Baseball Hall of Fame 2014: Mike Mussina and other former Orioles on the ballot

Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

The BBWAA unveiled its Hall of Fame ballot for 2014 on Tuesday, including former Oriole Mike Mussina in his first year of eligibility. Will he get in this year or soon? What other former O's are kicking around the ballot?

There were no players elected by the BBWAA to the Hall of Fame in 2013. Now, the ballot is even more crowded with some deserving first-time eligible players, including one of the greatest Orioles pitchers of all time, Mike Mussina. Man the barricades and prepare to defend your favorites against the sanctimonious arm of bloviating blowhards and the silent vigilante-ism of one-time baseball writers who now cover golf or whatever.

There are 36 players on the Hall of Fame ballot released on Tuesday. The full list can be found on the BBWAA site. A player must be named on 75% of ballots that are returned to be elected. Anyone who was an active member of the BBWAA for ten years gets a Hall of Fame ballot for life. Some actual baseball writers are prevented from voting for this and other baseball awards due to rules at their institutions; for instance, the Baltimore Sun's long-time writers are not allowed to vote as long as they work there.

Voters can list up to ten names on a ballot. There just might be more than ten worthy inductees on the ballot. Past intransigence has created a current logjam. That's another story for another day. Players who are named on more than 5% of ballots but aren't elected roll over to next year. They can stay for up to 15 years. This is the final year that we will be subjected to the inexplicable fetish for Jack Morris, whether he's inducted or not.

Eight former Orioles are on the ballot this year. Along with Mussina, other first-time ineligibles include Armando Benitez and Mike Timlin. How do their chances look? Well, you know.

ARMANDO BENITEZ

Slider, slider, slider! Benitez! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever!

Hall of Fame chances: Anyone who votes for Benitez is either making a statement about the inherent absurdity of the process or deserves to have their credentials revoked. Possibly both.

MIKE MUSSINA

If you're anywhere near my age, Mussina is the greatest Orioles pitcher of your lifetime. In ten seasons with the team, he pitched over 2000 innings, threw 45 complete games, and pitched 15 shutouts. His 3.53 ERA in that time even as the steroid era ramped up and increased offense in the game ranks him as one of the greatest pitchers of the time. He was screwed out of possible 20-win seasons in both 1994 and 1995 due to the strike.

In the years since Mussina left, Orioles pitchers have 15 shutouts combined between all of them.

Mussina's performance in the 1997 playoffs would be the stuff of legend if not for the aforementioned Benitez torpedoing the team in the ALCS. Mussina pitched in four games between the ALDS and ALCS, threw 29 innings and only gave up four runs total on 11 hits and seven walks while striking out 41 batters. That is actually ridiculous.

Hall of Fame chances: Often forgotten outside of Baltimore because there were other great pitchers in the game at the time: Clemens, Glavine, and Maddux, all of whom are on the ballot this year, being among those. He should be a no-doubt Hall of Famer, and he should be inducted as an Oriole, but who knows how it will shake out with the crowded ballot this year? He will probably not be elected this time around, which is a shame. If he somehow never gets in at all, that would be a greater shame.

RAFAEL PALMEIRO

In seven years with the Orioles, Palmeiro batted .284/.366/.520, which is great even considering the era he played in. He is and probably always will be remembered for that one positive steroid test which sent the once-promising 2005 into the depths of clown-y oblivion. 1996 and 1997 were sure fun, weren't they?

Hall of Fame chances: Palmeiro received 8.8% support in last year's voting. As more great players jump onto the ballot, including this year's addition of Frank Thomas, he could dip below the threshold. He is in the 3,000 hit club and the 500 home run club, but writers are quick to seize on his test to invalidate all that came before. Whether or not they are right is immaterial; they're the only ones whose opinions count.

TIM RAINES

Spent four games with the Orioles so that he could play in the same outfield as his son. I had forgotten this until last year when I wrote this same article, and I will forget about it again until next year as soon as I post this one.

Hall of Fame chances: Raines was named on 52.2% of last year's ballots. He has been gaining support in recent years as a candidate who had numbers that were unappreciated in his era but are better appreciated now. He was a high-OBP and speed player for a lot of his career, finishing with 808 stolen bases and a .385 OBP across 23 seasons. In 2013, only fourteen players in all of baseball exceeded that OBP.

CURT SCHILLING

He is the reason why the pain of the Glenn Davis trade will never fully subside. He threw over 3000 innings in his career, but only 69.1 of them were in an Orioles uniform. He only started five games here and went on to win three World Series titles and finish in second place in Cy Young voting three times in a 20-year career. In his best year as an Oriole, 1990, he was a random reliever in the bullpen and did pretty well for himself with a 2.54 ERA.

If there's any silver lining, it's that the O's still got their money's worth in the trade where they acquired Schilling in the first place. They traded Mike Boddicker to the Red Sox and also got Brady Anderson along with Schilling.

Hall of Fame chances: wrote last year that if Curt Schilling is not a Hall of Fame player, nobody is. Just look at his career! He's basically everything that the writers think Morris is, only he actually is those things. He received 38.8% support in his first year on the ballot last year. That ought to increase this year, but it might not if some voters drop him off as they add Maddux and Glavine to their ballots.

LEE SMITH

Spent one season with the O's, the strike-shortened 1994, so he is only included here for the sake of completion. The only thing I remember at all about his time here is that he would stroll in at a casual pace from the bullpen.

Hall of Fame chances: Some of those guys love to vote for players with a lot of saves, and Smith had 478 of them. His time is running out, though, and he only got 47.8% support in his 11th year. He may get close, but will probably come up short.

SAMMY SOSA

Though the disastrous 2005 season is a bit less painful now that we've experienced winning baseball again, it still sucked at the time, and Sosa's meltdown was a big part of why. He batted only .221/.295/.376 for the O's in 102 games and made everything terrible.

Hall of Fame chances: Once, untold numbers of writers were publishing stories about how the Sosa-Mark McGwire home run chase helped to save baseball. Many of those same people are probably those who will now condemn Sosa and never vote for him. His first-year support was a moribund 12.5%, which is astounding for a guy with 609 home runs. He will not be getting in unless PED attitudes among that electorate radically shift.

MIKE TIMLIN

Before there was Kevin Gregg, before there was Mike Gonzalez, before there was Jamie Walker and Danys Baez, before there was Jim Johnson projected to make $10.8 million in 2014, there was Mike Timlin. Saved 38 games in 51 chances between 1999 and 2000, which basically sucks a lot, even more than however much you might think Johnson sucks.

He was traded to the Cardinals as part of that 2000 fire sale, netting the immortal Mark Nussbeck and Chris Richard.

Hall of Fame chances: Why is he even on the ballot? The BBWAA likes to include some guys who had long careers just out of respect, is my guess. Did you know that Timlin won four World Series titles? He won twice with the Blue Jays at the start of his career and twice with the Red Sox at the end. Maybe that's why. That doesn't get you in the Hall of Fame, though.

**

Until and unless Mussina makes it into the Hall of Fame, it's going to be a long time before Orioles fans have any reason to care about ceremonies in Cooperstown.

Who do you think will get in this year? Who do you think should get in? Who do you think might be hurt by the limit of ten players on the ballot?

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