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The jam-packed 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot was released yesterday, and in the middle of the surefire yeses (Maddux, Glavine), litany of holdover maybes (Biggio, Piazza) and almost definite nos (Bonds, Clemens) there is Mike Mussina. Mussina's HOF case has been a topic of conversation going back to the days when he was still active, and now that he's eligible and on the ballot we'll get our first chance to see how the voters really feel about his qualifications.
"But Brad, what about you? What's your hot take on Moose's HOF worthiness?" Glad you asked, nobody. Glad you asked.
Personally, I think Moose should get in and it doesn't have anything to do with the fact that he pitched in the steroid era and most likely wasn't on steroids. What he lacks in standout numbers, Cy Young awards, and World Series rings he more than makes up for in longevity and consistently being one of the best pitchers of his era. He made 30 or more starts 12 times in his career. He pitched at least 152 innings in 17 of his 18 seasons and 200+ in 11 seasons. He had double digit wins in every full season of his career, 15 or more 11 times, 18 or more 6 times, and there's something to be said for notching your first career 20-win season in your final season at age 39.
And not for nothing, but 9 top 6 Cy Young finishes, 6 top 5s, 5 ASG appearances, and 7 Gold Gloves is nothing to sneeze at. If I wanted to, I could make the case that he was worthy of winning the Cy Young in '95 and 2001 or at the very least worthy of finishing higher than 5th in the voting. Add to that the 270 wins, .638 career winning percentage, and a handful of league-leading numbers and I think that should be enough to get him in.
If we're going to say baseball is a team game and it takes every member of the team to win a title, I don't think it's fair to grade Moose's HOF worthiness down for not having a ring. He was unlucky enough to play at the height of Toronto's early 90s dominance, the height of the Yankees' late 90s dynasty, and moved to New York during the decline of that dynasty. His resume still has plenty on it without a ring and that includes some very good postseason numbers and memorable postseason appearances. Eventually I think he will get in, and I'd definitely vote for him if I had a vote, but I'd be surprised if it happens this year.