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

71 Comments

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.

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

SAN DIEGO – Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, almost two decades after his final game, he got the question.

Asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff responded: “Honestly, right now, I’m going to just enjoy this evening.”

A Hall of Fame committee delivered its answer Sunday, passing over Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling while handing McGriff the biggest honor of his impressive big league career.

The lanky first baseman, nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” hit .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs over 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 2019. Now, he will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the writers’ vote, announced Jan. 24.

“It’s all good. It’s been well worth the wait,” said McGriff, who played his last big league game in 2004.

It was the first time that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling had faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearances on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

While the 59-year-old McGriff received unanimous support from the 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee – comprised of Hall members, executives and writers – Schilling got seven votes, and Bonds and Clemens each received fewer than four.

The makeup of the committee likely will change over the years, but the vote was another indication that Bonds and Clemens might never make it to the Hall.

This year’s contemporary era panel included Greg Maddux, who played with McGriff on the Braves, along with Paul Beeston, who was an executive with Toronto when McGriff made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1986.

Another ex-Brave, Chipper Jones, was expected to be part of the committee, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall.

The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A player needs 75% to be elected.

“It’s tough deciding on who to vote for and who not to vote for and so forth,” McGriff said. “So it’s a great honor to be unanimously voted in.”

In addition to all his big hits and memorable plays, one of McGriff’s enduring legacies is his connection to a baseball skills video from youth coach Tom Emanski. The slugger appeared in a commercial for the product that aired regularly during the late 1990s and early 2000s – wearing a blue Baseball World shirt and hat.

McGriff said he has never seen the video.

“Come Cooperstown, I’ve got to wear my blue hat,” a grinning McGriff said. “My Tom Emanski hat in Cooperstown. See that video is going to make a revival now, it’s going to come back.”

Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also served on this year’s committee, which met in San Diego at baseball’s winter meetings.

Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy rounded out the eight-man ballot. Mattingly was next closest to election, with eight votes of 12 required. Murphy had six.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their final chances with the BBWAA. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. The right-hander went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.

Theo Epstein, who also served on the contemporary era committee, was the GM in Boston when the Red Sox acquired Schilling in a trade with the Diamondbacks in November 2003.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.