Skip to main content

Goose could be lonely guy in Cooperstown ...


You would think that all grumpy old men would stick together, but I haven’t been able to find much of a kinship with 2008 Hall of Fame inductee Goose Gossage.

Oh, he was great fun to watch at the peak of his game 30 years ago or so, but I think the combination of my general disdain of the save statistic and the Gossage-induced absurdity of complaining about nuance within the already questionable interpretation of the usefulness of the same statistic, and, like Goose, I start to honk a bit.

That and Goose did a good deal of bitching and moaning about the HOF voting results in the years that didn’t quite bring him to the 75 percent threshold. I’m not quibbling with the idea that he should be in the Hall of Fame, but merely noting that his carping about other candidates – and potential future candidates – borders on the disingenuous.

In a brief interview in the March 7 New York Times, he sidestepped a question about whether Mariano Rivera is the best closer in baseball history with his traditional lament about the enfeebled one-inning save vs. the manly two-inning variety that was the norm during his time. I mean really, would it have diminished Gossage at all to have simply said, "Yeah, the historical record would seem to have laid that question to rest some time ago."

And speaking of the tainted one-inning save, how many times do you suppose Warren Spahn finished off yet another complete game under circumstances that would provide for a “Save” to be awarded? It’s just changes in strategy and tactics of MLB over the course of the game’s evolution.

But my real beef with Goose comes when he – now safely installed in Cooperstown – grandly pronounces that hardly anybody else should be. I could argue that, in terms of his impact on the managerial ranks, Billy Martin’s footprint in MLB was no less imposing than Goose’s, but the reliever decrees that Martin doesn’t belong because “we didn’t get along” and “he didn’t handle (pitching) staffs well.”

I’m not even a Martin apologist or advocate for his HOF chances, merely commenting that guys who manage to get their plaque ought to be a bit more gracious about some of those still on the outside looking in (figuratively speaking).

Gossage also insists that Mark McGwire and any of the other steroid users should not be admitted.

Yikes. That could mean for some quiet midsummer weekends in Central New York in the years ahead. Many of the biggest names in Major League Baseball over the last two decades would be excluded by Goose, to say nothing of whoever might be on that list of 104 names that we don’t know about ... yet.

For a guy who played smack dab in the middle of an era when guys were popping Greenies like they were going out of style – fortunately they actually were – Gossage is pretty strict about denouncing anything that might be considered performance enhancing.

Anybody want to take a stab at suggesting that amphetamines aren’t “performance enhancing”? I'm hardly an expert – not my mood enhancer of choice or temperament – but I understand that they are generally useful in enhancing a number of different kinds of performances.

And to forestall any criticism, I’m not suggesting that Gossage popped anything more potent than a Tylenol. But vast numbers of his contemporaries did, and I’ve never heard any complaints from him about the effect of all that on the integrity of the game.