Is Goose Gossage over rated?
After my colleague Tony Cincotta graciously pointed out that Rich Gossage is the career leader in blown saves, I did some research of my own and spoke to a few baseball people from different backgrounds to get their perspective on the former closer.
Let’s point out that Goose has 112 career blown saves. Sounds awful at first, but when you recognize that Rollie Fingers is second at 109, maybe it’s not so bad? The only other true comparison of the generation would be Bruce Sutter, who notched 300 saves, but he too had 100 blown saves.
Because closers like Goose, Fingers and Sutter were pitching more than one inning, they faced better batters as well. Former Mets’ pitching Coach Rick Peterson pointed out that a reliever trying to get six outs as opposed to three, would be facing hitters 1 through 6 at least once.
In the American League, you have the task of facing a designated hitter as well.
Goose has 310 career saves, Fingers 341. So head-to-head, Fingers ranks ahead of Gossage.
Goose notched 52 Super Saves, which is when a reliever closed out a game by getting seven outs or more. Of Mariano Rivera’s 652 saves in 732 save opportunities, he notched only ONE Super Save.
“It’s tough to rank these guys simply because in some ways, it’s apples and oranges,” says baseball writer Mel Antonen, who has covered baseball for over 30 years and is a Hall of Fame voter. “Goose was dominant with strikeouts and his statistics speak for themselves. But, what made Goose unique was his multi-inning saves. For that reason, I’d rate him in the top three.”
In 1978, when the fearsome, hard-throwing righty was the mainstay of the bullpen for the World Series champion New York Yankees, he pitched 134 1/3 innings in 63 appearances. By contrast,Mariano Rivera’s high as Yankees closer has been 80 2/3 innings, in 2001. Goose threw more than 85 innings as a closer seven times and more than 99 innings five times. His 26 saves in 1975, 27 in 1978, and 33 in 1980 led the majors.
“I think Goose was one of the most intimating pitchers in history,” says former Kansas City Royals’ starter Mark Gubicza. “Great numbers and fierce competitor. Even though George Brett had success against, he told me it was a total battle every time. I also loved the fact that he had multi-inning saves.”
In that first season with the Yankees, once he relieved at the start of the seventh and pitched the final seven innings of a 13-inning game. Later in the season he pitched seven innings again in a 17-inning game. Sixteen times he pitched three innings or longer; 35 times in his 63 games he went two or longer.
“I would agree that Gossage was one of the very best closers during his era,” says former Los Angeles Dodgers’ General Manager Fred Claire. “He not only proved he could dominate in his role, he did it in a major market and on the biggest stages in the game.”
During New York’s playoff run in ’81, Goose nailed down six saves, and didn’t allow a run in 14 1/3 innings of work. He allowed only four earned runs in a total of 24 2/3 innings in the post season for the Yankees.
While Goose pitched in the majors for 21 years, his “meat” years were from 1975 through 1985, where he nailed down 253 saves (does not include 1976 as a starter, plus injured in ’79 and ’81 was a strike year). Over that span, he threw 1,003.2 innings and struck out 923 batters with an ERA of 2.00.
That sounds kind of dominating to me?
Mike is a professor of Sports Communication at Iona College and has 30 years experience in broadcasting working at WFAN, MLB Network Radio, NY Giants Football Radio Network and is the author of “The USFL – The Rebel League the NFL Didn’t Respect but Feared.”