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Goose lets loose on today's relievers

by Tracy Ringolsby
July 29, 2004

DENVER—Goose Gossage has been retired for 10 years, but the man who changed the late-inning approach to baseball hasn't changed his full-speed ahead approach to life.

Dennis Eckersley was inducted into the Hall of Fame in July, along with Paul Molitor. Eckersley joins Hoyt Wilhelm and Rollie Fingers as the only pitchers who were primarily relievers to be enshrined.

It doesn't sit well with Gossage.

He has no complaints with the three who have been inducted. He does, however, take offense at the fact that just those three have been given a spot in Cooperstown. And he really gets worked up when he hears himself and Bruce Sutter, another pioneer in the evolution of the bullpen, being compared to the modern closers such as Eric Gagne or Mariano Rivera.

"What respect does the old guy get?" Gossage said. "They should be comparing them to us, not us to them. The jury is still out on if these guys could do what we did. I don't think Eck resurrects his career if he had to do what we had to do. He was older when he became a reliever. I don't know if he could have handled the grind."

Life was different for a closer back when Gossage was creating the role.

There wasn't any preferential treatment. He could be pitching in the seventh inning or the ninth. There was no formula. He didn't come in to start the ninth and get a save. There were usually men on base, quite often two and sometimes three, when he'd get the call.

And he'd respond, like one night in Seattle when he struck out the middle of the Mariners order—Tom Paciorek, Bruce Bochte and Richie Zisk—on nine pitches, none of which touched a bat.

"We had jams to get out of," Gossage said. "Now they bring guys in with two- and three-run leads. We didn't pitch with three-run leads. We'd let other guys get some work in. I'd come in and have to get strikeouts. Why? Because I could. My strikeout totals weren't padded."

He's tried to act like it doesn't bother him, but it does, and he isn't hiding the frustration anymore.

"I think people have forgotten what we did," Gossage said. "Don't get me wrong. These guys are awesome with what they are doing. If I had been used like they are used it's hard to tell what my stats would be. I might still be pitching."

In Control

Buck Showalter never was comfortable with Alex Rodriguez on the roster in Texas. Showalter doesn't like anyone to have more power than him. And A-Rod had owner Tom Hicks' ear to the point that when Jerry Narron managed the team, he actually hired more of Narron's coaches than Narron did.

Once he got rid of A-Rod, Showalter's biggest threat to control of the organization was Grady Fuson, hired as a special assistant to general manager John Hart with the promise he'd become the GM after the 2004 season.

So much for promises.

Hart has signed on for another year, instead of stepping aside, and the Rangers were working out a financial settlement with Fuson, who has another year on his contract. Word in the scouting world is that in an all-star break meeting to evaluate the team, Showalter let it be known he wasn't hanging around if Fuson was in charge.

With the Rangers sitting atop the American League West after four consecutive last-place finishes, Hicks didn't hesitate in pushing Fuson aside to make Showalter happy. There is even talk that the Rangers are trying to create a job description to allow them to hire Mark Newman—a Showalter ally from when his days in New York—to be the eventual GM.

There's also change going on with the Yankees. Steinbrenner wasn't happy to find out his team is having a hard time making a deal for an impact player because other organizations don't have a good opinion of the players in the Yankees farm system. So Steinbrenner reassigned scouting director Lin Garrett after Garrett refused to resign, and put vice president of development and scouting Damon Oppenheimer in charge of the day-to-day operations of professional and amateur scouting.

Tracy Ringolsby is the national baseball writer for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. You can contact him by sending e-mail to tracyringolsby@baseballamerica.com.

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