January 09, 2008

Hot damn!

Rich "Goose" Gossage became only the fifth relief pitcher elected to the Hall of Fame, earning baseball's highest honor Tuesday on his ninth try on the ballot.

Known for his overpowering fastball, fiery temperament and bushy mustache, the Goose received 466 of 543 votes (85.8 percent) from 10-year members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

"It was very emotional, off the charts. I can't describe the feeling," Gossage said.


Gossage, who fell short by 21 votes last year, joins Hoyt Wilhelm (1985), Rollie Fingers (1992), Dennis Eckersley (2004) and Bruce Sutter (2006) in Cooperstown's bullpen.

Gossage was sitting in a recliner in his living room overlooking the Rocky Mountains when he received the call. He turned to reporters in the room and said, "Oh my God, I've been elected.''

"A shock wave went through my body like an anvil just fell on my head,'' Gossage said about his reaction. "I think having to wait makes it that much more special.''

His mother died in 2006, Gossage said with tears welling up in his eyes, and he had hoped she would live long enough to see him inducted.

Gossage was a nine-time All-Star who pitched for nine major league teams from 1972-94 and had 310 saves -- 52 of them when he got seven outs or more.

The first time he appeared on the Hall ballot in 2000, Gossage received only 33.3 percent of the vote.

Gossage's induction is both overdue and well-deserved. Several folks had commented this year that Bruce Sutter's election previously was the best thing that happened to his candidacy, because it clarified just how well qualified he was for the Hall. My sincere congratulations to Goose Gossage on this honor.

That was the good news. Here's the bad news:

Former Boston Red Sox outfielder Jim Rice was on 72.2 percent of the ballots, just 16 votes shy of the 75 percent needed. He has one more year of eligibility left on the ballot.

Former Montreal Expos and Chicago Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson was third in this year's voting, appearing on 358 ballots, or 65 percent. Pitcher Bert Blyleven was on 336 ballots, or 61.9 percent.

Dawson's teammate in Montreal, outfielder Tim Raines, was alone among 11 first-ballot candidates in qualifying to remain on the ballot, with 24.3 percent or 132 votes. Candidates must receive 5 percent to remain on the ballot for the next year.

Rice will appear on the writers' ballot for the 15th and final time next year, when career steals leader Rickey Henderson will be among the newcomers.

Mark McGwire, a casualty of the Steroids Era in some writers' minds, received just 128 votes -- the exact total he had last year. His percentage increased slightly to 23.6 percent, up from 23.5 percent last year when he was on the ballot for the first time.

Jim Rice - ugh! Look, you don't have to get knee-deep in sabermetric analysis to understand how clearly Rice falls short of Hall standards. Just look at how much worse he was on the road than he was at Fenway Park, and ask yourself if that measures up. Dawson has a better case, and he's no Hall of Famer, either. Yet these two are the most likely returnees to get voted in, while Tim Raines gets one out of four votes, and Bert Blyleven trails behind. Sheesh. At least Blyleven finally topped 60%, so he's making progress, though at this point I don't see any path to Cooperstown for him that doesn't also include one or both of Rice and Dawson. And that path may yet not include him.

And finally, may I just say, whatever joker voted for Shawon Dunston deserves to spend the rest of his professional career covering team handball. At least the vote for Jim Deshaies a few years back was done with a deliberate wink. What does this guy have to say for himself?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 09, 2008 to Baseball