Slowly but surely, Mike Mussina continues to rise from the ashes of a seemingly no-chance candidacy, moving ever closer to the Hall of Fame at least partly because voters have come to acknowledge the difficulty of pitching through the steroids era.
Five years ago Mussina received 20.3 percent of the vote in his first year on the ballot, miles from the needed 75 percent for election. But in the voting revealed Wednesday, the righthander came in at 63.5 percent, with five more years — if necessary — to garner that last 11.5 percent.
In other words, he’s all but a sure thing at this point, setting up something of a Yankee-themed day in Cooperstown either next year, when Mussina could go in with Mariano Rivera, or 2020 with Derek Jeter.
It is one of the more remarkable climbs in the history of the Hall of Fame voting, and I’m convinced it has a lot to do with voters coming to grips with the effects PEDs had in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Not that Mussina isn’t deserving. He just wasn’t a slam-dunk candidate, at least not for me. He pitched consistently at a high level for most of his 18 years in the big leagues, but he wasn’t Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, or Tom Glavine, all of whom were elected while Mussina was on the ballot.
To me, he falls behind Curt Schilling as well, mostly because Schilling was one of the greatest postseason pitchers in history. Yet the famed bloody-sock Red Sox pitcher received only 51.2 percent of the vote on Wednesday, actually down from his 52.3 percent two years ago, as he apparently continues to pay for doling out insults and idiotic commentary in public forums.
So, yes, you can make the argument that if Mussina is the seventh-best pitcher of his era, maybe that’s not good enough for the Hall of Fame, and with that in mind, I didn’t vote for him initially.
But like others, I’ve become convinced that wasn’t fair to him. Mussina, after all, put up 270 wins against only 153 losses during his career, and while his 3.68 ERA is higher than the usual Hall of Fame standard, you do have to factor in his era of inflated offense as well as the fact that he pitched only in the AL East, featuring band boxes in his home ballparks in Baltimore and the Bronx and some juggernaut lineups.
Perhaps he has also benefited from the other HOF pitchers coming off the ballot, but I think it’s more voters buying in to the difficulty of facing steroid-fueled sluggers for so many years, especially in such hitter-friendly ballparks.
So while Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens continue to pay dearly for the way they cheated the game, gaining only slightly to 56.4 and 57.3 percent respectively, Mussina zoomed by the notorious steroids users on Wednesday.
Which is how it should be.
Some other thoughts on the Hall of Fame voting:
- Chipper Jones, Jim Thome and Vlad Guerrero were all locks, sailing in easily. The surprise is still that Guerrero didn’t make it as a first-timer last year, as he and Jones, in particular, were players you knew were Hall of Famers practically from the moment they broke into the big leagues.
Thome didn’t necessarily pass that same eye test, but 612 home runs and a whopping .953 career OPS leaves no doubt of his HOF impact.
- It looks like Edgar Martinez should make it next year, his final year of eligibility, after getting 71.4 percent of the vote. That represents a huge, two-year jump from 43.4 percent, as voters are finally coming around to the idea that Martinez is one of the best pure hitters in baseball history.
- Only last year it seemed the PED wall was coming down, and quickly, with Pudge Rodriguez’s first-ballot election and sizable gains for Bonds and Clemens, who seemed to be moving inevitably toward election.
But Clemens gained only 2.8 percent in the voting this time, to his 57.3 total, while Bonds gained only 2.6 percent to get to 56.4. Voter attitudes overall are clearly softening on the steroids debate, but getting that last 20 percent or so won’t be easy. Based on these results, I don’t think they are getting there.
- Perhaps even more significantly, Manny Ramirez’s percentage went down, from 23.8 last year to 22 this time, an indication that voters will be especially tough on players who have failed drug tests. That’s bad news for Alex Rodriguez, for while A-Rod never failed a test, his season-long suspension puts him more in the Ramirez category than that of Bonds and Clemens.
- I’m good with Trevor Hoffman getting in, as relievers should be rewarded for excellence, even if their workloads aren’t what they were in the Goose Gossage era. But how can Hoffman get 79.9 percent of the vote and Billy Wagner only 11.1 percent? Wagner was more dominant in practically every category except saves, which aren’t the best measure of effectiveness. Maybe with Hoffman off the ballot, Wagner will get more love next year.
- Most puzzling vote: Jeff Kent, who is Hall of Fame-worthy, continues to do poorly in the voting, actually going down from 16.7 percent to 14.5. It may be a result of the crowded ballot, as voters can only vote for 10 players, but it’s still hard to explain.
- Most insulting vote: It’s not just that Johan Santana fell off the ballot, failing to reach the required five percent. But Jamie Moyer got as many votes as the two-time Cy Young winner, both coming in at 2.4 percent.
Source : http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/mike-mussina-edgar-martinez-destined-hall-fame-article-1.37775651201