Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Long Overdue

In my first post of the year (long overdue), I'm thrilled to be able to do something that I should have been able to do years ago and that is congratulate Rich "Goose" Gossage on his election to the hall of fame (long overdue). In a column last January about the Hall of Fame vote, I mentioned that I hoped that I would be able to write a congratulatory note to Goose this year and thankfully the voters finally got it right.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again, Goose was the best closer that I have ever seen; Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman not withstanding. Gossage now ranks 17th on the all time saves list as the modern closer has been reduced to a one inning pitcher. I would dare say that if Gossage had been used that way, he would be quite a bit higher on the list. He ranks third all time in saves of 2 or more innings. In the famous playoff game against the Red Sox in '78, he came into the game with one out in the seventh inning. Can you imagine a manager today asking his closer to get eight outs to end a game? I was actually watching that game and certainly don't remember thinking that I would have rather that Billy martin bring in the set up guy and save Gossage for the 9th inning. The game was on the line and Billy put in the best pitcher that he had in the bullpen.

Rich Gossage was named on 86% of the ballots this year which was an double digit increase from last year. I always wonder what the voters who just decided that they would vote for him this year were thinking in previous years. Did he somehow get better overnight? Did he go out and pitch a few more games? If he's a Hall of famer this year, then he was a hall of famer last year. There has always been a barrier to relievers getting into the hall, but I believe that now they have corrected one of their greatest injustices. There are now five pitchers who spent the majority of their careers as relievers who have been inducted into the hall of fame, Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter and Goose. I'm assuming that Mariano and Hoffman will join them someday in the not too distant future.

So once again, I say congratulations, Goose. You've had to wait far too long. I'll always remember a summer day at the stadium when you came into a game in the 9th inning with the bases loaded and struck out the side on 11 pitches. Pure power pitching at it's best. Thanks for the memories and the saves. I hope you enjoy induction ceremony in Cooperstown this summer, even if is long overdue.

1 comment:

susan mullen said...

On the issue of #outs asked of current late inning relievers, especially in a Hall of Fame discussion, the player's entire career is involved including post season and all star. The millions in publicity Gossage has been given to stress only one point, ie # outs per appearance, doesn't include many other stats. Also it ignores many 3 inning appearances Rivera had in the 1996 regular season, the 3.1 IP in the 1995 ALDS, extra innings for which he got the Win, (this won't show up on "Save" stats but affects Rivera's contribution). Also Mo pitched 3 days in a row in the 1996 World Series. More recently Rivera pitched 3 consecutive scoreless innings in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, for which he got the Win and not the save, taking his team to the World Series. In 2004, he pitched in all 4 games of the ALDS v the Twins, the 4th and deciding game a 2IP outing he entered at Minnesota in the 10th inning, score tied. Again, he got a Win, not a save. On 5/30/06 he got 9 outs. In the 2007 ALDS, the "Bugs" game, Rivera had pitched 2 innings in a tie game. Red Sox radio announcer Joe Castiglione has a lot of experience viewing Rivera, and at that time asked his booth mates to find out if Rivera was coming out for a third inning. (Which would make an outing of more than 2 innings very much expected in the highest stakes situations from Rivera). He's always a danger to another team to pitch more than 1 inning whereas Hoffman never is--they're in no way similar pitchers. Gossage's record in high stakes post season and all star wasn't nearly what Mo's is, and that's part of HOF evaluation.
Gossage was physically imposing to watch which adds to his perception.
But Gossage if anything showed his multiple inning appearances often in low stakes situations rendered
him incapable of carrying through to post season and all star success, not able to keep the ball in the ball park in some key situations. If durability is the issue, Gossage never proved he had enough to sustain 12 regular seasons along with 13 consecutive post seasons.