Mussina should be in the Hall of Fame discussion indeed
I usually roll my eyes at phrases like this. When people say that a player belongs in the MVP discussion or whatever, they almost always mean “He certainly isn’t the MVP, but we might talk about him as the MVP if the other ten all caught fire tomorrow.”
What’s that conversation like?
“Who are you voting for on your ballot? Say, at the 8th or 9th position?”
“Joe Shlabotnik, he’s done a lot to keep the Pirates from losing 110 games.”
“I have him at 7.”
“Seven seems high. But I’m glad we both have him in the conversation.”
In rough order, here are the active pitchers who should get in:
Greg Maddux (twice, if possible)
(Then the cloud of possibles: Glavine, Moyer, Smoltz, Schilling)
Pedro and Mussina provide a great contrast: Pedro’s peak was just astonishing, even though he’s been fragile and his time as a Met’s been injury-ridden while he struggles to hit career marks. Against that, Mussina’s a Hall of Fame candidate by being consistently excellent, often in Pedro’s shadow. If you’re ever willing to buy that a player can get in by being one of the best for a long time, this is your player.
Mussina’s been in the top ten for ERA ten times in his career. Eight of those times he was in the top five. He’s the 91st-best pitcher ever at not walking guys, the 75th-best at striking them out. And remember, when we talk about those, he’s going up against guys like Al Spalding, John Ward, Pud Gavin, Candy Cummings — every pitcher in every era, while Mussina’s debut was in 1991 and he’s toiled in an offense-heavy game.
He hasn’t piled up his career wins by grinding out season after season of ineffective baseball, either — he’s got those rate stats and is fifth on the active pitcher list for innings pitched.
I don’t see how anyone can look at Mussina’s amazing career and not see someone who deserves induction as one of the best pitchers in baseball.