Sports Outside the Beltway

No boos for Moose

Early in Mike Mussina’s career, a co-worker asked me why it was that the Orioles fans booed him. It took me a moment, but then I realized that they weren’t booing him. They were calling “M-o-o-o-s-e.”

From 1991 – 2000, Mussina was a fan favorite and when he bolted to New York, many fans and broadcasters wouldn’t forgive him. But it wasn’t his fault he left Baltimore.

Here’s what still irks me.

While ace pitcher Mike Mussina begins weighing offers from other teams, starting with the New York Yankees’ opening bid on Tuesday, the Baltimore Orioles continue holding on to hope that they can keep him, pointing to Mussina’s promise to give them the last bid.

Instead of bidding seriously to re-sign Mussina they fell back on “… well he promised!”

Of course the Yankees would have none of that. They were serious about signing Mussina while the Orioles were passive. The Yankees offered Mussina a generous deal on the condition that he not shop it around and that he respond in short order. What should Mussina have done? Gone to the Orioles and lost the Yankees offer? Would anyone have done that?

Ken Rosenthal has more on the Orioles passivity in the face of their star’s possible departure in a withering column in which he describes the Orioles (mis-)management of that era.

Under owner Peter Angelos, the Orioles have lost one of the game’s top broadcasters (Jon Miller), one of the best managers (Davey Johnson) and the man who almost single-handedly transformed the franchise (Frank Robinson).

They’ve lost many of the game’s brightest executives, from Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt to Padres president Larry Lucchino, Mariners general manager Pat Gillick to Rangers G.M. Doug Melvin.

And now they’ve lost Mike Mussina, their latter-day Jim Palmer.

When will it end? By now, the answer should be obvious: When Angelos, 71, no longer is owner.

His team is a laughingstock. His tenure is a flop. But he isn’t likely to sell, not when the team’s value is uncertain because of the threat of a competitor moving to northern Virginia–and not when his sons, John and Louis, are in position to assume control.

The Orioles under new GM Andy MacPhail might finally have started turning things around, but they still haven’t had a winning season since 1997. We’ll see how long Angelos will stick with MacPhail if the Orioles don’t improve fast.

Regardless the villain of Mussina’s departure wasn’t Mussina, but Angelos (and the wreck of a front office the team had back then.) So I wish Moose the best. I wouldn’t boo him. And I hope in five years or so he will be elected to the Hall of Fame. I’d love it if he wore and Orioles hat for that occasion, but if he doesn’t, I certainly understand.

Baseball Crank makes the HOF case for Mussina. And Rob Neyer (via Baseball Musings) notes that Mussina is in select company: one of only 5 Major League pitchers to win 20 games in his final season. One is Sandy Koufax, you probably haven’t heard of the other three.

For me there will be no boos for Moose.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.

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