Friday, July 25, 2008

Hall of Fame Induction: Goose Gossage

This weekend, the Baseball Hall of Fame will induct four new members: pitcher Goose Gossage, manager Dick Williams, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, manager Billy Southworth and team executives Barney Dreyfuss of the Pirates and Walter O'Malley of the Dodgers.

Today I'm going to start a series of posts evaluating their qualifications for the Hall of Fame. First up, Gossage.

A devastatingly effective relief pitcher, Gossage helped redefine the role of closer in the 1970s and early 1980s with his menacing stare, goofy mustache, and 100-mph fastball. He saved games through pure intimidation, daring hitters to stand in the box against him. Few ever felt comfortable.

With relief specialization a recent phenomenon in baseball, it has been interesting to watch how Gossage was treated by Hall of Fame voters. He totaled 310 saves with nine teams, and at his peak, he was the best in the game; his 1981 strike-shortened season—0.77 ERA, 20 saves in 32 games—is one of the top 10 seasons ever posted by a reliever. But until this year, it wasn't enough to get him into the Hall. In 2005, the Hall select Bruce Sutter, while many historians and analysts believed they should have selected Gossage instead.

This year, I think Gossage was helped by two factors: (1) Sutter's election paving the way and reminding voters that they may have picked the wrong relief ace. And (2) the lack of any super-qualified candidate. Next year, the greatest player on the ballot will be Rickey Henderson, a sure-fire Hall of Famer. If Henderson had been on the ballot this year, he might have taken the spotlight away from Gossage.

In my opinion, Gossage belongs. I think anybody who followed baseball during his career thought of Gossage as one of the greatest ever at his craft, which is the kind of thing that should qualify you for the Hall.

You can read an exhaustive Wikipedia entry about this year's balloting here.

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