MIKE MUSSINA perfected imperfection. He missed a perfect game by one strike (2001), a world championship by two outs (also in '01), 300 career wins by 30, the Cy Young Award in each of the nine years he received votes and a 20-win season twice by one win. Mussina finally got his 20 this year, then made good on a preseason decision that he kept to himself to quit. Five years from now baseball writers with Hall of Fame votes, including me, should enshrine Mussina by focusing on what he was, not on what he was not.
What was he? One of the most reliable elite pitchers in some of the harshest pitching conditions ever known. Mussina's prime years (1992--2003) occurred smack in the Steroid Era and exclusively in the DH-fortified American League. In those years only Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, neither of whom pitched in the AL, won more games or threw more innings. On eight occasions Mussina finished with one of the five best ERAs in his league—more often, in other words, than Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson, Whitey Ford and Bob Feller. Mussina may have lacked sizzle and a lofty career peak, but he was more than good enough for long enough to turn the Hall into a Moose lodge.