Re: More experience as a drummer, less muffling of the kit..what does that tell us?
Oh... hi....*chime* :)
I think a lot of good points have been covered, and whether a particular drum sounds better wide open, or with various degrees and types of damping, is largely dependent on the production value trying to be achieved. A wide open tom may sound great, but may not work for a particular song or mood. Same for a muffled tom. Same for snares... and bass drums.
One extremely important thing to remember is that we tune drums with our ear 18-24" from the head, and room abience also comes into play with the overall sound. But with drums being mic'd a few inches from the head, or inside the drum, or with overheads a few feet above our ears, it's not really possible to know how the drums will track. An open tom may sound good to the ear, but really howl into the mic. To attempt to argue with the engineer and producer about how well you've tuned the drums, can only result in that being the last session you do with them.
As has been pointed out, there are musical styles and eras that have a propensity towards muffling, just as certain snare sounds and digital effects are the hallmarks of certain eras and styles.
Is muffling right or wrong? It depends. A good musician knows how & when to make his drums sound a certain way, and also knows that the engineer or sound guy out front has the final say in how the drums need to be tweaked for the best sound. Leaving toms and snares wide open and relying on the sound guy to 'gate' them to control overtones just means the drums won't sound as intended.
As for 99% of sessions being done with unmuffled toms & snares, that hasn't been my experience at any time during my 30+ years of recording. I can't recall ever leaving a tom completely wide open. But about half the time, I've got some sort of pad or loop of tape on the snare. A lot of the snare sound (in the mix) depends on the drum ringing out a little, but again, it really depends on the song/style/mood at hand. It's crucial for a working drummer to be versatile and flexible.
Don't know if that answered the question, but those are my thoughts.