Leaving Gossage out of Hall again a shame, shows flaws of process

MILO F. BRYANT Gazette Sports columnist Updated: January 11, 2006 at 12:00 am • Published: January 11, 2006
First, a disclaimer: I don’t like the Baseball Hall of Fame selection process. As soon as I was old enough to understand what the Hall of Fame meant, I also found out Hank Aaron received votes on only 97.2 percent of the ballots. Aaron fell nine idiots shy of what he should have earned — a unanimous selection. There are still some idiots in the Baseball Writers Association of America. And they number more than nine. The 2006 Hall of Fame class was announced Tuesday. For the seventh consecutive year, Rich “Goose” Gossage failed to make the list of athletes bound for Cooperstown. ESPN.com has 10 Baseball Hall of Fame voters who contribute to the site. Gossage was on all of their ballots. Bruce Sutter, the only member of the 2006 class, was on eight. Few should’ve expected Gossage to appear on all 520 ballots. But 390, the 75 percent required to make the Hall of Fame, seemed more than plausible. Obviously not. “I’ve gotten a lot of great support from a lot of great writers,” Gossage said Tuesday, minutes before leaving his house to walk his dog. “I made a huge jump this year. Hopefully, in the coming years, I will hopefully go in.” Gossage’s “jump” was in ballot percentages. He was on 55.25 percent of the ballots last year and 64.6 percent this year. Maybe my logic is warped. But Gossage isn’t going to strike out another opponent, throw another pitch or intimidate another batter in the coming years. If Gossage is good enough for the Hall of Fame in a couple of years, he’s good enough for it now. Therein lies some of the issues with the way Hall of Fame members are selected. If a player has Hall of Fame capability, he has it as soon as he’s eligible. “First-ballot Hall-of-Famer” shouldn’t be a part of sports lexicon. I don’t know what’s worse — a group of writers failing to put Gossage on 75 percent of its ballots or one member of the group putting Walt Weiss on his ballot. “I think to a certain degree it is a flawed system,” Gossage said. “It’s not perfect. But in our legal system, there are also some injus- tices. I don’t know if there is such a thing as a perfect system. “It’s baffling to me to sit here and try and figure it out. I never tried to figure the game out while I was playing. I’m not going to sit here and try to figure the whole process out now. Sutter, it took him 13 years to get in. I don’t understand the process of why. Bruce Sutter didn’t save any more games. It’s like they’re playing games with guys’ lives.” Don’t get this message twisted. This isn’t the hometown paper pulling for the hometown guy. Gossage transcends Colorado Springs. Gossage pitched in an era when relievers worked. There were times Gossage warmed up in the sixth inning. Yankees star Mariano Rivera, who probably will get in the Hall in his first year of eligibility, doesn’t play the same game Gossage did. Today’s closers rarely pitch more than an inning. The Riveras of the baseball world have middle relievers and set-up men. Gossage was all three. From the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, there wasn’t a pitcher as feared as Gossage. Gossage is a big man to start with. Add in a thick Fu Manchu mustache, a crazy delivery complete with whirling arms, and a 100-mph fastball and it’s easy to understand why he scared batters. Gossage was a nine-time All-Star. He led the American League in saves twice and finished with 310 saves. “He was the man back in the day,” former Colorado Rockies closer Shawn Chacon said during his stint as a closer. Gossage was one of the coaches helping Chacon. “He was what a closer should be. He was nasty.” And he should be a member of the Hall of Fame. Gossage said he no longer gets excited about announcement day. Gossage was home with the dog, fielding “more than 40 phone calls” from reporters and well-wishers. Through it all, Gossage says he’s keeping perspective. “I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t disappointed,” he said. “But in the big picture, this doesn’t really mean much. I mean, we’ve got a war going on in Iraq. And, you know, we’re losing our boys over there. That’s a lot bigger.” That’s another issue I don’t like, but it’s another column, for another section. Columnist Milo F. Bryant can be reached at 636-0252 or mbryant@gazette.com HALL OF FAME VOTE 520 votes cast; 390 needed; x-elected x-Bruce Sutter 400 (76.9%), Jim Rice 337 (64.8%), Rich “Goose” Gossage 336 (64.6%), Andre Dawson 317 (61.0%), Bert Blyleven 277 (53.3%), Lee Smith 234 (45.0%), Jack Morris 214 (41.2%), Tommy John 154 (29.6%), Steve Garvey 135 (26.0%), Alan Trammell 92 (17.7%), Dave Parker 76 (14.4%), Dave Concepcion 65 (12.5%), Don Mattingly 64 (12.3%), Orel Hershiser 58 (11.2%), Dale Murphy 56 (10.8%), Albert Belle 40 (7.7%). - By receiving fewer than 26 votes (less than 5 percent), Will Clark 23 (4.4%), Dwight Gooden 17 (3.3%), Willie McGee 12 (2.3%), Hal Morris 5 (1.0%), Ozzie Guillen 5 (1.0%), Gary Gaetti 4 (0.8%), John Wetteland 4 (0.8%), Rick Aguilera 3 (0.6%), Doug Jones 2 (0.2%), Greg Jefferies 2 (0.4%), Walt Weiss 1 (0.2%), Gary DiSarcina 0 (0.0%), Alex Fernandez 0 (0.0%) are no longer eligible for election by the BBWAA. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
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