Tag Archive | "Mike Mussina"

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Twelve Orioles thoughts on Mussina’s Hall of Fame election

Posted on 23 January 2019 by Luke Jones

With former Orioles great Mike Mussina finally being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. My only memory of Jim Palmer’s career was his short-lived comeback attempt in 1991, but nights when Mussina pitched inspired as much confidence about winning as you could have. Since Mussina’s 47.8 wins above replacement accumulated in Baltimore, the best Orioles pitcher WAR has been Jeremy Guthrie at 16.2.

2. I remember Mussina’s debut like it was yesterday as he lost 1-0 to the White Sox despite allowing only one run in 7 2/3 innings. That came on a homer by Frank Thomas, who wore out the right-hander throughout his career. You could tell Mussina was going to be good.

3. I rushed home from my own baseball game to watch the final innings of his near-perfect game against Cleveland in 1997 before Sandy Alomar singled with one out in the ninth. Four years later, thoughts were more conflicted as he was a strike away from perfection before falling short again.

4. Anyone who followed Mussina’s final few years in Baltimore couldn’t objectively fault him for leaving after being low-balled by Peter Angelos, but that didn’t make it any easier watching him pitch for the hated Yankees in the following years. To still hold a grudge, however, seems silly to me.

5. The debate over which cap Mussina should wear on his plaque makes for spirited discussion, but it shouldn’t impact how the Orioles honor him. That would be as weird as the tradition of there never being a unanimous Hall of Fame selection until Mariano Rivera on Tuesday.

6. Had Mussina won a World Series with the Yankees, it would have been tough not to compare his career path to that of Frank Robinson, who spent 10 seasons with Cincinnati before winning two championships and two other pennants with the Orioles. I’ll predict a blank cap for Mussina’s plaque.

7. Deciding how to honor Mussina is tricky since he never returned like Eddie Murray and didn’t win a World Series here. My preference would be the Orioles retiring his No. 35 while saving statues for Hall of Famers who also won a championship. It’s awkward, but still a distinct honor.

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8. In addition to his pitching excellence, Mussina won seven Gold Gloves, which is tied for fifth most among pitchers. He was also very good controlling the running game as 39 percent of base stealers were gunned down compared to the league average of 31 percent during his career.

9. It’s pretty remarkable that Mussina will be inducted in the same year as three former teammates: Rivera, Lee Smith, and Harold Baines. I can’t imagine that’s happened too often over the years.

10. I honestly wasn’t as sure about Mussina deserving to be in Cooperstown until I began embracing analytics and context-based statistics several years ago. As others have said, his election is a win for sabermetrics after he hovered below 25 percent of the vote in his first two years of eligibility.

11. Growing up, I spent countless afternoons in the backyard trying to throw Mussina’s knuckle-curve and imitate the pronounced way he’d bend at the waist from the stretch. Needless to say, I wasn’t very successful, but he was a treat to watch for a long time.

12. If the Baseball Hall of Fame had a sense of humor, Cito Gaston would be asked to introduce Mussina and would instead announce Duane Ward. Still too soon? No matter the circumstances, Mussina not pitching in the 1993 All-Star Game at Camden Yards was just wrong.

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Mussina finally moves out of shadows and into Cooperstown

Posted on 22 January 2019 by Luke Jones

Mike Mussina pitched in the shadows throughout his brilliant career.

As great as he was in Baltimore for a decade, he wasn’t Jim Palmer and naturally played second fiddle to legendary teammate Cal Ripken. Mussina thrived in the Bronx while Roger Clemens and the homegrown Andy Pettitte received more praise and adoration. Arguably three of the 10 best pitchers of all time — Clemens, Randy Johnson, and Greg Maddux — along with a top 20-caliber hurler in Pedro Martinez dominated the era in which Mussina pitched.

He was never the best pitcher in the game and lacked the pinnacle achievements typically associated with Cooperstown, but perseverance and statistical enlightenment have helped the former Orioles great finally take his rightful place in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

It was an outcome that appeared unlikely even a few years ago when Mussina received just 20.3 percent of the required 75 percent of Hall of Fame votes in 2014, his first year of eligibility. His 270 career wins appeared to satisfy a traditional standard — only three post-1900 pitchers with more victories have failed to be elected — and his 2,813 strikeouts rank 20th all time, but the lack of a Cy Young Award or a World Series championship as well as only one 20-win season left Mussina lacking in the minds of many traditional voters. A deeper look at the context of his career and the growing acceptance of sabermetrics, however, have brought greater appreciation for the five-time All-Star selection and seven-time Gold Glove winner.

It was a fitting progression for a pitching intellect rarely appreciated as much as he should have been over the course of his career.

His 82.9 career wins above replacement rank 23rd on the all-time list for pitchers with Clemens being the only one with a greater total not to be elected. Mussina ranked among the league’s top five pitchers in WAR seven times — leading that category in 2001 — and was in the top 10 an additional four times in his career, illustrating the longevity of his excellence despite not having an overwhelming career peak.

Mussina’s 3.68 career earned run average doesn’t scream “Cooperstown” at first glance — though Hall of Famers Jack Morris and Red Ruffing have higher marks — but what about accounting for the lucrative run-scoring environment of the steroid era as well as pitching his entire career in the American League East with its hitter-friendly ballparks? Mussina’s adjusted ERA (ERA+) of 123 meant his ERA was 23 percent better than the major league average during his career when adjusting for ballpark and opponent. In comparison, Palmer’s career 125 ERA+ meant his 2.86 career ERA was 25 percent better than the league average as he pitched in a much stingier run-scoring environment from the late 1960s through the early 1980s. Mussina’s adjusted ERA is tied for 30th among starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame.

We’ve always known — or should have, anyway — context matters when trying to compare players of different eras, and advanced statistics are giving us the means to do that more accurately, allowing us to see more clearly that Mussina belonged in the Hall of Fame.

Even after leaving the Orioles for the New York Yankees in 2001, Mussina never did win a World Series ring, but his 3.42 ERA in 139 2/3 playoff innings reflects a pitcher usually at his best when the games mattered most. Who could forget his 1997 postseason in which he registered a 1.24 ERA and a whopping 41 strikeouts in 29 innings? It wasn’t his fault the Orioles scored a total of one run in his two brilliants starts against Cleveland in that heartbreaking AL Championship Series. According to FanGraphs’ Jay Jaffe, Mussina received just 3.1 runs per game in his 23 career postseason appearances with Baltimore and New York.

So much of Mussina’s career will be remembered for how excruciatingly close he came to reaching historic feats. He never pitched a no-hitter, but he was two outs away from a perfect game against the Indians in 1997 before Sandy Alomar singled to left field, leaving Mussina with a one-hit shutout. Four years later pitching for the Yankees at Fenway Park, he experienced an even crueler fate being one strike away from perfection before pinch hitter Carl Everett’s single into left.

A 39-year-old Mussina finally won 20 games in his last season in 2008, but he’d won 16 and 19 games, respectively, in the strike-shortened seasons of 1994 and 1995. He missed out on his 20th victory in the penultimate game of the 1996 season when Armando Benitez gave up the game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth inning in Toronto. Those near-misses should count for something when evaluating a pitcher who performed at such a high level for a long period of time against someone else with a shorter period of excellence.

As we move further away from the days when 300-win careers and complete games were benchmarks of greatness, Mussina’s body of work will look better and better. Though often criticized during his career for not finishing contests as observers reminisced about Palmer’s remarkable 211 complete games, Mussina still averaged four complete games over his 162-game average, twice as many as the major league leader in 2018. He finished second in Cy Young voting only once, but eight other top-six finishes speak to how long he was an elite pitcher in the AL while some of the best of the all-time best in Clemens, Johnson, and Martinez dominated the headlines.

Beyond the numbers, Mussina possessed the rare combination of power and intellect, using his low-90s fastball to overpower hitters and making them look silly with his trademark knuckle-curve and superb changeup. For the generation of Orioles fans who never got to see Palmer pitch, Mussina offered the chance to see something special every time he was taking the hill.

The deep regret was seeing him depart for New York, but that was a much greater byproduct of the deterioration of the Orioles under owner Peter Angelos than any disrespect on his part. That divorce left a complicated relationship between Mussina and Baltimore that’s thawed in recent years, but it should take nothing away from what he accomplished with the club that drafted him out of Stanford in 1990.

From the moment he made his major league debut at new Comiskey Park on Aug. 4, 1991 (a 1-0 loss on a Frank Thomas home run) to the final signature performance of his Orioles career (a 15-strikeout, one-hit shutout against Minnesota on Aug. 1, 2000), Mussina more than proved his worth as the second-best pitcher in club history. He’ll never be adored in the same way as Palmer or the Orioles’ five other core Hall of Famers after his eight years pitching in pinstripes, but that’s OK.

Even as Mussina now joins the most prestigious group baseball has to offer, he’s used to being in the shadows.

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

Posted on 22 January 2019 by Nestor Aparicio

(Author note: This is Chapter 11 of my book “The Peter Principles,” which I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia the first time. I will be releasing the entire book for free online this summer – chapter by chapter. These are the true chronicles of the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. If you enjoy the journey, please share the links with a friend.)

 

 

11. Letting The Moose loose in pinstripes

 

“We’re not in the business of making arrangements with baseball players that border on economic insanity. We are in the business of putting a first-rate team on the field which is composed of athletes who are generously compensated. But when the demands of any one player or more than one player exceed what we believe to be reasonable, we are prepared to go in another direction. If we’re not able to do that, then we become the prisoners of the respective ballplayers. We aren’t going to do that. We don’t operate that way. We play fair. We pay generously. We pay what is generous and proper. I think $72 million to Mussina is plenty of money to Mussina.”

Peter G. Angelos

WBAL Radio

October 2000

 

 

 

 

THE PETER G. ANGELOS OBSESSION WITH INJURIES and medical reports was in full swing every offseason following the Xavier Hernandez incident in December 1998, when the journeyman pitcher walked away with $1.75 million of orange and black money without ever having to pull a jersey over his head. Angelos wasn’t just outraged and angry. He felt the Orioles had been fleeced and was once again feeling just how powerful the Major League Baseball Players Association was in the sport. In many ways, they employed even dirtier legal tactics then the word salad filth he was accustomed to with tobacco companies and asbestos cases in building his wealth.

The Orioles needed pitching heading into the 2000 season and big right-hander Aaron Sele was on the marketplace as a free agent. Thift and the Angelos boys, who were clumsily heading up the baseball evaluation for the Orioles, both liked his solid makeup and track record with the Boston Red Sox and then the Texas Rangers. He had won 37 games the past two years in Arlington and, at 29, was hitting the peak of his career. He finished strong at 10-3 for the Rangers and helped lead them – along with former Orioles manager Johnny Oates and GM Doug Melvin – to the American League West title in 1999. This was his first big chance to cash in on free agency and the Orioles were considered a prime suitor. Other starting pitchers Andy Benes, Omar Olivares and Darren Oliver were also on the market, but Sele would be a perfect fit for the No. 3 spot in the rotation behind Mike Mussina, who was entering his final year under contract to the Orioles, and Scott Erickson, who struggled in 1999.

On Jan. 7, 2000, Roch Kubatko of The Sun reported that Orioles had agreed with Sele on a four-year deal worth $29 million, with the veteran turning down a four-year deal for $28 million to remain in Texas. Thrift, who was only negotiating a portion of the club’s deals because Angelos always had his hands on the phone as well, told the newspaper, “There’s always the possibility of something not happening.”

Thirft’s words were prescient.

After agreeing verbally to the deal with the Orioles, Sele was administered a physical that the team said raised questions regarding the strength of his arm. Angelos demanded that two years be taken off of the deal. Angelos said that Orioles doctors believed that Sele only had 400 innings left in his right arm.

One of Sele’s agents, Tom Reich, told The Associated Press there was a difference on interpretation with the Orioles on medical tests. Sele had never undergone arm surgery, but missed most of 1995 with an arm injury. But that was five years earlier.

“The dealings with Baltimore were very cordial from beginning to end and it just didn’t work out,” Reich said. “To me, Peter Angelos is a good guy.” This was after his client lost $14 million in guaranteed money and was branded in MLB circles as “damaged goods.”

Two days later, Sele signed a two-year, $14.5 millon deal to pitch for his childhood hometown team, the Seattle Mariners. Once again, a former Angelos employee was involved.

“This thing is like a star falling out of the sky,” said new Mariners general manager Pat Gillick, who felt he got a bargain. “We’re satisfied Sele is as healthy as he was when he finished the season with the Rangers. He underwent a physical on behalf of us with another physician, and our physician talked with that doctor and is satisfied. There is going to be normal wear and tear. You really have to rely on your medical people. They know which bumps along the road you have to watch for and which you can work through.”

Of course, Gillick got in a nice shot on Angelos to the media at the Sele press conference 3,000 miles from Baltimore.

“I’m not aware of exactly the concerns were with Baltimore,” Gillick said. “I think there were some differences of opinion there. I think this is a business where timing is very important. You only have a very small window. You have to react very quickly. Those who hesitate, as they say, are lost.”

By now, the complaints about Angelos were long and varied from any of the long list of qualified baseball

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The Peter Principles (Ch. 10) – Syd Thrift, Confederate money and the new Oriole Way of 21st century

Posted on 04 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

(Author note: This is Chapter 10 of my book “The Peter Principles,” which I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia the first time. I will be releasing the entire book for free online this summer – chapter by chapter. These are the true chronicles of the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. If you enjoy the journey, please share the links with a friend.)

 

10. Syd Thrift, Confederate money and the new Oriole Way of 21st century

 

 

“Mr. Angelos feels the term general manager is obsolete and I agree with him. We’re going to keep working to turn this thing around and we’re all going to be working together.”

Syd Thrift

Orioles Director of Player Personnel

January 2000

 

 

BY NOW ONE OF THE biggest problems Peter G. Angelos was discovering was his inability to lie or buy his way out of the dilemma of the very public and ongoing accountability of running a Major League Baseball team. By all accounts, those around him would say that he had very little natural interest in baseball at all before he bought the Baltimore Orioles. He was a boxer as a kid and a bookish, nerdy, difficult, know-it-all political aspirant who was least likely to get a player autograph or spend a free day at a lowly baseball game on 33rd Street as a kid.

 

Mr. Angelos was far more interested in ruling the world than being a peasant local sports fan.

Angelos was much more serious and interested in law, government, politics and pontificating for anyone who would deem him significant enough to listen to him drone on about his expertise in the world and his world view. Buying the baseball franchise bought him an audience to listen, and an initially fawning media that hung on his every word. Angelos was once called a “windbag” by a rival politician during his City Hall-aspiring days and six years into his reign of terror with the sputtering Orioles, his many words and lack of success with people would lend some credence to that claim.

Now, with an evolving track record and many knee-jerk executive decisions, his fingerprints were all over every aspect of the Orioles and the fan experience. His check and report card was coming due in the media. There was no way to avoid the humiliation and daily soap opera of despair that the team generated – on and off the field.

Angelos wanted everything his way.

And, now, he had his wish.

And he couldn’t handle how miserably his strategy – if you could call it that – was failing. And how unpopular a guy who was wrecking baseball for lifelong Orioles fans could actually become and how quickly the “Marylander of The Year” accolades could be under siege from the fan base and a media that was simply reporting the bizarre nature of every unorthodox transaction, while watching competent baseball people come in the front door of The Warehouse and get pushed out the side door like yesterday’s rubbish.

The franchise was without a true leader, without a plan and without a clue. But the team still had a legion of disappointed and disillusioned fans. Tens of thousands of Orioles fans turned to the team on a daily basis as they’d done with their parents and in some cases their parents’ parents. Baseball in Baltimore felt like a birthright, like an appendage or a member of the family.

For local fans, the franchise was a “we” not a “them.”

That was the lure and allure that drew Peter G. Angelos to the team to begin with – the significance and royalty of the Baltimore Orioles. It wasn’t his love of a spring afternoon at a baseball stadium or a hot summer night in a pennant race. It wasn’t because he loved a well-pitched game or keeping score with a No. 2 pencil. It wasn’t because he had memories during his formative years with Brooks Robinson or Jim Palmer or even Jim Gentile and Gus Triandos. It wasn’t because he entered debates about Eddie vs. Cal or Frank vs. Brooks.

Angelos bought the team to be loved. He certainly didn’t need the money. He craved the power, the status it would bring. He sold the very concept that ONLY a local owner could make the franchise better and

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The Peter Principles (Ch. 9) – Albert was not the Belle of Baltimore

Posted on 04 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

(Author note: This is Chapter 9 of my book “The Peter Principles,” which I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia the first time. I will be releasing the entire book for free online this summer – chapter by chapter. These are the true chronicles of the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. If you enjoy the journey, please share the links with a friend who loves the team.)

 

9. He was not the Belle of Baltimore

 

“We know [the media’s] intentions are good, but we can’t let you substitute your judgment for ours. We don’t think you know it all. We think there are times when you’re wrong just like we know there are times when we’re wrong. I tell you what: You can trust in our judgment. It’s pretty good. We’ve gotten this far. We’re going to go even further. Just be a little patient, I think you’ll be delighted with the results.”

Peter G. Angelos

  October 1999

 

 

IT DIDN’T TAKE LONG FOR the Orioles and new general manager Frank Wren to feel some foreboding bumps en route to the 1999 season-long collapse. First, Albert Belle was thrust into the situation ­– signed, sealed and delivered totally at the whim of owner Peter G. Angelos. This complicated matters for literally everyone on the team, including manager Ray Miller who was told to figure out how to manage an unmanageable personality. Then, during the first week of spring training, newly signed second baseman Delino DeShields suffered an injury.

Then, the losing began almost immediately in April.

It wasn’t anything specific for the 1999 Orioles – it was everything. But it all started with poor pitching and the ominous tone that surrounded every move of the team’s new poster boy: No. 88 in your scorecard program and No. 1 with his middle finger, Albert Belle.

The Orioles still had a vibrant national hero in Cal Ripken, and stalwart mostly quiet All Stars like Mike Mussina, Brady Anderson and Scott Erickson, but it was Belle who set the tone and who made the news seemingly every week for some infraction or some social behavior that was less than exemplary. But Wren had been around baseball and knew to expect this from Belle. Miller knew the day of Belle’s signing that there’d be a change in the demeanor of his locker room, which wasn’t particularly stellar to begin with in 1998 after the noisy and disruptive departure of Davey Johnson the previous fall. But Peter Angelos believed that a MLB player making $13 million per year would be better behaved and easier to control because of the investment ownership made in him.

Once again, it showed that Angelos didn’t know much about people and he certainly didn’t know much about Albert Belle or the egos of baseball players.

It didn’t take long after signing Belle on Dec. 1, 1998 for the saga and drama to begin.

On Christmas Eve, as a goodwill gesture to his new city and attempting to play

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The Peter Principles (Ch. 7) – Wren not zen, a Ray of darkness and Frank malaise sets over Orioles

Posted on 04 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

(Author note: This is Chapter 7 of my book “The Peter Principles,” which I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia the first time. I will be releasing the entire book for free online this summer – chapter by chapter. These are the true chronicles of the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. If you enjoy the journey, please share the links with a friend who loves the team.)

 

7. Wren was not Zen: A Ray of darkness and a Frank malaise casts franchise adrift

 

“He called me and told me the pitching coach should be the manager’s prerogative. We tried his prerogative. It didn’t work. I don’t think he ever got over that.”

 – Peter Angelos (re: Davey Johnson) in  December 1997

 

WHEN THE DAVEY JOHNSON VS. Peter Angelos divorce letters finally hit The Washington Post – after two weeks of “he said, he said” – the newspaper literally just published the two faxes next to each other and let the fans and sportswriters read between the lines – the children, in this case the fans, were left behind in the nasty public divorce.

Angelos and Johnson simply let the peanut gallery and sportswriters pick a side after the split. And, now, just four years after buying the Orioles and seeking his fourth manager, Angelos was beginning to lose his initial honeymoon popularity and Johnson would be become a martyr to the team’s fan base for years to come.

Davey Johnson had his own demons entering the relationship and had a well-established, anti-establishment, competitive arrogance that he brought into every room. But, most folks around the 1986 New York Mets’ magical World Series run would tell you that the manager whose nickname was “Dumb Dumb” was actually always the smartest guy in the room. And Peter G. Angelos was developing a well-earned reputation as a supreme meddler, an intimidating life force and a bad guy to work for in Major League Baseball. He was making the antics of George Steinbrenner circa 1978 look like a sick, reprised role in Baltimore.

In the spring of 1998, with Johnson still unemployed after walking away from a $750,000 job and the third year of his

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The Peter Principles (Ch. 6) – Wire to Wire, champagne and the Dumb Dumb divorce

Posted on 04 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

(Author note: This is Chapter 6 of my book “The Peter Principles,” which I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia the first time. I will be releasing the entire book for free online this summer – chapter by chapter. These are the true chronicles of the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. If you enjoy the journey, please share the links with a friend.)

Chapter 1 is available here.

Chapter 2 is available here.

Chapter 3 is available here.

Chapter 4 is available here.

Chapter 12 is available here.

Chapter 13 is available here.

 

6. Wire to wire, champagne and the Dumb Dumb divorce

 

“There is no threat he’s going to lose his job. He has a contract that is binding, and I plan to fulfill the conditions of that contract. One thing is for certain: I have never said that Davey (Johnson) would be fired. I have never said he had to get to the World Series to keep his job. Yet the focus of this is on me. That I don’t understand. None of this has come from Peter Angelos.”

 

Peter G. Angelos – October 24, 1997

 

IN 1997, SOMEHOW, AMIDST ALL of the chaos, drama and incredible mixed emotions of the fan base toward the emerging megalomaniac, micro-managing, all-powerful Peter G. Angelos, the one thing that remained constant was his ability to buy the best baseball players in the world and get them to the field at Camden Yards.

All the team did was win games in 1997. The team started 4-0 and had a winning record in every month of the season. They went wire-to-wire in first place, finishing 98-64, and a runaway winner of the American League East.

Other than Mike Mussina having a no-hitter broken up in the ninth inning on a warm night in May and Roberto Alomar spending parts of the second injured, most every aspect of the team on the field was perfect. The Yankees finished 96-66 and were forced to visit the loaded Cleveland Indians and lost in the ALDS. The Orioles were dispatched to Seattle in the first round of the playoffs, where they quickly won a pair of games in the thunderous Kingdome, only to lose Game 3 at Camden Yards before Mike Mussina vanquished Randy Johnson in Game 4 to lead the Birds back to their second straight ALCS.

Once again, all of the sins of Peter Angelos seemed to be forgotten. The Orioles were four wins away from the World Series. It had been a magical season, bringing back memories of the Earl Weaver teams of the 1969 to 1971 era when great pitching and defense won championships.

The Orioles had defeated the Indians in 1996 and the Cleveland disdain for all things Baltimore had grown exponentially as the Ravens played into their second fall under Art Modell. But the O’s couldn’t get the job done against the Indians, who won four one-run ballgames in the series, including a 1-0 heartbreaker in Game 6. Mike Mussina threw eight innings of shutout baseball before watching Armando Benitez give up an 11th inning home run to light-hitting Tony Fernandez to extinguish the Birds’ dreams of its first World Series since 1983.

The series with Cleveland was a classic, but one that went the wrong way for Orioles fans.

Despite the success on the field, the turmoil behind the scenes was palpable if mostly

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The Peter Principles (Ch. 4) – The Dumb Dumb error begins in Baltimore

Posted on 04 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

(Author note: This is Chapter 4 of my book “The Peter Principles,” which I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia the first time. I will be releasing the entire book for free online this summer – chapter by chapter. These are the true chronicles of the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. If you enjoy the journey, please share the links with a friend.)

Chapter 1 is available here.

Chapter 2 is available here.

Chapter 3 is available here.

Chapter 12 is available here.

Chapter 13 is available here.

 

4. The Dumb Dumb error begins in Baltimore

 

“I don’t think any boss, anybody in charge should ever criticize subordinates publicly. That is even in this business here that Frank Sliwka operates [at The Barn in Carney]. If he has a problem with one of the employees I think he should take them in the back room quietly and tell should tell him or her what he objects to. I don’t think anyone should publicly chastise an employee. When you’re a boss you keep that kind of thing to yourself. And that’s what I said to Davey Johnson. And I’ll repeat it again and I’ve told him that since then. He’s a great manager. He’s a great guy. I love him like a brother and we get along fine. Except I’ve said to him, “If you have to criticize someone, you take him in your office, shut the door and let it be between you and the player.”

 – Peter G. Angelos on WWLG Budweiser Sports Forum

March 1997

THERE COULD BE NO ENCORE for an act and a night as emotionally charged as the Cal Ripken 2131 night at Camden Yards in September 1995. Once again, there was no postseason baseball in Baltimore for the 12th consecutive year and Angelos, aided by the immortal Iron Man streak and the intense, family-like local passion for baseball, had enough revenue coming into the franchise to afford any baseball player he wanted in the marketplace. The club was swimming in money vs. its MLB foes. Plus, given his pro-player stance in the contentious labor dispute, many believed the Orioles would be a haven for free agents who wanted to sign with an owner who saw their side and wanted to win and put the best team on the field.

Looking ahead to the 1996 season, Peter G. Angelos was obsessed with one thing: bringing a World Series to Orioles fans.

Immediately following the 1995 campaign, Angelos fired manager Phil Regan and “accepted the resignation” of Roland Hemond, who was actually forced out, along with Frank Robinson, who was glad to leave the Orioles at that point and wound up working for commissioner Bud Selig in the MLB office.

Angelos was clearly running every aspect of the Baltimore Orioles at this point and was quite brazen in the media regarding his daily involvement. He bragged that he had enough time to run a law firm that was netting more than $15 million per year in personal income for him at the time and a MLB team on the side. Now with all of the “baseball people” gone except for his self-appointed farm director Syd Thrift, Angelos needed a new manager and a new general manager. He had already developed quite a reputation in the insulated, incestuous world of baseball men and lifers. He had owned the team for less than 24 months and had already pissed off every one of his 27 MLB partners, upstaged Cal Ripken on the biggest night of his life on national television and chased off two managers and a total of five baseball men: Roland Hemond, Frank Robinson, Doug Melvin, Johnny Oates and Phil Regan. Together they spanned three generations of baseball and touched virtually everyone in the industry with their true stories of an owner who called a manager into his office and demanded – among other things – which third basemen would be in the lineup on any given night.

A year earlier Davey Johnson, a former Orioles second baseman and World Series champion as manager of the 1986 New York Mets, was interviewed by Angelos and his internal committee that included Joe Foss and team lawyer Russell Smouse, but they instead selected Phil Regan, who they thought would be a hot commodity the previous year and whom never was given much of a chance under Angelos.

Johnson, who had a storied reputation for being snarky, cunning and anti-authority, took a shot at Angelos 12 months earlier when he didn’t get the job: “I heard they wanted an experienced manager and a proven winner. That’s why I interviewed for the job. But I guess that’s not what they wanted, right?” he told the media when he was clearly disappointed that he wasn’t selected in October 1994.

Now, after a disastrous year on the field in 1995 under Regan, Johnson’s name surfaced again and Angelos wasted no time in complementing the decorated yet difficult managerial prospect stating, “His baseball knowledge is impressive, and his strong background with the Orioles came through.” Johnson, meanwhile backtracked from any contentiousness in an effort to get the job: “I enjoyed meeting Peter,” he said. “You read stories about the Big Bad Wolf, but he was really nice.”

On October 30, 1995, Johnson was named manager of the Baltimore Orioles, the club’s third skipper in just 18 months under the Angelos regime. “This is a move in the direction of producing a winner,” Angelos said. “We are committed to building a winner in Baltimore, and Davey is a vital part of that effort. He has a winning attitude. He’s a very down-to-earth, forthright baseball professional with an extensive knowledge, and his record clearly establishes that.”

Was Johnson still sore about being passed over the previous year? “I do have a lot of pride, but I don’t have a big ego,” Johnson said. “Maybe I was hoping they’d offer the job so I could say no, but I discarded that idea in about two seconds because Baltimore represents my baseball roots. I thought it was a good fit a year ago, and I still do.”

Angelos allowed Syd Thrift to represent the Orioles at the MLB meetings in Arizona while he remained in Baltimore to interview a bevy of candidates to be the next general manager. Kevin Malone, a former Montreal Expos general manager, and Joe Klein, who had local roots and had been the GM of the Detroit Tigers, were considered to be the front runners but much like with every baseball decision made by Angelos, time wasn’t considered a pressing concern.

And despite most legitimate general managers wanting the opportunity to hire a field manager, Angelos did it backwards. The new manager, Davey Johnson was sent off to the MLB winter meetings along the farm director, Syd Thrift. Both were encouraged by Peter Angelos to recruit an appropriate general manager and working partner that would bring the Baltimore Orioles a World Series title.

In Phoenix, Johnson tracked down former Toronto general manager Pat Gillick, who was his old minor league teammate from

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BALTIMORE, :  Baltimore Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina throws to home plate in the first inning 15 October during game six of the American League Championship Series against the Cleveland Indians at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. The Indians lead the series 3-2.    AFP PHOTO/Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

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Former Orioles star Mussina moves closer to Hall of Fame

Posted on 24 January 2018 by Luke Jones

Mike Mussina will continue to wait, but eventual election to the Baseball Hall of Fame is looking more and more like a matter of “when” and not “if” for the former Orioles ace.

The 270-game winner and five-time All-Star starting pitcher missed out on induction with the 2018 class, but he received 63.5 percent of the votes, up from 51.8 percent a year ago and continuing a substantial climb after he received less than 25 percent of the vote in his first two years of eligibility. Players must receive at least 75 percent of the vote to be elected, and he fell just 49 votes shy this year.

The voting process has fallen under much scrutiny in recent years as baseball writers try to navigate the fallout of the steroid era, but Mussina’s perception has benefited greatly from the increasing acceptance of sabermetrics. The seven-time Gold Glove winner never won a Cy Young Award, but his 82.7 wins above replacement rank 24th on the all-time list for pitchers and his adjusted earned run average (ERA+) of 123 is among the best starting pitchers in major league history and accounts for the difficult run-scoring environment and ballparks in which he pitched. Mussina’s peak may not shine as brightly as other Hall of Fame pitchers, but his long-term success pitching in the lucrative era of performance-enhancing drugs and spending his entire career — 10 seasons with the Orioles and eight with the New York Yankees — in the American League East only strengthen his case.

It’s easy to point to Mussina’s career 3.68 ERA or only one 20-win season as justification to keep him out of Cooperstown, but too many fail to recognize a 3.68 ERA in 2000 was vastly different from a 3.68 ERA in 1975 or 1945 or 1915. That’s why numbers such as WAR and ERA+ are so important for context as we attempt to evaluate players across different eras.

Even if you’re not a believer in “new-age” statistics, Mussina still ranks 33rd in wins, 66th in innings pitched, and 20th in career strikeouts. He also had a strong postseason career with a 3.42 ERA in 139 2/3 innings. Mussina also very likely would have had two more 20-win seasons had it not been for the infamous 1994 strike when he had 16 wins by mid-August and then won 19 games in an abbreviated 144-game season a year later.

Mussina did not make the Hall of Fame cut in 2018, but two others who concluded their long major league careers with the Orioles were elected as Vladimir Guerrero and Jim Thome received the call Wednesday.

Guerrero last played in the majors with the Orioles in 2011, hitting .290 with 13 home runs and 63 runs batted in over 590 plate appearances. He signed a minor-league deal with Toronto the following year, but the Dominican slugger didn’t make it back to the majors and was eventually granted his release.

Thome arrived in Baltimore in a 2012 summer trade with Philadelphia, hitting .257 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 115 plate appearances. At age 42, he went 2-for-15 in the 2012 postseason and never played again before officially announcing his retirement in 2014.

Third baseman Chipper Jones and closer Trevor Hoffman were also elected to the Hall of Fame as part of the 2018 class on Wednesday.

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Twelve thoughts on Dylan Bundy’s one-hit shutout

Posted on 30 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With Orioles starter Dylan Bundy pitching a one-hit shutout in a 4-0 win over Seattle, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. That was the kind of performance fans daydream about when their team selects a pitcher in the top five spots of the amateur draft. Whether we’re witnessing the start of something special or this was merely the pinnacle of a solid career, Tuesday’s outing was fun to watch.

2. All of his pitchers were working, but the slider was especially potent, fetching swings and misses on 10 of the 27 he threw. It’s been said before, but he’s tough to beat when he has that breaking pitch going.

3. It’s a bummer to think a chance at a no-hitter was lost on a bunt single by Kyle Seager, but he dropped that down facing a one-run deficit in the fourth inning and before anyone was thinking about any flirtation with history.

4. I was waiting for Buck Showalter to pop out of the dugout after Bundy hit Robinson Cano to lead off the ninth inning, but you had to be impressed with the way the young pitcher immediately went back to work.

5. His 95 game score is tied for the sixth best in club history, according to the Baseball Reference play index. That’s some impressive company over 64 seasons of Orioles baseball.

6. This was easily the best pitching performance by an Oriole since Erik Bedard’s two-hit shutout that included 15 strikeouts against Texas on July 7, 2007. I’ll give Bedard a slight edge since he didn’t walk a batter while Bundy walked two and hit one.

7. Bundy provided the club’s first complete-game shutout since Miguel Gonzalez pitched one in 2014 and its complete game since Ubaldo Jimenez’s last September. How much has the game changed over the years? Jim Palmer pitched 20 or more complete games in a season four times.

8. This was the third time in his last four starts he’s struck out 10 or more. According to ESPN, that’s more than the total for any Orioles pitcher over the last 10 years. Yes, that reflects the Orioles’ lack of high-quality pitching, but it’s still an impressive feat for Bundy.

9. After averaging an ordinary 6.9 strikeouts per nine innings over the first four months of the season, Bundy is striking out 11.3 per nine in August. Even with extra rest being an obvious factor, it’s encouraging for the future to see him missing more bats.

10. He became the second pitcher in Orioles history to record a one-hit shutout with 12 or more strikeouts. Mike Mussina was the first on Aug. 1, 2000 when Bundy was not quite 8 years old.

11. I understand concerns over a career-high 155 1/3 innings this season, but squabbling over the right-hander exceeding his career high in pitches by four to get the shutout just reeks of joylessness. That said, the Orioles need to continue massaging his workload the rest of the way.

12. Bundy was pitching with a heavy heart after his grandmother’s death last week. That outing sure was a special tribute to her.

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