If Mike Mussina beats the Red Sox tomorrow, he’ll win 20 games for the first time in his career. If he loses against Boston, he’ll finish with 19 wins for the third time. Will one 20-win season be enough to put Mussina in the Hall of Fame? Will the lack of one be enough to keep him out?
Knowing the Baseball Writers Association of America, which loves mediocre plateau-achievers like Phil Niekro and Don Sutton, I’d say yes — Mussina needs to win tomorrow to make the Hall of Fame.
Hey, no pressure, bro.
When Mussina comes up for election to the Hall of Fame (probably in 7-10 years), baseball writers will tick off the pros and cons of his candidacy — and his number of 20-win seasons will undoubtedly come up quickly; probably right after a discussion of his Cy Young Awards (currently 0); and his career win total.
Assuming Mussina returns next season (if not with the Yankees, then certainly with some other club), he’ll be able to add to his current win total, 269 (or 270).
However, unless he pitches two more seasons (winning at least 15 games per season), he’s not going to reach 300 wins, which would all but guarantee his induction to Cooperstown.
So, what looks better to the BBWAA? A guy with more than 280 wins and one 20-win season? Or a guy with more than 280 and three 19-win seasons?
Frankly, in this day and age of the five-man rotation, 18 wins should probably be the new 20. But the voters in the BBWAA don’t see it that way. Most of them think win totals are the beginning and end of any Hall of Fame discussion, actually arguing that guys like Tommy John deserve to make the Hall of Fame before pitchers like Curt Schilling.
With a good, but not great career ERA (3.69), Mussina has an across-the-board resume of Very Good but Not Great accomplishments. In addition to his lack of Cy Youngs and 20-win seasons, he’s never played on a World Series winner; he’s 7-8 with a 3.42 ERA in 23 postseason games; and he has no signature games: No perfect games, no-hitters or Game 7 gems.
He almost pitched a perfect game against the Red Sox in 2001. He’s almost won 20 games several times. And he’s almost won a World Series ring (2001).
Right now, he’s Mr. Almost.
If he beats the Sox on Sunday, however, he’s probably going to the Hall of Fame. Maybe not in his first year of eligibility, but eventually.Ã‚Â And all because of one win — a win that turns the very respectable “19” into the “great” 20.
Perhaps I’m not giving enough credit to writers in the BBWAA. Perhaps they’ll be able to understand that winning 19 games three times is pretty damn impressive, and that the lack of one 20-game season doesn’t mean a guy is NOT a Hall of Famer.
But I doubt it.
Hall writers are always looking for reasons NOT to vote for a guy. If Mussina wins 20 for the first time in his career, he’ll give them one less reason.
Good luck, Mike. As a Sox fan, I almost hope you get it.