Eventually, the writers who vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame must come to their senses and recognize Orioles great Mike Mussina for the amazing career that he had. They have yet to do so in their three previous chances with Mussina on the ballot. Although Mussina’s support seems to be improving, his chances of getting elected to the Hall this year aren’t looking good.
Baseball fan Ryan Thibodaux has doggedly tracked all publicly-released ballots for several years. His tracking spreadsheet for the balloting for the 2017 Hall of Fame class, which has been ongoing through December, puts Mussina at 62% support, though it’s early yet. Approximately 13% of the estimated total vote has been revealed so far.
If you’re not familiar with the Hall of Fame voting process, here is how it works. Writers become eligible once they have been in the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) for ten years. Those writers are then allowed to vote for up to ten players on each year’s Hall of Fame ballot. Anyone who receives support on at least 75% of ballots is elected to the Hall.
It’s not easy to get elected to the Hall of Fame, nor should it be. However, the electorate in recent years has had a difficult time making sense of the players whose best years were in the 1990s or 2000s. Some, like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, are almost certainly connected to PEDs, while others, like Jeff Bagwell, have been flimsily suspected of the same.
Still others, including Mussina and designated hitter great Edgar Martinez, are languishing below the election threshold for no other reason than that an uncomfortably large portion of the electorate are incapable of finding their butts with both hands.
I have written in the past about Mussina’s unimpeachable HOF-worthy career credentials. Don’t just take my word for it. Sports Illustrated’s Jay Jaffe, who has done more work to sort out who should and shouldn’t be a Hall of Famer in recent years than just about anyone, writes about Mussina’s strong HOF case.
The good news for Mussina, and for anyone who is interested in his eventual induction, is that his steady climb is continuing. Mussina was named on only 20.3% of ballots in his first year. That increased up to 43% by last year, his third year on the ballot. As long as players receive at least 5% of the vote, they can carry over to up to ten years on the ballot. So Mussina has six more years after this to get over the hump.
Mussina will probably not still be as high as 62% by the time the final results are released. A trend in past years is that Mussina receives less support among those who do not make their ballots public. That will probably continue, though Mussina should still see his support increase, if perhaps not by so much.
Starting next year, this private ballot problem will no longer be present. The BBWAA will make all ballots public a week after the results are announced starting in 2018.
Based on the current totals, four players could be in line to be inducted this year: Bagwell, longtime Padres closer Trevor Hoffman, very brief Oriole Tim Raines, and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. Win or lose, it’s Raines’ tenth and final year on the ballot. The early returns also have Bonds and Clemens surging above 50% for the first time.
The future works in Mussina’s favor. One problem in his early ballot years is that he had to share the ballot with now-elected Hall of Famers like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz.
Though Mussina’s career numbers compare favorably to guys like Glavine and Smoltz, those two had that 1990s Braves shine on them, while Mussina had the misfortune of being on the Orioles in the 1990s and the Yankees in their 2001-08 World Series drought. His star was not as bright compared to those others.
Now, that problem is lessened. Clemens is above him, though complicated because of the PED question, and Mussina is at least comparable to Curt Schilling. There are no other starting pitchers who are or will soon be on the ballot who are in Mussina’s class or anywhere close to it.
Mussina can shine on his own. Hopefully, in time, he will. His star certainly will look brighter when his competition is Johan Santana and Jamie Moyer, the two best starting pitchers who will join the ballot next year. A year beyond that, it’s Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt. Although these four pitchers had fine careers, none can hold a candle to Mussina’s longevity and overall quality.
Orioles fans won’t have much reason to get invested in the 2017 Cooperstown ceremonies, but if the current pattern continues, Mussina’s time will come within the next few years. As for the next Hall of Fame Oriole after him, well, don’t hold your breath, OK?