings Pitched (2009 2/3)
2nd, Strikeouts (1535)
5th, Games Started (288)
8th, Shutouts (15)

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