Over the weekend Goose Gossage — while prefacing every statement with the caveat that he was not taking anything away from Mariano Rivera — said a lot of stuff that pretty clearly suggested that he was taking things away from Mariano Rivera. The upshot: he’s a good one inning closer, that Mo, but back in my day we closed out games for three innings. Uphill. Both ways.
Which, yes, there is truth to the notion that relievers of the 70s and into the 80s were used very differently than they are today. And, in my view, I think a lot of these guys such as John Hiller, Dan Quisenberry and even Gossage to some degree are undersold.
But go read what Joe Posnanski wrote on the topic yesterday before you give Gossage his due for telling the one-inning closers to get off his lawn. Specifically: (a) that for as much as Gossage wants to play up his iron man credentials, he really was done with that kind of work in the first half of his career and spent the second half being used much more like a modern closer; and (b) no matter what you can say about the usage patterns, it is undeniable that Rivera has been far, far better a pitcher in his career than Gossage was in his.
This shouldn’t be debatable. Mariano Rivera was the best of all time, in my view. He is of the same kind as the modern closer, but he is in such a different class than his peers that it’s comical.
As is most of what Gossage says these days about pretty much everything, but you didn’t need me to tell you that.
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.