I must start by saying I'm not unbiased about this.
This isn't because I'm friends with Mike Mussina or anything like that. I've had few conversations with the man. I'm not unbiased because my formative years as a baseball fan (and in particular an Orioles fan) happen to line up with some of the newly elected Hall of Famer's best and most significant seasons in orange and black.
Mike Mussina was the best Oriole on some very good Orioles teams during a time that helped define my fandom. His election to Cooperstown is a joyous occasion for me as a fan. It is a moment that has been long overdue and should be greeted with great joy by all Orioles fans.
With that said, I have to admit that I'm absolutely stunned by how some Orioles fans continue to feel about Mussina. Or perhaps I'm not stunned. Perhaps I just think it's flat-out embarrassing.
While hosting the Jan. 19 edition of "The Bat Around," I tossed out this topic ahead of the Hall of Fame announcement: "If Mike Mussina gets elected to the Hall of Fame this week, what should the Orioles do to recognize it? Number retired and honored in the (Hall of Fame plaza) area on Eutaw Street outside the park? Statue? Does it matter if he goes in with the O's on his cap or not?"
A smattering of the responses I received:
- "If he goes in as a NYY (New York Yankees), screw him!"
- "If he goes in and chooses a Yankees cap, ignore it altogether"
- "Nothing if he goes in as a Yankee"
- "Nothing. He's a Yankee."
I'll pause there. On the Jan. 21 edition of "Glenn Clark Radio," I asked whether Orioles fans were emotionally invested in whether Mussina reached Cooperstown.
Again, a smattering of the responses:
- "Couldn't possibly care any less"
- "Don't really care one way or another"
- "I'm still bitter"
- "He's a MFY (mother f!*&ing Yankee). No more interest in Moose than [Andy] Pettitte."
By no means am I suggesting that these particular responders make up some sort of overwhelming majority of Orioles fans. But the truth is that I received at least as many responses like this as I have glowingly positive reactions.
This surrounding the moment when the second greatest pitcher in franchise history -- a player who spent a decade of dominance as a true "ace" in our city -- was set to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
You guys might as well be wearing a hospital gown because you are really showing your ass.
Not only does Mussina deserve to be recognized in the exact same way the Orioles' other six Hall of Famers are, he deserves that recognition regardless of the cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.
How pathetic is our obsession with this concept, you guys?
A number of you will legitimately formulate your opinion about how the Orioles recognize Mussina based not on his accomplishments, but instead based on a piece of artwork that will reside 5.5 hours away from Charm City.
Mussina says he can't choose between the Orioles and Yankees when it comes to his plaque. That's ... overwhelmingly understandable. He spent 10 years in one location and eight in the other. He reached the playoffs in both spots. He was a five-time All-Star in Baltimore and a 20-game winner in New York. He took a hometown discount to stay in Baltimore in 1997 (despite the frustrations of the Players Association) -- only to see the Orioles unwilling to pay him market value to keep him three years later.
The answer is obvious. Mussina's Hall of Fame plaque, much like Greg Maddux's, should have no logo. It's insane to believe that he should strongly push the Hall of Fame to choose one or the other.
But yet for some reason, we're so unbelievably insecure (and pathetic) as baseball fans, that our willingness to even acknowledge the true greatness of one of the best players to ever put on an Orioles uniform is somehow tied to whether he'd be willing to give the middle finger to the fans he had in New York and force the folks in Cooperstown to only recognize him as an Oriole.
Are we kidding with this?
If Mike Mussina's Cooperstown plaque has an Orioles cap, he will have spent 10 seasons in Baltimore, finishing in the top 10 of Cy Young Award voting seven times, pitching to a 3.53 ERA and 1.175 WHIP in the American League East in a hitters' park during the height of the steroid era.
If Mike Mussina's Cooperstown plaque has a Yankees cap or no logo at all, he will have spent 10 seasons in Baltimore, finishing in the top 10 of Cy Young Award voting seven times, pitching to a 3.53 ERA and 1.175 WHIP in the American League East in a hitters' park during the height of the steroid era.
You see how stupid you sound? Nothing changes! It's a stupid logo on a plaque that perhaps you might actually see in person like once or twice for the rest of your life. THIS is what you think should be the determining factor in how the Orioles choose to honor one of their own iconic players?
Mussina was a historically great Oriole no matter what's on his plaque. The number 35 should be taken out of rotation and honored on Eutaw Street. He should join the other Orioles greats who are honored in the picnic area beyond center field. (To be fair, I'm actually opposed to statues in general. But if you're going to have them, there is no reason to exclude Mussina, particularly based on a silly plaque hat logo.)
Yes, Mussina also pitched for the Yankees. And yeah, I know, we don't like the Yankees. And yeah, I know, I just wrote a column a couple days ago that suggested it was
OK for sports fans to be petty
toward annoying opponents. But being petty toward one of the greatest players in the history of your own team? What exactly is the point of being a sports fan if you can't simply celebrate one of the great moments for one of the great players in your team's history?
If this is your kind of petty, we should probably call you Tom. Because I'm not sure we need you to "Come Around Here No More."
Congratulations to Mike, and may the Orioles rightly honor him whether he goes into the Hall of Fame wearing their hat, their rivals' or even a Montoursville Warriors cap. Come to think of it, I kinda hope he chooses that.
Follow Glenn Clark on Twitter @GlennClarkRadio
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles