Sorry to rain on Rich Gossage’s Hall of Fame parade, but I’d like to know just how come it took so long to get the Goose into the Hall of Fame. Gossage has been incredibly gracious about the whole thing and I admire him for it.
I, not being Goose Gossage, don’t have to be gracious. I’ve never been a Yankee fan. In fact, I’m a card carrying Yankee hater, but I also believe myself to be capable of making unbiased calls on our all important Hall of Fame debates.
The reality is that Goose Gossage belonged in the Hall of Fame way before he actually got in. To me, there are two ways to get into the Hall. Actually, there are three ways and Gossage accomplished all three.
First, you can be a compiler. This is a player with a long, consistent career who ends up putting up some very big career numbers. Check that off for Gossage, who played over twenty years and was usually in the discussion of the top closers in the game.
Second, you can just be the top dog. That category is reserved for the Ruths, Mantles, Mays, Seavers and Koufax types. This is the kind of player who is simply the very best at his position for a very long time. Check that off for Goose too. Gossage was debatably the top closer in the game from the mid 70s through the mid eighties.
Finally, you can be a game changer or as they more typically say in football, a game breaker. This is the kind of guy who strikes fear into his opponents’ hearts and singlehandedly changes the way the game is played. Think LT in football.
Gossage was that in baseball. He was an intimidater. You knew that if your team didn’t put runs up before he got into the game you sure as hell were not likely to score any more once he got onto that mound. In that respect, Gossage is very similar to today’s Yankee closer, Mariano Rivera. Of course, Gossage was doing it two innings or more at a time…
So, by all my standards, Gossage was a clear Hall of Famer sincethe very moment he became eligible. Yet, somehow the Goose didn’t make it in for nine long years.
Let’s take a look (and some admittedly cheap shots) at the guys who beat Gossage into Cooperstown and grade them as better or worse picks for the Hall than Goose Gossage:
Class of 2000 – This is the first year Gossage is eligible (if I counted backwards properly)
Tony Perez – RBI machine, but lots of guys in his position in the Big Red Machine’s lineup would probably be able to say that. Outside of one or two truly great years, was he even ever the third best player on his own team (remember he played with Bench, Morgan and some guy named Pete Rose…)? ADVANTAGE: GOOSE
Carlton Fisk – all time leader in most catching categories because he played for about 100 years, definitely one of the top 10 catchers ever. Impacted the game both on offense and defense in a very critical position. ADVANTAGE: FISK
Class of 2001
Dave Winfield – great athlete, played all three major sports, very good hitter for a long time, but he wasn’t Reggie Jackson as George Steinbrenner can tell you. I agree with George for once! ADVANTAGE: GOSSAGE
Kirby Puckett – may he rest in peace, great player who was on pace for some great numbers prior to his eye injury, Championship Center Fielder on two Twins’ World Series Champs ADVANTAGE: TIE
Class of 2002
Ozzie Smith – great defensive shortstop, couldn’t hit that much until later in his career. Am always amazed at how easily Smith got in. Sure he was The Wizard, but it should have taken him much longer to get to Cooperstown. Consider that Alan Trammel will likely never get into the Hall, yet during their primes you probably wouldn’t have traded Trammel for Smith even up. Trammel was way more valuable. ADVANTAGE: GOOSE
Class of 2003
Eddie Murray – super consistent slugger, yet never hit for a truly amazing amount of home runs in any given year. ADVANTAGE: MURRAY (But just slightly)
Gary Carter – I go with the Fisk argument here again. A catcher with his offensive ability is a rare thing. ADVANTAGE: CARTER
Class of 2004
Paul Moliter – the man could flat out hit. If not for injury and some youthful foolishness, who knows what his numbers could be. Interesting thought that essentially he, like Gossage, was a specialist for much of his career, yet that didn’t hurt him in the Hall vote as much as Goose. ADVANTAGE: MOLITER
Dennis Eckersley – amazing career as a quality starter and then transitioning to a modern day bullpen ace. Still, with all that, in my book you take care of the people who blazed Eck’s trail first. ADVANTAGE: GOSSAGE
Class of 2005
Ryne Sandberg – hit great for a second basemen. Had an amazing ten year run and then, poof! He was done. ADVANTAGE: GOSSAGE (who had about double his run in baseball)
Wade Boggs – tough to argue with his lifetime batting average and the handful of batting titles. ADVANTAGE: BOGGS
Class of 2006
Bruce Sutter – sure, he perfected a pitch that changed the game. And sure, he was dominating. But, he played about half as long as Gossage. Gossage’s prime lasted longer and Sutter was never clear cut better than Gossage. If the baseball gods were fair, they would’ve gone in together. But, since, they’re not…. ADVANTAGE: GOOSE
Class of 2007
Tony Gwynn – like Boggs, only better. No argument here. ADVANTAGE: GWYNN
Cal Ripken Jr – how do you argue against a guy who breaks Gehrig’s record and “saves” baseball. Plus, he revolutionized the position of shortstop and paved the way for guys like A-Rod, Nomar and oh yeah, Jeter. ADVANTAGE: RIPKEN