Rich Gossage would purge all of the modern home run records if he were in charge


I once actually committed an act of journalism. I interviewed Hall of Fame relief pitcher Rich Gossage. It took place in January 2010 and it was a fantastic experience. Gossage was polite, accommodating, expansive and interesting. Most of all, his answers seemed very thoughtful. He wasn’t spouting off talking points or cliches. He was thinking about his answers and explaining himself.

The topic: mostly PED users and the Hall of Fame. Like most former players, Gossage was unhappy with the scourge of steroids. But he also struck a very realistic tone at the time, noting how complicated the matter was. His money quote, given in response to what he and other Hall of Famers might do if/when it is discovered that a current member of the Hall of Fame used PEDs, was this:

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

He added that how the Hall of Fame voters treated guys like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, saying “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.” He concluded by saying that he had no problem with cocaine users such as Dave Parker or Tim Raines being inducted.”

In the past four years Gossage’s tone on the matter has shifted from one of personal disapproval — here’s what I believe, but it’s not all up to me, as it were — to one far greater certainty and stridence. He spoke to the New York Post over the weekend, slamming PED users and arguing that all of the pre-PED home run records should be restored. He said “are you f***ing kidding me?” regarding PED guys and then offered a lot of nonsense about Ken Griffey Jr. and great home run hitters’ aging patterns (note: Hank Aaron, like Bonds, had some of his best seasons late in his career).

I don’t know what has changed with Gossage over the past four years to change him from a guy who, while believing what he believed about PEDs, did not believe he had a monopoly on wisdom on the matter to a guy who is so damn certain and, if you put him in charge, would purge records from the books. But given my previous interaction with him, it’s somewhat disappointing.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.