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kappa72202
05-05-2010, 09:40 AM
By David McCollum
Beware of classifying Hall of Fame pitcher Goose Gossage as a closer.

Almost fighting words.

It’s a major example of how baseball has changed.

“We were relief pitchers,” said Gossage, who is in Conway this weekend in fundraising efforts for the University of Central Arkansas baseball program.

He doesn’t discount that closing pitchers as Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman are not great at what they do.

“It’s just apples and oranges to compare what we did,” said Gossage, who had a 22-year Major League career. “We might come in in the fifth inning. We might have to pitch eight or nine innings if the game went into extra innings.”

Gossage and the great relief pitcher of his day such as Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter and Lee Smith, were their own middle-relievers, setup men and closers.

“I tell people it now takes three guys to do what I used to do,” Gossage said with a laugh.

When Gossage began his Major League career in 1972, pitching was a lot different not only from today but when he retired from baseball in 1994.

“In 1972, you did not want to be in the bullpen,” he said. “It was considered the junk pile for old starters who couldn’t start anymore.”

The concept of a starting pitcher was also different.

“Most starters were expected to go nine innings,” he said. “If you couldn’t go at least eight innings about eight out of 10 times, you were going to the bullpen. Nowadays, in contract negotiations, six innings is considered a quality start and it’s getting close to five. About 20 years, you stunk if you could just go six innings. That’s just how the game has changed.”

When he entered the Hall of Fame in 2008, a researcher told him that he had 53 saves that he had to get seven or more outs. Two of today’s top relievers, Rivera and Trevor Hoffman, have three combined in which they had to get seven-plus outs.

“If a relief pitcher today goes two innings, it’s headlines in the paper,” he said.

And years ago, a relief pitcher would be expected to get out of any kind of mid-game jam.

“I used to come into situations that God couldn’t get out of,” he said with a laugh. “It often was one of those things that if a hitter put the ball in play, it was a tie game. When I came in, I might have to get two strikeouts and a popup and felt I could do that. But after that, you still had to pitch the eighth and ninth.”

He also said strategy is different as far as a left-hander coming in to pitch to a left-handed hitter or a right-hander pitching only to right-handed hitters.

“I think managers do that to protect themselves,” he said. “I didn’t mind pitching to a left-hander. I had a more success against left-handers than I did right-handers sometimes because I worked hard at it. To me, it doesn’t matter if you’re pitching to a right-handed batter or a left-hander. Good pitches can get good hitters out no matter which side of the plate their hitting. If you’ve got good stuff, you can get anybody out.

“I think managers go by the book to avoid criticism. If you bring in a left-hander to pitch to a left-hander and he hits a double, people say he got a good hit,” Gossage said. “If a manager lets a right-hander pitch to a left-hander and gives up a double, people will second-guess, ‘Why didn’t he bring in a left-hander?’”

Gossage doesn’t hesitate when asked the toughest hitter he ever faced.

“George Brett, absolutely, when he was in his prime and I was in mine,” he said. “There were some great hitters in my day but there wasn’t anybody close. He was one of those hitters that if you needed a home run, he’d hit a home run. If you needed a double, he’d hit a double or a single. He would do what he needed to do.

“I think years from now when people reflect on his career, he’ll be put in the same category as Ted Williams. Ted Williams was certainly a great hitter but I can’t imagine he could have been that much better than George Brett.”
Brett was a left-handed hitter.

But apparently, all percentages were off with him.

Deberg_1990
05-05-2010, 10:37 AM
Nice find.

Yea, its amazing to think how much pitching has changed from 20-30 years ago.

Pitchers are too coddled today. Its mostly because of the $$$ they make.

Also, a decent/average pitcher today would have been a bad pitcher or turned into a long reliever in Gossages's day.

Average ERA's are higher today than back then.

ROYC75
05-05-2010, 10:44 AM
Nice find.

Yea, its amazing to think how much pitching has changed from 20-30 years ago.

Pitchers are too coddled today. Its mostly because of the $$$ they make.

Also, a decent/average pitcher today would have been a bad pitcher or turned into a long reliever in Gossages's day.

Average ERA's are higher today than back then.

So true........

blaise
05-05-2010, 10:51 AM
Brett's a great hitter, but Williams hit for much more power. His slugging % and HR total are quite a bit higher than Brett. Still, that's awesome to see Brett complimented that way because I do think, historically, Brett is probably underrated.

tyton75
05-05-2010, 11:42 AM
Brett is underrated as a player,, just wish he wasn't such a douche now

HemiEd
05-05-2010, 12:35 PM
I am so glad I got to enjoy and witness their careers. Those were some epic battles, George won most of them.

Damn I hated Gossage at the time, he could have been an Oakland Raider.

CoMoChief
05-05-2010, 12:43 PM
Brett is underrated as a player,, just wish he wasn't such a douche now

If you meet him outside the public eye he's actually a really cool guy.

The man cusses more than anyone I've ever been around....including my friends.....not kidding.

Saccopoo
05-05-2010, 12:50 PM
Brett is underrated as a player,, just wish he wasn't such a douche now

Who underrates Brett? He received the highest or second highest (one of those, can't remember which) votes for the Hall of Fame ever. He's generally considered the best hitter of his generation, which included some of the greatest hitters in the history of the game (Carew, Gwynn, Boggs, etc.).

And he was a douche back in the day, but it's easier for douchetude to be looked over when you are an active sports hero.