By Sweeny Murti
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Some more thoughts on the upcoming Hall of Fame results:
• Mike Mussina’s case has been gaining steam, and even though he will, in all likelihood, fall short this time, his day in the sun will be coming because — as seems to happen with Hall of Fame candidacies — his case gets stronger every year we are removed from his career and get to appreciate it more.
Something that Mussina said to me earlier this month keeps sticking out as a major argument in his favor. It was in regards to his lack of hardware to go with his win total.
“If I had two Cy Young Awards to go with 270 (wins), we wouldn’t be having this kind of discussion,” Mussina said. Meaning, of course, that he would already be enshrined in Cooperstown.
And that’s not about adding the “ifs” and “almosts” to his career portfolio. Mussina is OK with the fact that voting for a Cy Young Award was out of his control.
“You have a great year, and someone else had a greater year,” Mussina said.
But how much should the individual honors change things in this particular case?
Johan Santana and Tim Lincecum have four Cy Young Awards, three no-hitters and three World Series rings between them. They have also combined for 249 wins over 22 seasons. Their dominance for a short time was brilliant, far better than Mussina’s. But the Hall of Fame honors careers, and Mussina’s career will stand taller year after year when we see that even 250 wins will be a number that gets harder and harder to reach.
One of the things that stood out to me during the first half of Mussina’s Yankees tenure was his toughness in big games.
Yes, there was Game 1 of the 2001 World Series or Game 5 of the 2005 ALDS that don’t enhance the reputation.
But consider that he pitched 10 scoreless innings in a pair of elimination games that were memorable for different reasons. Mussina threw seven innings in the 1-0 win in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS that is remembered for Derek Jeter’s flip to Jorge Posada, who narrowly tagged out Oakland’s Jeremy Giambi at the plate. And Mussina came out of the bullpen to toss three scoreless innings to stabilize Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, which the Yankees tied with an eighth-inning rally against Boston’s Pedro Martinez and eventually won on Aaron Boone’s dramatic home run in extra innings.
Speaking of Martinez, he did battle with Mussina quite often from 2001-04. At the peak of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, these M&M boys squared off against each other seven times in the regular season. The Yankees won five of the seven games while Mussina pitched to a 1.67 ERA and threw at least eight innings five times.
It’s not unfair to suggest Mussina was never the best pitcher in his era, overshadowed by Martinez or Randy Johnson or Roger Clemens or others. But matched up against the best when the stakes were high, he certainly didn’t fold.
• Jorge Posada’s time on the ballot may be short-lived. His public vote total had been hovering under the 5 percent threshold that would keep him on the ballot beyond this year.
I maintain that Posada in almost all certainty is not a Hall of Famer, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a little more time to appreciate a career like his before putting that in stone? Ted Simmons (1970s) and Lance Parrish (1980s) were among the best catchers in their eras, overshadowed by more surefire candidates such as Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter. Both Simmons and Parrish were knocked off the ballot after just one year, just like Posada could very well have happen to him.
Every year there are guys who get about 10 or 20 percent of the vote, and we wonder if they should get more. Those players get another chance the next year. For the under-5-percent crew, there are no other chances.
And that’s a shame because it would be nice to spend more time appreciating careers like that, even if they don’t belong in Cooperstown.
• Former Yankees Graig Nettles and Bucky Dent will be honored at next month’s Thurman Munson Awards.
Nettles hasn’t appeared at Yankee Stadium in a few years. His absence from Monument Park is something that needs to be corrected.
No, not because he was a Ruth-Gehrig-Mantle-DiMaggio-Berra-Jeter level Yankees great. But because Monument Park is more than that. Nettles was an outstanding player on four pennant winners and two world championship team, and in 1982 he was named the team’s first captain since Munson. When Jeter has his day this May, Nettles will be the only one of the last seven team captains since Lou Gehrig not recognized in Monument Park.
You can see Nettles, Dent and current phenom and honoree Gary Sanchez on Feb. 7 at the 37th annual Thurman Munson Awards in New York City. Tickets are available at https://www.ahrcnycfoundation.org/events.
Follow Sweeny on Twitter at @YankeesWFAN