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

August 11, 2017 | Nestor Aparicio

around him from The Warehouse. He was the Orioles union representative heading into the 1994 work stoppage. He had heard all of the MLB rhetoric from the owners and had read Lords Of The Realm.

Despite giving the Orioles a “hometown discount” the first time around, Mussina was not Angelos’ fool from the hills of Pennsylvania. He came home from Palo Alto with an economics degree in 3 ½ years. His dad was a well-heeled attorney in Williamsport, Pa., home of the Little League World Series and Hall of Fame. Tellem, who also represented Albert Belle and several other All Stars in Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association, was the right man to find his value in the marketplace and strike a fair market deal. Mussina was a crossword puzzle aficionado and champion, and he was trying to solve this complex riddle with the Orioles without feeling emotional.

Four years earlier, Mussina signed an extension for three years and $20.5 million (with a portion deferred) – after inferior starting pitcher Alex Fernandez landed a 5-year, $35 million deal with the Florida Marlins and then tanked with an injury. Angelos always loved doing deferred deals and demanded it in many cases. Most agents balked, believing they were selling their client short of present-day value. Plus, other MLB teams would never broach the topic because they were trying to attract players, not offend them.

Mussina had already left millions on the table once, so Angelos sensed his weakness. But this time around, after pitching for $3-to-5 million under the market rate in 1998 and 1999, when he finished second in Cy Young Award voting behind Pedro Martinez, Mussina was drawing a harder line and was more apt to be insulted when Angelos negotiated from a position that “Moose” would never consider leaving the Orioles.

When the Sele deal fell apart – one more red flag and embarrassment for the club – it certainly cleared the way for the Orioles to have more funds remaining in an attempt to keep Mussina away from free agency at the end of the 2000 season. And even with the Orioles kingdom seemingly imploding at every level – for the first time since Camden Yards was built, the team was having trouble selling tickets in the offseason and around the holidays – Mussina still fancied being in Baltimore and playing his entire career with one team.

On Jan. 22, 2000, Mussina said he was “more open” to exploring the free agent market at the end of the season but reiterated his long-stated desire to stay with the Orioles.

On March 17, with a five-year, $50 million offer on the table for Mussina – or about half of what former Orioles teammate Kevin Brown got from the Los Angeles Dodgers in December 1998 – Angelos invited Tellem to meet in Fort Lauderdale. After a two-hour meeting, both sides offered wildly different interpretations of where they were in the negotiation. The Sun quoted a “team source” as saying “tangible progress” was made and “it was only a matter of time before a deal is struck.” Meanwhile, Tellem wasn’t so bullish on the prognosis, offering only: “I think a number of things got accomplished, but it would be premature to say anything further.”

After years of using the media and his fax machine to get his message out, Angelos was now beginning to hide behind his public relations staff. Team spokesman Bill Stetka told The Sun, “The Orioles have every intention of keeping Mike in Baltimore. That’s always been the case,” adding that his boss was encouraged by the chat with Tellem in Florida. Stetka also said the meeting was “productive” and “cordial.”

Mussina insisted he wasn’t chasing the monumental 7-year, $105 million deal that Kevin Brown landed in Hollywood. But he was also insistent that he would demand the market rate and not provide the “hometown” discounted deal he settled for years earlier when he had no interest in rocking the boat. “I’ve told Arn not to come to me with anything until he feels it’s close,” Mussina said. “I’m just concentrating on pitching. The other stuff will take care of itself, either sooner or later. I’m pretty sure demand for what I do won’t go down anytime soon.”

Spoken like a true economics major, even if Mussina had never shown a hint of greediness with the organization. If anything, it was just the opposite. He cost himself millions of dollars by playing nice the first time around. Now, he was watching the likes of Albert Belle get unprecedented