The Peter Principles (Ch. 11) – Letting The Moose Loose in pinstripes

August 11, 2017 | Nestor Aparicio

to win. He was easily a Top 10 pitcher in MLB and would’ve been considered a No. 1 – or ace, in baseball parlance – for virtually any club in baseball.

More importantly for Angelos, Mussina loved the Orioles. He loved Baltimore. He had taken a very club-favorable deal four years earlier and left millions on the table, much to the chagrin of the Major League Baseball Players Association, who once admonished him publicly via Tom Glavine. The Braves pitcher spoke for all of the union, who believed that Mussina cost other top-flight pitchers plenty of money when he should’ve been setting the market at the time for all of his MLBPA mates. Remember, these two men were among the many who fought with the owners during the 1994 labor stoppage as MLBPA union reps. It was an endless battle between ownership and the union over money and ideology – but mostly money.

And now it was Mussina’s turn, once again, to get paid the market rate for his work with the Orioles. Angelos had the reins on the negotiations given Syd Thrift’s incompetence and/or lack of true ability to execute a deal with well-heeled agent Arm Tellem. At this point, most agents knew to never deal with Thrift because he was incapable of making any final decision under Angelos. If you weren’t dealing with the owner, you were wasting your time. And as Sele and Reich found out, even when you believed you had a definitive answer and a “deal,” it still wasn’t a binding contract when you’re dealing with someone as slippery as Peter G. Angelos.

At this point, there was no handshake with Angelos that was sacred or secure.

Despite Mussina’s broad understanding of the game’s history and negotiations – his senior thesis at Stanford in 1989 was entitled “The Economics of Baseball” – there was a prevailing opinion that Angelos had the upper hand in this dance because his employee didn’t want to leave. Angelos was looking to exploit that universally held belief all along.

In October 1999, Mussina and his younger brother Mark, who did sports radio at WNST-AM 1570 in Baltimore for a few years, were visiting Tellem in California to discuss the game plan heading into his “walk” year. Mark confided late one night privately to Tellem that he thought that his big brother should find the open market and see what his real value was around MLB. Tellem said: “I wish he’d do that, too. But he wants to stay in Baltimore and we’re going to do what he wants to do.”

Now, entering spring training 2000 with an aging team and an expiring deal, the Orioles needed to sign their best player or deal with the possibility of a bidding war – or even worse, losing a player they couldn’t possibly replace via free agency at any price.

Mussina watched Angelos personally get involved in giving Albert Belle five years and $65 million to be a train wreck and an albatross for every player in the clubhouse. “Moose” was a no-nonsense, conservative guy from Montoursville, Pa. who worked hard, pitched hard, cared a lot about winning and had the pride of a champion. Mussina didn’t like politics at all. For the most part, he kept his mouth shut – as Cal Ripken always demanded in a clubhouse that was policed solely by him – while years of wretched behavior, lies, cover ups and losing surfaced all