Hall of Famer Goose Gossage, who’s in Florida helping out with Yankees spring training, is of course one of the greatest relievers in baseball history. He pitched in an era in which the best relievers worked as “firemen” -- adaptable and durable sorts who entered the game in tight spots regardless of the inning and with little heed paid to the save rule. Andrew Miller and the Indians, of course, gave us a throwback taste of that this past postseason.
Anyhow, Gossage’s way of doing things colors his perceptions of contemporary relievers. The preceding has been a honking understatement.
Randy Miller of NJ.com talked to Gossage for a piece that ran Friday, and therein Gossage empties both barrels on any number of baseball topics. For instance, he’s not a fan of those who say fellow Yankee legend Mariano Rivera is the greatest reliever in baseball history. Here’s one of many money quotes ...
NJAM: What do you think about Chapman returning?
Gossage: “Well, they’re one-inning guys.”
NJAM: And you often were a three-inning guy, right?
Gossage: “Yeah, it’s totally different, so don’t even compare me here. Chapman’s great. Mo (Rivera) was great ... for one inning.”
NJAM: You mention Mo, but I think he was the one guy who at least was used in the eighth at times by Joe Torre.
Gossage: “Bull****! ... That’s postseason. He never did it ... Very seldom in the (bleeping) regular season.”
NJAM: Did you ever talk to Mo about it?
Gossage: “I told him. Yeah, we did it on (the) Michael Kay (TV show). Don’t compare me to Mo or what they do today. They’re one-inning guys. I take exception to that. Don’t even (bleeping) put me ... closer wasn’t even a coined phrase.”
NJAM: So when people say Mo is the greatest reliever ....
Gossage. “(Bleep). That’s bull****. Do what I did and we’ll compare apples to apples. Or Sutter or Rollie Fingers, the guys that set the bar. I’ll tell you what, setup guys have a harder role today than closers today.”
Gossage has a point, of course. The low innings totals of modern relievers indeed hurts their value relative to the firemen of yore. In Rivera’s case, however, his run-prevention numbers were so otherworldly that he makes up the necessary ground. Throw in his legendary postseason dossier, and I’m comfortable calling him the greatest reliever ever.
In any event, it’s unusual to hear such an unsparing evaluation of Mo, especially from someone who’s affiliated with the Yankees. But that’s Goose.
Speaking of which, there’s much more in Miller’s interview. Gossage holds forth on salaries, pitch counts, Barry Bonds, Ivy League-educated front office execs, and more. A Big Gulp of candor, is what you’ll find.