Congrats to The Moose
In his sixth year of eligibility, former Orioles ace Mike Mussina is finally headed to Cooperstown. “Moose” was elected to the Hall of Fame earlier this week with 76.7% of the vote (needing 75%). He’ll be joined in this year’s class by Mariano Rivera, Edgar Martinez and Roy Halladay, who will go in posthumously after tragically passing away late in 2017. Fellow former Orioles Lee Smith and Harold Baines will also be enshrined this summer in upstate New York after being selected in December by the Today’s Game Era Committee.
I didn’t think Mussina’s election to the Hall would hit me the way it did. I watched on MLB Network on Tuesday and was overjoyed when his name was announced. It was surprising to me that I felt the chills on my arms that are normally only produced by big moments in the most important of games. Mussina’s election is a big deal, not just for him, but for Orioles fans. There is a wide array of O’s fans who are like me, elated to see Mussina go in and be revered as one of baseball’s best. But there are just as many, if not more, who couldn’t care less. There are even those Orioles fans who were rooting against Mussina’s chances to get into the Hall because of his decision to leave as a free agent after a decade in Baltimore and join the Yankees. These fans are kind of nuts. They make it seem like Mussina betrayed the Orioles in some fashion. These are many of the same fans who were happy to see Manny Machado get traded last summer because they somehow felt betrayed by him.
The truth is, Mussina didn’t betray the Orioles. He took a better contract in New York just like any other player would’ve.
There’s also a great debate going on over which logo, if any, will go on Mussina’s cap for his Hall of Fame plaque. This also doesn’t really matter. The 50-year-old has been quoted as saying he couldn’t choose, but the Hall very well may do it for him. They could also allow his cap to go logo-less. Regardless, Mussina spent 10 seasons as an Oriole, and was a great one. He was the second-best pitcher in team history, behind only Jim Palmer. No one is going to take that away from him. It doesn’t matter what a logo on a cap on a plaque in a building in upstate New York says. The Hall of Fame is a wonderful place that I encourage everyone to visit at least once, but it’s also just a building. It’s a museum, more than anything.
Mussina’s legacy won’t reside in that building on that plaque. It will reside in record books, highlights and memories of him actually pitching. There are plenty of players we think of with different teams. Mussina was definitely a Yankee, but he was also an Oriole. Frank Robinson played 10 seasons for the Reds and only six for the O’s, but is in the Hall with a bird on his cap. I know that Mussina played for the Orioles because I saw it happen. I don’t need his cap to tell me that.
The real conversation over the coming weeks and months will be what the Orioles do to honor Mussina’s induction this summer. Each of the Orioles in the Hall of Fame have a statue in “Legends Park.” Does Mussina get the same treatment? Is he an Orioles “legend” and what even constitutes that? According to Baseball Reference’s WAR, Mussina is the fifth-best Oriole of all-time. That’s well ahead of Frank Robinson, who they have 11th. But that’s also because Robinson, again, only played six years in Baltimore. Mussina was without question the team’s ace for a decade. He was their go-to guy in the rotation in an era where offense was booming. I think Mussina should get a statue. Maybe it won’t happen this summer, but he’s a Hall of Famer an is indeed one of the best players to ever put on the Orioles jersey.
The team should honor him as such.
O’s Biggest “Acquisition?” Billy Joel.
Few other things have happened since the last time I wrote in this space. New O’s manager Brandon Hyde finalized his coaching staff this week. That’s something. Manny Machado still hasn’t signed a contract with a team. Neither has Adam Jones, for that matter. Pitchers and catchers report in less than three weeks.
The biggest thing that has happened in my mind’s eye in the last month with the Orioles, actually has to do with Billy Joel. The “Piano Man” will play the first-ever concert at Camden Yards this summer, and it’s a bigger deal than you think. When the move was announced earlier this month, it was announced by the Orioles, Live Nation and “Orioles Entertainment.” That’s something new and exciting.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards has hosted the Pope, but never a concert. To me, this signals changes within the Warehouse that are all positive. The fact that the organization would stretch itself to finally find other ways to gain revenue is an important thing. Things are changing within the leadership and even the ownership of the Orioles. After the way things have been run, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Rather than sit and bore you with a bunch of puns created out of Billy Joel songs, I’ll simply tell you that these types of events and changes are something Orioles fans have been hoping to see, for “The Longest Time” (okay, I couldn’t resist).
Finally, I hope some fans are able to get out to FanFest this weekend at the convention center. It’s always a sure sign that winter is quickly heading into spring and that baseball is near. Many of the names that will be in attendance won’t be familiar, but that’s also going to be the case throughout the season.
This weekend really marks the start of this new era of Orioles baseball. It’s a chance to get out and shake some hands and hear from the new regime. Before we know it, the sound of a ball hitting a mitt will be here.