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September 27, 2008 at 10:07 am ET
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Can Red Sox keep Mussina out of the Hall of Fame?

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.  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.

Almost.

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6 Responses to “Can Red Sox keep Mussina out of the Hall of Fame?”
  1. FrankDiscussion says:

    I think Mussina has in his favor the fact that he was never implicated in any of that steroid business, his numbers are legit. I think he is deserving of the HOF, but my opinion doesn’t count for much. Still, I hope he is able to get his 20.

  2. edrebber says:

    Will the baseball writers take into account that Mussina had to pitch against opponents who were cheating by takeing steroids? And yet he was still successful.

  3. coops2001 says:

    Unfortunatelym the writers do focus on stats like 300 wins, 20 win seasons. One could argue that Allie Reynolds (182-107, 49 saves, 3.30 era, 2 no-hitters with a WS record of 7-2, 4 saves 2.79 era) should be in the HOF before Mussina. But Reynolds will never make the HOF because he didn’t have 200+ wins.

  4. Jeff says:

    Nice piece Cam. It’s refreshing to know that Sox fans can also be fans of baseball in general.

  5. coops2001 says:

    I took it more as a piece on how one game (or one metric) effects an athlete, whether it be 20 wins, WS ring, not disimilar to how Dan Marino is impacted by his lack of a SB ring. I didn’t take it as how the RS themselves would impact Mussina’s HOF chances.

    An interesting addition might be the list of pitchers that would make it in before Mussina (Maddox, Glavine, RJohnson, Smoltz…) and those that wouldn’t (Wells, Pettite…). Where would you put Schilling on such a list?

  6. Coops, I’d put Schilling after that first batch you mentioned, but before Wells and Pettite. Not necessarily from a personal affinity towards Schilling, but more from where I think the BBWAA would place him. I looked at Schilling’s stats again while putting together the piece on Mussina, and if you were reading the back of his baseball card, I don’t think you’d consider him a surefire Hall of Famer. Just reading down his win totals in the left-hand column, there’s a considerable amount of inconsistency and unimpressive years.

    Starting in 1992, when he first became a full-time starter, these are his yearly win totals up to 2007:

    14
    16
    2
    7
    9
    17
    15
    15
    11
    22
    23
    8
    21
    8
    15
    9

    Granted, win totals are an overrated barometer of a pitcher’s worth, but there’s an awful lot of lemon-like years in there, mostly due to injury. Six years of under 10 wins? Schilling’s heights exceeded those put forth by Wells and Pettiitte and Mussina, but he probably had worse lows — at least compared to Pettitte and Mussina, who seemed more consistent

    Still, his postseason exploits will probably put him into the Hall before those guys. And frankly, I doubt Pettiitte will ever make it. He doesn’t have the accumulated stats or a history of even short-term domination.

    Interesting point you made about Allie Reynolds. Dizzy Dean only had 150 wins and he’s in the Hall.

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