Gossage on PED users in the Hall: "I really don't know what we'd do"

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Goose Gossage.jpgSo earlier I asked if someone had Rich Gossage’s cell.
Seems someone did, and I just got off the phone with the Goose.  Nicest
guy in the world, by the way. If you’re going to talk to a Hall of Fame
reliever today, I highly recommend that you make it Gossage.

Anyway, the reason I called him was because I wanted to know, in light of his feelings on Mark McGwire and other steroid users,
what he’d think if Jose Canseco was proven right and we found out that
a current member of the Baseball Hall of Fame used performance
enhancing drugs. And Gossage was honest: he has no idea.

“I don’t really know what I’d do,” Gossage said.  “We’d have to find
out all the facts,” he said. “It’s a big dark cloud. I don’t know what
the scenario would look like.”

Gossage went on to say that it would probably depend on what the
writers did going forward with steroid users like Barry Bonds and Roger
Clemens — guys who are sure shot Hall of Famers if they hadn’t used. 
“If they let in some of those guys, I guess things are different.  What
I said about integrity yesterday still stands, but as for the Hall,
we’d have to see how the writers handled it. I can only speak for what
I believe.”

Gossage wouldn’t speculate about whether it would be appropriate to
remove someone from the Hall of Fame.  And though I didn’t ask him, he
volunteered that he has no idea what member, if any, could have
possibly used steroids, and doesn’t know one way or the other if anyone
had (he wouldn’t comment on the issue of Canseco’s credibility).

To date, no member of the Hall has ever been de-inducted, as it were,
and I could find nothing that suggests that the Hall even has a
procedure for doing so. Of course, if they wanted to, the Hall could
simply call a meeting of its board and make a rule in about five
minutes.  But let’s face it: if the Football Hall of Fame hasn’t taken
out O.J., what are the odds that the Baseball Hall of Fame would remove
a juicer?

But back to Gossage, who was gracious enough to chat with me a bit
longer than I thought he might:  He thinks that there’s a difference
between drugs of abuse and performance enhancing drugs.  He says “Dave
Parker was one of the top five baseball players I ever played with.” He
does not think that his — or Tim Raines or any other player’s —
cocaine use should be held against them in Hall of Fame voting. 
“Parker belongs,” he said. “What he did, with the cocaine, that
decreased his performance, it didn’t enhance it. If he hadn’t done that
stuff we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”  Gossage clearly thinks Parker would have been a first ballot Hall of Famer absent his mid-career cocaine-induced swoon.

“It all boils down to one word: integrity,” Gossage said.  “When it
comes to steroids, you have to talk about the records, and records are
something huge.  The home run record is the greatest record there is.”

I had to ask, of course: is Aaron still the home run king?  “In my mind
he is.  Not only was he the best. But look at where he came from. All
he did. That’s a Hall of Famer.”

I came away from our conversation with the impression that Goose
Gossage is a reasonable and level-headed guy when it comes to this
stuff. He believes what he believes, but he knows others disagree. 
He’s not out to moralize on the subject or tell others what to think.

It’s easy to get the opposite impression of the man, however, from
reading some of the reporting about him that we’ve seen in past couple
of years.  Some of that stuff has made him look like a fire-breather on
the subject of Hall of Fame standards in general and steroids in
particular. It’s enough to make one wonder if the writers who have
elicited all of those juicy quotes from him are trying to make him seem
more of a crusader than he really is.

To me he just seems sensible. But then again, he’s from Colorado, and I’ve never known anyone from Colorado who was anything but sensible.

Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez to be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday

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This Sunday three players will be honored in Cooperstown as Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez become the 313th, 314th and 315th members inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Executives Bud Selig and John Schuerholz will be inducted as well, making it 316 and 317.

Raines was quite possibly the NL’s best player in a five-year span from 1983-87.  WAR thinks so, placing him ahead of Mike Schmidt, Tony Gwynn and Dale Murphy, all of whom got more plaudits at the time. Raines hit .318/.406/.467 during that period and averaged 114 runs scored and 71 steals per year. During those five years, only Rickey Henderson scored more runs (572-568) and only Wade Boggs had a better OBP (.443 to .406). That Raines had to wait until his last year of eligibility was in large part due to him being a very similar player to Henderson. Which is kind of an unfair comparison — Henderson is one of the best players of all time — but that’s how the voters operate sometimes.

Bagwell likewise had to wait a bit longer than he should’ve, mostly due to thus far evidence-free beliefs that he used PEDs. On the merits, Bagwell was one of the best first basemen of all time, with a career line of .297/.408/.540, 449 homers and 1,529 RBI. Between 1994 and 2001, he averaged — averaged! — a line of .306/.428/.589, 37 homers and 120 RBI while playing in perhaps the worst hitters park in history in the Astrodome.

People whispered about Rodriguez and PEDs just as much as they did Bagwell, but he got in on the first ballot, suggesting that the BBWAA is getting over its hangups. He is also clearly deserving of induction. Rodriguez, the 1999 AL MVP, was named to 14 All-Star teams and he won 13 Gold Gloves. He finished his career with a .296/.334/.464 line, 311 homers and 1,332 RBI. His 2,427 games caught is a major league record. He was, without question, the best defensive catcher of his era and many believe he was the best of all time. If he’s not, he’s in the top two or three.

As for the executives: we’re long on record as believing that Bud Selig’s induction is a disgrace. It was nonetheless a foregone conclusion, as the Hall of Fame has tended to view induction as part of retiring commissioners’ severance package. If there was any remaining doubt about him getting in, the fact that the committee which elected Selig was, more or less, hand-picked by people loyal to Selig and/or Major League Baseball put it to rest.  John Schuerholz is clearly deserving as he was one of the top executives of the past half century, starting out with the Orioles and then building winners in both Kansas City and Atlanta, sustaining those organizations’ success for far longer periods than most teams experience it.

Beyond those two, ESPN’s Claire Smith will be on the stage to accept the 2017 J. G. Taylor Spink Award, given to baseball writers. She is the first woman to be given baseball writing’s highest honor.  Athletics broadcaster will be honored as the Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting. Smith passed away in 2005.

The ceremony will be held on a big lawn a mile south of the Hall of Fame. If you’re in the neighborhood, admission is free and lawn chairs and blankets and things are welcome. If you’re not in the neighborhood, the festivities will be broadcast live on MLB Network and will be shown via webcast at http://www.baseballhall.org.

Aaron Judge broke a tooth celebrating the Yankees walkoff win

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Brett Gardner hit a walkoff homer last night, giving the Yankees a dramatic 11-inning win. A grand celebration ensued. And then a trip to the dentist presumably ensured for Aaron Judge.

Seems that Judge broke a tooth during the scrum, as Gardner’s helmet — which was bouncing around, not on Gardner’s head — bounced up and smacked Judge in the mouth. Judge quickly went to the clubhouse and wasn’t available for comment afterward. If he was, he likely would’ve said “Thith wath a great win. Gardner juth looked for hith pitch and put a good thwing on it.”

Judge is expected to make the start tonight for the Yankees.