Gossage doesn't make Hall
Outstanding reliever increases vote total to 336, 64.6 percent
Rich Gossage didn't get in the door, again. But the "Goose" is toeing the threshold.On the day a fellow reliever revelled in selection to the Hall of Fame, Goose Gossage, who threw fear into batters while Bruce Sutter was only throwing splitters at them, high-kicked his way to Cooperstown's doorsill. With the reluctance of ballot-holding veteran baseball writers to enshrine closers gradually wearing down, it was probably unrealistic for two of them to get simultaneous nods. But there was encouragement as well as disappointment in Gossage's numbers: 336 votes, on 64.6 percent of the record 520 ballots cast. In 70 years of voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America, no one with such a high vote proportion has ever failed to gain eventual election. The record in this regard is held by the late Gil Hodges, whose 15-year candidacy peaked at 63.4 percent. Gossage continued to build a campaign platform that's actually stronger than that of Sutter, who gained entrance on his 12th year on the ballot after averaging 38 percent through the first 11. Gossage has drawn an average of 46 percent in seven years on the ballot. His lowest support in any year has been 33.2 percent, while the newest Hall of Famer had made his ballot debut in 1994 with a mere 24 percent of support. But, obviously, Goosage's main contention is his ferocity and production across a varied 22-season career. Sutter helped define the closer's role in a new, bullpen-oriented era, but Gossage was a giant of the transitional phase. He was one of the last of a breed -- winning in triple figures (124) and saving 300-plus (310). For contrast, the contemporary saves leader, San Diego's Trevor Hoffman, with 436, has only 49 career wins. Gossage blew people away, with 1,502 strikeouts, and kept them away from the plate, with a lifetime 3.01 ERA. And he did it with style and a refreshing bravura, neither giving the batter credit nor reluctant to claim some for himself. In retirement, he remains as honestly brash.
"I don't think anybody did it the way I did it," Gossage recently told MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom. "Power against power. There was no messing around. All those strikeouts I had, none of that is padding. Just about every one of them meant something because the game was on the line."The insufficient, though growing, support shown him has puzzled Gossage and his backers. One thought is that while he was dominant in his heyday, Gossage diluted his overall impact by lingering on the stage through several twilight years. He added a mere eight saves in his final five seasons, covering 191 appearances. That's also the main perceived obstacle faced by Gossage's former Yankees moundmate left-hander Tommy John. Gossage wants to be recognized for what he did, when he was doing it better than anyone else, rather than for how long he tried to do it. "I'd like to be remembered for the way I went about doing my job," he said in that recent MLB.com interview. Judging by his escalating ballot support, voters are increasingly remembering that Goose Gossage. He remains on hold, but now it appears something worth holding onto.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.