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On Mike Mussina, Who Deserves Only What He Deserves

So news came down Wednesday — not unexpectedly — that Mike Mussina has been elected to the Orioles Hall of Fame. And thus we reopen old wounds.

There’s no question that Mussina is one of the best pitchers to ever wear an Oriole uniform, and certainly the best we’ve had in twenty years. Hell, maybe thirty years. That counts for something and I’d never want to diminish it. But it is diminished.

It is for me, anyway, because to this day I don’t consider Mussina an Oriole. And I never will.

I don’t blame him for leaving Baltimore. I’d have left, too, in his shoes. He took a discounted deal once and refused to do it again when the Orioles failed to come in at market value. Fair enough. And on a purely business level I don’t actually fault him for joining the Yankees. Highest bidder is highest bidder, after all.

But here’s the thing about “business” decisions: they come with consequences.

It’s easy to trot out the “it’s just business” trope in the face of unseemly acts but that doesn’t mitigate the fact that such acts don’t occur in a vacuum. Simply because something is the “right business decision” doesn’t mean that everything else gets ignored.

In Mussina’s case — and he’s a smart man who no doubt knew and knows this — the decision to join the Yankees was also a decision to sever ties with the Orioles, at least partially. That’s the way it goes. You come up through the system and become a beloved player, then bolt for the most hated of hated rivals because they offered you the most cash? Fair enough. But you’re no longer an Oriole.

Which is to say, and let me be clear: Mussina is not an Oriole.

He’s a former Oriole who deserves credit for what he did here on the field, but that’s it. His name doesn’t belong with those of Ripken and Robinson and Murray. It doesn’t even belong with names like Boddicker or Bordick. Mussina was a first-tier player when he was here, but he became a third-tier name when he joined the Yankees.

Maybe that sounds harsh and maybe it sounds like sour grapes but in reality it’s neither. It’s simply what it is. Just like his decision to head to New York.

There’s more to sports than just what happens on the field. Choices matter. You can’t leave the team that groomed you and gave you a chance to be great for that team’s most bitter rival without giving up something in return.

So, welcome to the OHOF, Mike. May your ceremony be brief and your applause muted. You deserve that much and nothing more.

(photo via Flickr user jacorbett70)

17 comments to On Mike Mussina, Who Deserves Only What He Deserves

  • neal s

    Also: he never got a ring and, yeah, I’m good with that.

  • Bob Sachs

    I loved Mussina like all Oriole fans but when he left for a few extra millions that was it.

    We had no stopper after he left.

    He cut a giant hole right through our entire rotation.

    I always hoped that he would be a curse to the Yankees and he actually was. . They never won a title with him.

    You can’t go home again that easily.

    He doesn’t deserve to be in our hall of fame.

    Let him go elsewhere.

  • Dave T

    Loved the article — and totally agree! I despised him for going THERE and it’s too bad he now has to go into the Oriole HOF. Here’s hoping that he doesn’t make the MLB Hall of Fame. Never won a Cy Young, never won 20 games in a season, and didn’t win 300. Hopefully, those things will keep the traitor out of the Big Hall!

  • Blood Sweat and Beers

    You guys are brutal. I’m late 20’s and some of my fondest memories were of Mussina pitching. The Mussina vs. Randy Johnson battles. The nail biting, almost no hitters he had. I loved Mike Mussina. I was disappointed and angry when he left too but we now have the fortune of hindsight. Look at the trainwreck he left. That’s where the Oriole way (the usually cheap, almost always wrong way) started. Wish it wasn’t the Yankees but Mike was one of the major reasons I was an Oriole fanatic in the 90’s and I thank him for that and don’t fault him for making an attempt in the latter part of his career to win and do it at a fair market price.

  • brooks

    @ Dave T:

    actually, he won 20 in his final season. you can also make the case that he would have almost certainly won 20 in 94 and 95 if not for the strike. while he didn’t win 300, props to him for not hanging on another 2-3 years like glavine. not that he should be in the orioles hall of fame.

    he is probably the best pitcher we’ve ever had, especially given the era he pitched in. you can’t blame him for leaving either, with angelos stiffing him after paying up for belle, palmeiro, alomar, and getting a discount the first time with moose. but you can blame him for leaving for the yankees, and that’s why he doesn’t belong.

  • Ballmer Bruce

    Mussina left the Orioles for one reason. Angelos tried to get him cheap and as ususal screwed the pooch. I wish Mike could have stayed with the O’s but he made the right decision for his family financially.

  • Patrick O.

    What everyone forgets is that Mussina not only left Baltimore, he also refused to waive his no-trade clause to go to New York. He waited until he became a free agent. This way he made sure that the Orioles got nothing for him when he left. He does not deserve to be in ANY Hall of Fame, much less the Orioles HOF.

  • Mike R

    Looking back, I can deal with putting Mussina in the O’s HOF now that it has been over 10 years. Free agency is common place now, unlike in the 60’s 70’s and 80’s where most of our O’s hall of famers come from. Yeah, he went to the Yankees, but he also went in search of a ring. As good as he was, he very much deserved one. It was clear after that 2000 season that the Orioles were no longer in the business of trying to win, with them not retaining Raffy, Baines, Bonilla, Alomar, Surhoff, Wells, Myers, and the list goes on. He was a 10 year vet and a rebuilding team wasn’t the right spot for him. I don’t think he’s a baseball hall of famer, but I would say he is the second best pitcher the O’s ever had.

    Although I think Neal sums it correctly. A light applause, take your plaque, and go back home. I don’t want to hear him make a speech about how much he loves Baltimore. That should be interesting. What do you think he’ll have to say? Cliche bullshit? “If I could do it over again…” “We all make bad choices…”

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    choices matter…unless you’re the orioles then we should blindly follow. bit of a disconnect there.

  • sci

    From ESPN’s AL East preview, predicting the O’s:

    5th Place
    Best-case scenario: Left-handers Brian Matusz and Zach Britton make major strides before the team is crushed under the weight of a powerful division. For the sixth straight year, Baltimore fails to win 70 games; for the 15th straight year, the team has a losing record. Yes, this is the best-case scenario.
    Worst-case scenario: Matusz’s oblique injury limits the velocity that once made him a top prospect, and Toronto’s improvement makes Baltimore even more of an AL East whipping boy than usual. The O’s end up breaking the club record (107 in 1988) for losses in a season.

    I mean, I know it’s all somewhat justified, but I cannot remember a season with these kinds of expectations, i.e. less than zero. The sheer depth of negativity toward this team in the national press is really amazing. Given where we’re at with the predictions, if even ONE good thing happens this year, it’s gravy. Most of these write-ups just seem kind of lazy. No one outside this town gives a shit about this team, on any level.

  • sci

    Regarding Mussina, I agree with the “polite clapping” sentiment. But he does deserve to be in the O’s Hall of Fame, based on performance. No doubt about that.

  • Andrew

    I lived in Rochester, NY for six years and spent a lot of summers up there watching Yankee games on YES because that’s what was on. They were never entertaining; spending your life rooting against a team – especially a wildly successful one – isn’t remotely satisfying.

    It got to the point that I could feel myself becoming less of an Oriole fan and more of a Yankee hater. You might think those come in one package, but they don’t. I cared less about the Orioles getting better and more about the Yankees getting worse. I’d celebrate their losses, especially in the playoffs, with far more glee than any Oriole win would give me.

    I hated that feeling. Living in anger and hatred, even on as trivial a scale as sports fandom, fucking blows. I guess I blamed New York for the sorry state of the Orioles and wanted revenge. But then I did two things: One, I realized the sorry state of the Orioles has nothing to do with the Yankees, or Mussina, or Teixeira, or anybody except Peter Angelos and the rest of the Orioles front office members over the years. Two, I stopped being angry.

    I mean, I still root against the Yankees, don’t get me wrong, but fuck’em, who cares about ’em? I’m an Orioles fan – I root for the Orioles and I celebrate the Orioles. And when I made that conscious choice, I found that – goddamnit – I loved Mike Mussina again.

    You know, when I was first learning to love baseball, it was because of Moose, Chris Hoiles, Brady Anderson, and of course Cal. All four of those guys I hold in the absolute highest honor, because they made me a baseball fan. An Orioles fan. Those guys are the very definition of Orioles. First tier.

    So, no, when Moose goes in, I will be there screaming emphatically and smiling and wearing my late ’90s Mussina shirsey that I still have after all these years. And that won’t be half of what he deserves from Oriole fans.

  • ct

    the world we live in now a days lends to our favorite players rarely finishing where they start. Not sure we can hold it against them as most of would leave our companies if we had a chance to make triple where we were employed presently

  • Jeffrey Duncan

    Neal, I’m glad you wrote about this Mussina business. To me, he’s a yank. Maybe it’s like a reverse Roberto Alomar situation. RA was a great Oriole for a minute but he’s really more of a jay.

    Maybe if we didn’t have a yankee statue at the entrance to our park I’d feel less cheap putting him in the Orioles HOF (whatever honor that is).

    I think I’d take Gregg Olson, Joe Orsulak, Mike Devereaux, Bob Milacki, or even Ben McD from that period over Moose.

    For what it’s worth, my Ma threw in the towel on the modern Birds for 2 reasons:
    1. Jon Miller getting canned for not being enough of a homer
    2. Lowballing Moose

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    smart woman. it really is hilarious to me that mussina is arguably the best oriole not named cal in the last forty years and people are like “fuck him for not bending over for the game’s worst owner and team with no future”. i watched the ’96 divisional series game against the mariners recently when he beat RJ twice…totally depressing.

  • Mike R

    Maybe it’s just spring training, but Mike Bordick is quiet and boring as hell in the booth with thorny.

  • Miles

    @ Mike R:

    I’m watching the replay this morning and thinking the same thing.

    On the flip side, Dempsey’s Brew Pub in the former Bud Light Warehouse Bar space. Who’s joining me for a Rain Delay IPA on Friday?