Here’s a novel argument about Mike Mussina’s Hall of Fame cap

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We’ve been beating the “what cap should so-and-so wear on their Hall of Fame plaque” thing into the ground, but since nothing else is going on right now let’s keep beating.

I just read the weirdest column. It’s from Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. The topic: which cap should Mike Mussina wear? Orioles or Yankees? The argument would seem pretty straight forward: more years and better overall performance in Baltimore, but more glory and postseason appearances with the Yankees. I think it’s fair to say that reasonable people can disagree on which cap makes more sense for him.

Davidoff’s column is weird, though, in that it takes a different tack than “which cap is more appropriate?” It argues, not super convincingly, that he should pick the Yankees because . . . they don’t take their history as seriously as the Orioles do. That, while Mussina rates with the history-is-cheap legacy of the Yankees, he does not measure up to the towering figures in Orioles history and is not necessarily worth the serious reverence O’s fans give their heroes.

Seriously:

Walk a lap around the game’s best ballpark, and you’ll see statues of six revered Orioles: Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Cal Ripken Jr., Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson and Earl Weaver. If you can gain access to the press box, you’ll see a wonderful photo of that beloved sextet together, wearing Orioles caps, at a Hall induction ceremony in Cooperstown. They are the only people with Orioles caps in the Hall.

Would Mussina belong in a theoretical group photo (Weaver died in 2013) to make it a Magnificent Seven? Does his time in Charm City merit a statue? . . . An Orioles cap, though, just wouldn’t feel right for a player who registered his greatest memories elsewhere and a franchise that takes its history so seriously.

I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

Is there a team which “takes its history more seriously” than the New York Yankees? Are they not the team about which people, including and especially New York tabloid columnists, debate who is and who is not a “true” member? Indeed, I can think of no other team whose fans and press corps are more protective of its history and who spend more time gatekeeping the matter of who is and who is not actually entitled to being remembered as a franchise great than the Yankees. Books have been written about this stuff.

I suppose Davidoff’s central observation, in isolation makes sense: the Orioles don’t have a lot of Hall of Famers, but all of them are people we consider “inner circle” types who are almost exclusively identified with the Orioles. At the same time, the standards for making Monument Park and getting one’s number retired in New York have become a bit more easy in recent years than they used to be. Still, it’s probably still worth noting that (a) one of the one the guys he mentions — Eddie Murray — played more than a third of his games for other teams; and (b) it’s not like the Yankees acknowledge that their historical standards have declined. Rather, they simply seem to be claiming that lesser figures such as Paul O’Neill or whoever are all-time greats by virtue of their time in pinstripes.

To be clear: I don’t have a strong opinion on which cap Mussina wears. I can see arguments for both. But it strikes me that his choice in the matter should be a bit more basic and straight forward than “do I measure up to the towering history of the Baltimore Orioles, or am I better suited for the history-is-cheap Yankees?”

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.