Tuesday, December 23, 2008
The New York Yankees swooped in Tuesday and hooked prized free agent Mark Teixeira, reaching agreement with the first baseman on an eight-year contract worth $180 million, three sources involved in the negotiations told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney.
The agreement, which is subject to a physical, includes a signing bonus of about $5 million and a complete no-trade provision, The Associated Press reported.
The Yankees had made an offer to Teixeira weeks ago, but then withdrew it; their intention all along was to make an offer, which they did formally on Tuesday, if it fell within parameters acceptable to the organization. The contract will pay Teixeira, who made it clear he wanted to make a decision on where to play next season and beyond by Christmas, an average of $22.5 million per season.
The Yankees had $88.5 million coming off the books (included in that total -- $23.4 million on Jason Giambi, $16 million on Bobby Abreu, and $11 million to both Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano), and even with the Teixeira contract, they expect their payroll to fall below $200 million. New York has committed $423.5 million in salary in the last month, with $161 million going to left-handed pitcher CC Sabathia ($23 million per over seven years) and $82.5 million to right-hander A.J. Burnett ($18.5 million per over five) last week alone.
Fantasy: Givens and limits
To say that Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter are locks for 100-plus runs, and A-Rod and Mark Teixeira 100-plus RBIs, is an understatement, Tristan Cockcroft writes. Blog
The deal also virtually eliminates any chance that free-agent outfielder Manny Ramirez has a landing place with the Yankees. New York does have money left to add another starting pitcher, most likely veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte at $10 million if he agrees to terms soon.
Teixeira's salary gives the Yankees, who are preparing to move into their $1.3 billion new ballpark in April, the four highest-paid players in Major League Baseball: himself, Sabathia, third baseman Alex Rodriguez (10 years, $275 million) and shortstop Derek Jeter (10 years, $189 million).
Teixeira's agreement also comes just one day after the Yankees received a $26.9 million luxury tax bill for 2008, when their streak of 13 consecutive playoff appearances ended. But with the revenue from their new stadium, where tickets are priced at up to $2,500 per game, their appetite for free agents wasn't diminished.
Just 28, Teixeira is the type of hitter the Yankees hope will revive an offense that dropped from a major league-leading 968 runs in 2007 to 789 last season. The switch-hitter batted a combined .308 with 33 homers and 121 RBIs for the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels, who acquired him July 29. He is also a two-time Gold Glove winner.
Likely Yankee lineup
What the Yankees' lineup could look like when they open the season on April 6 in Baltimore:
LF Johnny Damon
SS Derek Jeter
1B Mark Teixeira
3B Alex Rodriguez
DH Hideki Matsui
RF Xavier Nady
C Jorge Posada
2B Robinson Cano
CF Melky Cabrera
Bench? -- Nick Swisher
The Yankees landed Teixeira at a time it was believed the Boston Red Sox or the Washington Nationals were the likeliest to be his future employer. The Red Sox's offer was believed to be in the range of $170 million, and the Nationals reached out with an offer perhaps greater than that of Boston.
Red Sox executives met with Teixeira and agent Scott Boras last week and were told they were being outbid. Teixeira, who is from Maryland, also had discussed signing with the Baltimore Orioles.
"We would have loved to have had the player, who appealed to us because of the special circumstances of where he's from and where we are. We diverted from our plan to try to get him," Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said. "But at the end of the day, it was just too much to pay for one player. It would handicap our ability to go forward."
The Nationals also held talks. General manager Jim Bowden said his team's owners "demonstrated their commitment to win, when they stepped up in negotiations ... at the highest level."
"We are disappointed we weren't able to sign him," Bowden wrote in an e-mail to the AP on Tuesday, "and will now turn our attention to several other opportunities to improve our major league club this offseason."
The Angels made an eight-year offer during the winter meetings but withdrew it last weekend.
Teixeira will replace a void in the Yankees lineup created by the departures of Giambi and Abreu, who became free agents. It also creates a logjam for New York, which acquired first baseman Nick Swisher last month in a trade with the Chicago White Sox.
Although Swisher also can play the outfield, the Yankees have a multitude of options there, including Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner and Xavier Nady. Matsui currently is likely to be the designated hitter much of the time.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Yanks welcome CC, A.J. to New York
Prized free-agent acquisitions meet media at Yankee Stadium
NEW YORK -- Inside the construction site that Yankee Stadium has become, they gathered Thursday for one last hurrah, a look ahead to the future in a building so well-known for its past.
The white message board and its familiar black font still stared down at the Major Deegan Expressway, relaying just the words a passing fan would want to see: "Let's play two -- CC and A.J."
Side by side, it was a 2-for-1 deal -- a pair of talented arms, with just four letters needed to identify them. As the Yankees introduced CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett in a dual ceremony, the organization spoke optimistically about an upcoming return to dominance.
Representing the organization's top offseason priorities, the Yankees trotted out the top pitching prizes of this year's free-agent market in what may be the final news conference at the classic facility.
"I think it adds an urgency to get back to where this organization is supposed to be," Sabathia said. "I wouldn't say it's pressure. I would just say that people will play with a sense of urgency in the new stadium, getting back to that. It's definitely exciting."
They shed their jackets for pinstriped jerseys at the downstairs Stadium Club -- Burnett's a snug No. 34, Sabathia's a very baggy No. 52 -- across 161st Street from where both pitchers will ply their trade next season.
"People are excited, that much is obvious," Yankees co-chairman Hal Steinbrenner said. "People are excited about this new stadium. Going out and getting these two great guys is going to be exciting, too."
Such was the vision. General manager Brian Cashman had been plotting the image of Sabathia in a Yankees uniform since last winter, when the club shunned a chance to trade for Johan Santana. Cashman vowed to have patience then, and push aggressively now.
"The one thing that I think today represents is just another example of that we're going to keep swinging for the fences," Cashman said. "We're going to keep trying. We're going to keep finding people and the right circumstances for a group that can make it happen."
With an 18-win season for Toronto, Burnett soon shot to the top of New York's list as well, boosting a club aimed to upgrade after missing the postseason in the old ballpark's farewell season.
"This is a dream come true," Burnett said. "I'm looking forward to it; it's going to be a fun ride. I want to pitch in the postseason, and I'm here to win. I think both of us are dedicated to winning, or else we wouldn't be here."
Both hurlers agreed to wear pinstripes last week, with Sabathia agreeing to terms on a seven-year, $161 million deal and Burnett accepting a five-year, $82.5 million pact. The pitchers were in New York to complete physicals and finalize paperwork this week.
"We got the two gentlemen we really wanted," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I'm proud to say they're Yankees."
The concept of family, specifically as it relates to the Yankees, was a prominent piece of the introduction. Girardi lent his 6-year-old daughter, Serena, to the process, presenting wives Amber Sabathia and Karen Burnett with bouquets of red roses in a photo opportunity.
"We're all family now," A.J. Burnett said.
It was a bond that the Yankees had hoped to affirm for some time. The club left no doubt of its intentions with Sabathia, leaping to offer him a six-year commitment on Nov. 14, the first day it could do so.
But the California-born left-hander waited, holding a short list of three clubs close to his vest. The Yankees easily bested the Brewers' five-year, $100 million proposal, a deal that New York financially blew away.
Yet Sabathia said he held off on accepting the pact until he knew for sure that California would not enter the fray -- the Angels were his remaining club and never really seriously materialized, aiming to retain first baseman Mark Teixeira.
With the Yankees' needs in focus and negotiations stalled for weeks, Cashman took the initiative. Using Reggie Jackson as a pitchman during their first get-together at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Cashman was later invited to the hurler's home in Vallejo, Calif., approximately 30 miles outside of San Francisco.
There, Cashman met with Sabathia's wife and his young family to "educate." That included discussing entertainment options, educational opportunities and the leafy suburbs from which to commute.
The sales pitch clicked. With another year and $21 million placed on the table, Sabathia not only agreed to wear pinstripes, but he will also move his permanent residence to the New York area.
"It was kind of a stressful deal," Sabathia said. "I was just trying to make sure I made the right decision. Being here now and coming here and seeing the way people are, I definitely made the right choice."
With their top target in the fold, the Yankees then moved quickly to secure Burnett, who was weighing an offer to join the Braves. But Sabathia's signing put the market in motion, and Burnett liked the idea of being No. 2 behind an ace, the way he was with Roy Halladay in Toronto.
"This is a dream come true. I'm looking forward to it; it's going to be a fun ride. I want to pitch in the postseason, and I'm here to win. I think both of us are dedicated to winning, or else we wouldn't be here."
-- A.J. Burnett
"I wish he would have signed about a month earlier, to be honest with you," Burnett said.
New York agreed to commit a fifth contractual year to the right-hander, and that was enough to land Burnett. Geographical proximity played a large role: Burnett's wife dislikes flying. New York is only a three-hour ride away from the couple's home in Maryland, and now New York will become an in-season weekend home.
The Yankees held Burnett in high regard, especially this season, when he went 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA in five starts against them. Just as importantly, Burnett is 5-0 lifetime against the Red Sox; in 10 big league seasons, Burnett is 87-76 with a 3.81 ERA.
"You've got to keep your perspective," Cashman said. "It's great and I'm happy. But at the same time, we haven't won any games. It's nice print, but everybody's got to come together to form a team and go up against some stiff competition."
On adjusting to life in New York and dealing with the increased media scrutiny, neither pitcher felt they would have trouble making the transition.
"I've talked to guys like [Derek] Jeter, guys who have been here," Sabathia said. "I'll answer questions whether there's 100 reporters at my locker or five. I'm not afraid of telling you how I feel, whether I pitched good or bad."
"I think I'll fit right in," Burnett said. "I grew up in this game. You don't point fingers, you take the blame like a man and be accountable."
Following the introductory news conference, there was a photo opportunity across 161st Street, where Sabathia and Burnett will catch some of their first glimpses at the Yankees' new home -- rising quickly in anticipation of its first game action in April 2009.
After that, both players said they'd be on their way to complete house-shopping in the New York area, weather permitting. Though snow may be in the immediate forecast, Spring Training is just eight weeks away.
"Enjoy them now," Girardi told the wives, "because I get them pretty soon."
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
nice excerpt by tony kornheiser about catfish hunter
click title above to go to alex belth's baseball banter blog
Underneath the folksy, good-ol’-boy exterior, with all his talk about bird dogs, killin’ them hogs and farmin’ them soybeans, Jim Hunter is an intelligent, thoughtful, honest and astonishingly secure man, the kind of man who’ll wear raggedy overalls to town becacuse he’s a farmer and that’s what a farmer wears even if he has millions in the bank. He has a touch of Senator Sam Ervin in him, the ability to draw a perfect picture of a horse without having to label it “Secretariat.” “Cat doesn’t demand respect,” said Fred Stanley, his teammate, “he just gets it.”
July 3, 1978
Friday, November 21, 2008
Mussina a Hall of Famer?
Posted by Ed Valentine in New York Yankees
November 20th, 2008 at 8:00 am ET
With Mike Mussina of the New York Yankees ready to announce his retirement, the obvious question to ask is ‘has done enough to merit a plaque in Cooperstown?’
* 270 career victories.
* A 3.68 career ERA.
* A .638 winning percentage.
* Seventeen consecutive seasons of at least 10 wins.
* A 20 victory season at the age of 39.
Mussina was never the dominant pitcher in the league, and never won a Cy Young. He was almost always among the best, however.
Before last season I thought he was short of Hall of Fame caliber. Now, considering how the game has changed and that the 300-victory plateau should probably not be the benchmark, I’d say he should get in.
Highly-regarded writer Joe Posnanski makes the case for Mussina by comparing his career to that of Hall of Famer Juan Marichal. Posnanski also debunks the myth that Mussina was not a clutch pitcher.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
One of the rare times that the print version of Baseball America provides the news before it’s on their site…as per the Nov 17-30, 2008 edition...here are the Yankees “Top 10″ Prospects for 2009, according to Baseball America:
1. Austin Jackson OF
2. Jesus Montero, C
3. Andrew Brackman, RHP
4. Austin Romine, C
5. Dellin Betances, RHP
6. Zach McAllister, RHP
7. Alfredo Aceves, RHP
8. Phil Coke, LHP
9. Mark Melancon, RHP
10. Bradley Suttle, 3B
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Pitch count all that stops Hacker
Right-hander works seven perfect innings in Yankees' 1-0 victory
By Shane Figueroa / Special to MLB.com
Eric Hacker combined to go 12-5 with a 3.64 ERA in 27 games at three levels last season. (Mark Lomoglio)
The only way to pitch better than Eric Hacker did on Tuesday night is to get six more outs.
Hacker retired all 21 batters he faced before reaching his pitch count as the Tampa Yankees posted a 1-0, 10-inning victory over the Dunedin Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field.
A 25-year-old right-hander who combined for 13 wins at three Minor League levels last season, Hacker was in complete control. He needed only 78 pitches to get through seven innings.
"Stuff-wise, I felt great," Hacker said. "I had command of all four pitches in the strike zone and could drop a slider or curveball down if I needed to. Mostly, it was the guys behind me making plays. There were more than a few ground balls that could have been hits."
The former 23rd-round draft pick struck out six and induced 11 ground-ball outs. Second baseman Chris Kunda made a nifty backhanded play up the middle in the fourth inning, when he assisted on all three putouts.
"Chris was quick on his feet there," Hacker said. "I thought it was a hit, but he made a quick transition from his glove to the throw and got us an out. You always need plays like that to take a no-hitter or perfect game that far."
Hacker worked quickly, retiring the first two Blue Jays on a groundout and popout before catching Travis Snider looking at a third strike. He fanned two more in the second before producing seven straight ground-ball outs, a pop-up and another called third strike.
Hacker caught Jesus Gonzales looking at strike three in the sixth, which ended with another groundout, then retired the first two batters in the seventh on grounders. He punctuated his night by fanning Snider, MiLB.com's No. 15. prospect, for the second time.
"I'm pretty sure I had at least one strikeout with every kind of pitch I throw," Hacked said. "Everything was sharp, and [catcher Kyle] Anson knows these hitters pretty well. He's great with recognizing hitting patterns, and we got along well tonight. It was rare for me to turn down one of his signals."
It was the longest Hacker had taken a perfect game or no-hitter in his career, though he held Columbus hitless into the seventh for Class A Charleston last July 11 and pitched five perfect frames against Augusta on Aug. 17.
The Blue Jays ended the Yankees' bid for perfection in the eighth as Brian Dopirak and Paul Franko ripped consecutive one-out singles off rehabbing Major Leaguer Sean Henn.
That was no disappointment for Hacker, who missed the entire 2006 season following surgery on his pitching shoulder. For him, the most enjoyable part is simply being on the mound at full strength.
"It's a great feeling to just rear back and throw it," he explained. "I took it easy last year until around midseason, but I feel like I'm back in a groove now."
Despite Hacker's perfect night, the Yankees needed extra innings to even their record at 3-3.
Kunda singled to open the 10th and was sacrificed to second by Tim Battle. After Mitch Hilligoss was intentionally walked, Edwar Gonzalez sent a liner to left that scored Kunda with the game's only run.
Jonathan Hovis (1-0) struck out one in a perfect 10th for the victory.
"It was a great win for us," Hacker said. "It's always nice to win the one-run battles or the extra-inning battles. Hopefully, this gets us going."
Reliever Connor Falkenbach (0-1) was charged with one run on two hits and two walks in two innings for Dunedin (4-2).
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Thursday, February 28, 2008
FBI opens inquiry into whether Clemens lied to Congress about steroid use
BY TERI THOMPSON, MICHAEL O'KEEFFE and NATHANIEL VINTON
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITERS
Thursday, February 28th 2008, 4:02 PM
The FBI has opened an investigation into whether Roger Clemens perjured himself when he told Congress that he never took performance-enhancing drugs, a move that is sure to set the seven-time Cy Young Award winner up for intense scrutiny.
"The request to open an investigation regarding the congressional testimony of Roger Clemens has been turned over to the FBI and will receive appropriate investigative action by the FBI's Washington field office," said FBI spokeswoman Debbie Weierman.
"We can't talk about our investigative actions when an investigation is open,” Weierman said.
FBI agents will bring vastly more investigative power to the case than the lawyers for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform could bring to bear on the pitcher in that committee’s two-month probe, which ended with a criminal referral on Wednesday.
The bureau will likely also have to work out some sort of arrangement with Jeff Novitzky of the IRS and Matthew Parrella of the United States Attorney’s office in Northern California – two men who have spearheaded much of the government’s prosecution of drug use in sports.
Novitzky attended the Feb. 13 hearing where Clemens and his accuser, Brian McNamee, made statements before the committee that were so contradictory that one of them had to be lying.
“Everybody wants a piece of it – it’s like when the Navy joins the Army for a war,” said a lawyer close to the Mitchell Report fallout. “Novitzky is involved. I would be shocked if Novitzky and Parrella aren’t involved – they investigated McNamee, the Mitchell Report, on and on. This is about money, too – it’s got to be on someone’s budget. And the FBI has bodies. And Novitzky was always working with the FBI.”
Clemens denied using illegal drugs during a Feb. 5 deposition with the committee's lawyers and in the highly contentious hearing on Feb. 13. But in a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, the committee's ranking Republican, said Clemens' denials were contradicted by evidence gathered during the committee's investigation - including testimony from the Rocket's longtime friend and teammate, Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte.
"We are writing to ask the Justice Department to investigate whether former professional baseball player Roger Clemens committed perjury and made knowingly false statements during the Oversight and Government Reform Committee's investigation of the use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs in professional baseball," the letter said.
"We believe that his testimony in a sworn deposition on Feb. 5, 2008 and at a hearing on Feb. 13, 2008 that he never used anabolic steroids or human growth hormone warrants further investigation."
Because of his insistence on fiercely and publicly challenging the allegations in the Mitchell Report that he used steroids and human growth hormone, Clemens has already turned his life inside out.
Longtime friends McNamee and Pettitte were forced by the government to testify against Clemens, who identified his wife Debbie as a human growth hormone user. Even his rear end was subject to congressional scrutiny, when the issue of an abscess possibly caused by steroid use came up.
But all of that pales compared to an FBI investigation, which will mean Clemens will be scrutinized by law-enforcement agents who have subpoena power to look at his bank accounts, phone bills, medical records and computer hard drives.
Every friend, every relative, every teammate or business associate is now a potential witness if the government decides to build a case against him.
"You'll see people with direct knowledge who know about what went on. Clemens will start to hear from all these people, wanting to know why they're getting subpoenas and phone calls from the feds," one lawyer familiar with the case said. "It's a nightmare."
The probe comes as no surprise to Clemens' attorney, Rusty Hardin. "We've always expected they would open an investigation. They attended the Congressional hearing. So, what's new?" Hardin said in a statement Thursday.
Hardin said he has been telling his client for months that the Justice Department would get involved in the case and Hardin told the Daily News following the Feb. 13 hearing that he expected a criminal referral. It is a move the Texas lawyer said he welcomed.
"Fortunately, we now move from the court of public opinion, where there are no rules, to the court of law where the rules very specifically level the playing field. Whether it is in a criminal investigation or the upcoming civil trial, what has been a frenzied rush to judgment will be replaced by a careful and unbiased review of all of the evidence," Hardin said on Wednesday.
But Hardin makes a federal investigation sound as inconvenient as a visit to the dentist. The reality would be much more difficult.
Novitzky helped build the perjury case against Barry Bonds, and Parrella, an assistant U.S. Attorney, successfully prosecuted Marion Jones for lying to investigators. They and the FBI could descend on New York, Houston and elsewhere to determine if Clemens should be charged with perjury.
Former teammates - including Pettitte, admitted steroid user Jose Canseco, BALCO witness Jason Giambi and Chuck Knoblauch, who was also questioned by the committee - are sure to be witnesses. Clemens' son Koby, a prospect in the Astros' farm system, could also be questioned.
The Rocket's agents, Randy and Alan Hendricks, would be on Novitzky's to-do list. So would Kelly Blair and Kevin Schexnider, the owners of a Texas gym where, as the Daily News reported, Pettitte's father, Tom, had picked up human growth hormone.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
By GEORGE A. KING III
February 23, 2008 -- TAMPA - Mike MussinaMike Mussina has 250 big league wins. Chien-Ming WangChien-Ming Wang posted back-to-back 19-win seasons. Yet, it was Joba ChamberlainJoba Chamberlain who sent a buzz through the Legends Field crowd yesterday when he took the mound to throw batting practice.
"He got the loudest cheer and the guy before him [Wang] has won 38 games in the last two years," Joe Girardi said of Chamberlain. "He brings a lot of excitement."
What Chamberlain didn't bring yesterday was his 98-mph fastball and filthy slider. Not on the first day facing hitters. His best pitch was a change-up, which ranks fourth behind the heater, splitter and slider.
"Whether you are a starter or a reliever you are going to need them all," said Chamberlain. "We aren't all so gifted that we can throw a cutter," like Mariano Rivera.
Chamberlain will open the season working the eighth inning in front of Rivera but the plan is for him to be shifted to the rotation at some point.
For the first time in 14 spring trainings, Jason Giambi is preparing for a baseball season without a very close friend. In November, Slugger, an Australian shepherd, succumbed after a long bout with cancer.
"I had him for 13 years," Giambi said. "He was part of my divorce as far as custody."
So, what about getting another dog?
"We thought about it, but with spring training starting, me here and Kristian in New York doing some things, we decided not to."
Girardi can expect a fight from Jeter if the manager wants to give the shortstop a day off.
"Derek never wants to come out. He has played a lot of games over the years and we will talk as time goes on and give him a blow every once in a while," Girardi said.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
William Joseph "Moose" Skowron Jr. (born December 18, 1930) is a former Major League Baseball player, primarily a first baseman. He is currently a Community Relations Representative for the White Sox.
Skowron was born in Chicago, Illinois, and is of Polish descent. His father was a garbage collector. His friends called him "Mussolini" as a joke, after his grandfather gave him a haircut which looked like the dictator's, but his family shortened the nickname to "Moose." The name stuck throughout his career.
"Moose" attended Weber High School on the intersection of Division and Ashland in Chicago. He went to Purdue University on a football scholarship, but found himself better suited to baseball when he hit .500 as a sophomore, a record in the Big Ten Conference that lasted ten years.
Signed by the New York Yankees in 1950 as an amateur free agent, he played his first game for the Yankees on April 13, 1954. He wore uniform number 53 in the 1954 season, but switched to #14 in 1955 and stayed with that number for the rest of his years with the Yankees. In the beginning, he was platooned at first base with Joe Collins, but from 1958 on he became the Yankees' full time first baseman. He played in five All-Star Games as a Yankee: 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, and 1961.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Hank Steinbrenner insists Yankees still talking Johan Santana swap
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Tuesday, January 15th 2008, 4:00 AM
TAMPA - Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner has not closed the door on a trade for Minnesota Twins lefthander Johan Santana.
"It's still in the deciding process," Steinbrenner said Monday night outside Legends Field at the Yankees' spring training complex. "We're still discussing it. There's still a little talk back and forth."
Phil Hughes and center fielder Melky Cabrera would likely be part of a multiplayer package needed to obtain Santana, a two-time Cy Young Award winner who can become a free agent after this season.
Steinbrenner said reports that the Yankees recently withdrew a formal offer to the Twins are not true.
"There wasn't an official offer anyway. You can't withdraw something that wasn't there," Steinbrenner said. "There was no official offer on the table at this time."
The Mets and Red Sox also are interested in Santana.
Monday, January 14, 2008
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
A Brilliant Reliever in a Brilliant Time for New York
By TIM MARCHMAN
January 9, 2008
Reliever Rich ‘Goose’ Gossage, who pitched for the Yankees for six seasons, was elected to the Hall of Fame yesterday.
New York was brilliant in the late 1970s and 1980s. Books have been written and movies have been made about the blackouts, riots, and serial killers that haunted New York, but rarely since has the city seen such torrential creative energy. When Goose Gossage pitched his first game for the Yankees, the only place to hear hip hop was at Bronx parties where DJs ran sound systems powered by electricity from lamp posts; the year after he left, Queens' Run D.M.C. went gold. In Manhattan, artists and real estate speculators transformed SoHo, Martin Scorcese filmed his best movies, and Wall Street redefined the nature of finance. And a vicious tabloid war was on.
They were exciting times, and the Yankees were worthy of them. In the six years Gossage spent in the Bronx, the team went through 12 managers and won three pennants, two division titles, and a World Series. Again, books and movies have been created about those teams, but until yesterday, when he was finally elected to baseball's Hall of Fame, Gossage still hadn't gotten his due. More than just a dominant closer for great teams, he embodied their volatility and vigor, and that of the city in his time. He wasn't so absurdly outsized a figure as Reggie Jackson, Billy Martin, or Thurman Munson. But he was pretty close.
Fourteen years after his retirement, 30 years after his prime, Gossage remains the archetypal reliever. He had the violent, ferocious delivery that saw him flail his limbs and torque his whole body, driving everything he had into a fastball that hit bats like a medicine ball; he had the bizarre facial hair, which at times made it look as if Chester Arthur had taken the mound in anger, and he had the scowl of a starved and feral dog. Everything about him was scary; to this day, teams still run imitators of him out to the mound.
During his time in the Bronx, Gossage's earned run average was 2.10, and it was there that he earned his reputation. He had great seasons with Bill Veeck's Chicago White Sox, a pennant-winning San Diego team, and with Willie Stargell's Pirates, but history will remember him as Martin's fire-eating pitbull.
The skeptical baseball fan should remember, though, that just like other products of his time from Theoretical Girls to Bret Easton Ellis, Gossage's image was quite contrived at the time and has grown more so since. Gossage is recalled, for instance, as a true iron man, last and brightest of a generation of nervy warriors who shouldered workloads in relief that would break today's pitchers. The way he was used with the Yankees — he was brought in whenever the game was on the line, rather than being reserved for late-inning leads, and he would pitch up to five innings at a time — is held up by many as an ideal. (It's tempting to wonder why exactly the Yankees couldn't use Joba Chamberlain this way while breaking him into the majors this year.)
Gossage was an exceptionally durable reliever, but there's more to the story than just his innings totals. He pitched more than 130 relief innings three times, something that was done 28 times during his career and has not been done since. He pitched more than 100 innings four times, but that was done 221 times during the span of his career, and has been done just 16 times since. And especially in the Bronx, after the years in which he was used most heavily, Gossage was somewhat injury prone: From 1978 to 1981, at his physical prime, he missed two different half-seasons to injury.
None of this affects his qualifications for Cooperstown at all — he should have been in years ago, and his decade of true dominance makes him vastly more deserving than most of the more than 50 men and women who have been enshrined in the Hall since he was first listed on a ballot in 2000. But just as ballplayers can personify their times in some ways, so can they personify ideas. And the idea that Gossage would like to personify is that relievers were tougher in his day, and that baseball was better. He'll tell you: Last year he was quoted as saying dismissively, "Don't even compare what Mariano does to what we used to do."
So far as Gossage's line of argument is meant to make himself look good, there's nothing wrong with it. The man is certainly entitled to a bit of self-promotional bluster. The problem comes when people try to apply that reasoning to today's game as a hammer against today's players.
Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman may not be as tough as Gossage was, and they may not be used as efficiently, but both are still dominant at an age when Gossage had long since lost his effectiveness. Moreover, Gossage was very much affected by the times in which he pitched. Yes, he was able to pitch 130 innings a year; but there was always someone around who was used that way. It wasn't a really rare or singular thing to do, but rather something pitchers did when the game was played differently. DJs don't run their systems out of lamp posts anymore, managers don't punch star players on live TV, and Joba Chamberlain isn't going to throw 130 innings in relief this year. In all cases, that's probably a good thing.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
A year after Tony Gwynn was a first-time electee, along with Cal Ripken Jr., the induction ceremony on July 27 in Cooperstown, N.Y., will again have a distinct Padres flavor.
Rich "Goose" Gossage, who may be better known for his first tour with the Yankees (1978-83), was elected on Tuesday in his ninth year on the ballot. He'll join his former Padres manager, Dick Williams, on the stage behind the Clark Sports Center this coming summer.
"This was very emotional, off the charts -- I can't even describe this," Gossage said about taking the phone call telling him that he was selected. "I've waited a while, but there isn't anybody I'd rather go in with than Dick Williams. He was a great, great manager, and I really enjoyed playing for him."
Jim Rice, the former star of 16 seasons, all with the Red Sox, barely missed by 16 votes, as he fell 2.8 percent (72.2) below the necessary 75 percent to gain admission to the hallowed red-brick Hall on Main Street in Cooperstown. Voting trends suggest that he could very well break through in 2009, when Rickey Henderson will be an obvious first-time favorite. Rice then will be on the writers' ballot for his 15th and final year.
"Today's results are obviously a disappointment," Rice said in a statement released by the Red Sox. "I believe my accomplishments speak for themselves, and a majority of the voters seem to agree. It is tough to come this close, but I remain hopeful for the 2009 results."
Rice should take heart: of the 20 previous players who have registered 70 or more percent but less than 75 percent, every one of them has ultimately been elected.
Williams, who won the World Series twice as manager of the A's and will go in wearing an Oakland cap, teamed up with Gossage in 1984, as the Padres won the first National League pennant in franchise history, but lost a five-game World Series to the Tigers.
Williams' wife, Norma, answering the phone on Tuesday at their Las Vegas home, said Williams had already spoken to Gossage, and that her husband "was just as giddy as the day he got into the Hall of Fame."
"They just acted like two crazy little people," she said.
Williams was one of five managers and executives elected last month by separate, newly formed Veterans Committees.
World Series-winning managers Williams and Billy Southworth were elected along with Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and owners Walter O'Malley and Barney Dreyfuss.
All will also be inducted late in July, although Williams is the only living member of the quintet.
"It's terrific, it's terrific," said Williams about Gossage joining him. "I got a hold of him and we were just like two little kids. I'm as thrilled about him getting in as the day they called me. This is wonderful."
Gossage, who fell short by 21 votes in 2007, was this time named on 85.8 percent or 466 of the 543 ballots cast.
Andre Dawson, who hobbled on bad knees through many of his 21 seasons with the Expos, Cubs, Red Sox and Marlins, received almost a 10-percent uptick to 65.9 percent and may be right on the bubble in 2009. Voters from the Baseball Writers' Association of America also are taking another look at Bert Blyleven, a pitcher whose career ended after 22 seasons, just 13 victories shy of 300. Blyleven finished fourth behind Gossage, Rice and Dawson with a healthy 61.9 percent of the vote.
Gossage said that all three of the runner-ups should eventually get the Hall call.
"Just what I know about facing these guys, I think Jim Rice deserves to be in the Hall," said Gossage, who retired Rice and Carl Yastrzemski with a pair of runners on base and the Yankees clinging to a 5-4 lead, thus ending that famous 1978 playoff game for the division title in Boston. "No hitter scared me, but Jim Rice came the closest. Dawson should [be elected], because he also has great numbers. He was a teammate of mine with the Cubs. And Blyleven was a tremendous pitcher over a great career. Those are three guys who come to my mind right away."
In the wake of last month's Mitchell Report, Mark McGwire, the first star player tainted by the steroids era to face the electorate, finished at 23.6 percent, almost exactly the same place as last year, when he also received 128 votes despite hitting 70 homers in 1998 to win his famous record home run race against Sammy Sosa and finishing with 583 in his career. In 2007, McGwire also received an underwhelming 23.5 percent.
Gossage said he felt for McGwire and the voters who have to make that decision.
"I don't really know how to approach this," Gossage said. "McGwire was a great guy and a great teammate of mine the two years I played with him out in Oakland. And what a thrill it was to play with him. But this steroid thing is hanging over baseball now, and hopefully we can put this thing behind us and clear the gray areas out. I have a lot of empathy for [the voters] on how to go about this. I'm glad I'm not voting."
Of the 11 first-timers on the ballot, only one -- Tim Raines -- received the requisite 5 percent to remain. Raines earned 132 or 24.3 percent of the vote. Dave Concepcion, the shortstop on Cincinnati's great "Big Red Machine" teams of the 1970s, received 88 votes or 16.2 percent in his 15th and final chance among the writers. He'll now be eligible, beginning in 2011, to be elected by the Veterans Committee voting on players.
Gossage had one of his best years under Williams in 1984, his first of four seasons with the Padres, finishing 10-6 with 25 saves and 84 strikeouts in 62 games (102 1/3 innings). He was on the mound in the ninth inning of Game 5 against the Cubs in San Diego to close out the NL Championship Series, his final postseason save. That was also Gwynn's first of his 20 Major League seasons with the Padres.
"The impact that Goose Gossage had on this organization was incredible, on the field, in the clubhouse and for our fans in San Diego," said Padres president Dick Freeman, who was in a lesser role with the front office back then. "He was the final piece to our National League championship in 1984, which really established the San Diego Padres as a Major League franchise. It's hard to overstate what his contributions were to that team."
The Goose's baseball career line over 23 seasons is a road map of baseball stops around the world: Chicago (White Sox); Pittsburgh; New York (Yankees, twice); San Diego; Chicago (Cubs); San Francisco; Fukuoka, Japan; Arlington; Oakland; and Seattle.
His 1978 Yankees team, after Gossage pitched the final 2 2/3 innings to vanquish the Red Sox in that playoff game, went on to defeat the Dodgers in a thrilling six-game World Series. Gossage, a nine-time All-Star, never saved a World Series game, but he was the winner of Game 4 at Yankee Stadium for pitching the final two scoreless, hitless frames of a 10-inning, 4-3, come-from-behind win.
Gossage said on Tuesday that signing with the Yankees as a free agent in 1978 was "an out-of-body experience." But he said he left the Yankees for the Padres as a free agent six years later because he was tired of the endless wars between in-and-out manager Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner, the team's longtime principal owner.
"I needed a little change of scenery," Gossage said. "The fun had kind of been taken out of the game. I had always played the game for the fun of it."
Steinbrenner was more than gracious on Tuesday after learning the news that another player who starred in Yankees pinstripes had been added to the Hall.
"The Baseball Hall of Fame was really on the ball today in their selection of my close friend Goose Gossage," he said in a statement. "Goose was a fierce competitor and one of the all-time great pitchers, who in his career set a new standard for relief pitching. The New York Yankees are very proud of his achievement and I, personally, would like to congratulate him and his family on this wonderful honor!"
Gossage finished his career as a Mariner in 1994 with a 124-107 record, 1,502 strikeouts and a 3.01 ERA. His 310 saves are 17th on the all-time list, but he never had more than 33 saves in a single season -- 1980 with the Yankees.
A power pitcher who snarled beneath his mustache and intimidated hitters with his 98-mph fastball, along the way, Gossage went from rookie closer to starter back to veteran closer and finally finished as a setup man. Near the end of his career, Goose set up in Oakland for Dennis Eckersley, who was elected to Hall of Fame in 2004 and may have broken some ground for relievers.
It is the second time in the past three years that a premium reliever has been the only player elected to the Hall. Two years ago, Bruce Sutter was elected in his 13th year on the ballot.
Sutter, who had 300 saves in a 12-year career shortened by arm injuries, was preceded by Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers and Eckersley, three closers, like Gossage, who also started during their stellar careers. Sutter is the only reliever inducted thus far who never made at least one start.
Fingers, who was inducted in 1992, had 341 saves and threw 1,701 innings in 17 seasons. Gossage had 31 fewer saves in 1,809 innings.
Fingers had seven seasons as a reliever when he logged 100 innings or more. Gossage did it four times and came close in several other seasons.
In a yardstick of how the job of closer has changed since then, Eckersley did it as a reliever only once. So has the Yankees' Mariano Rivera. San Diego's Trevor Hoffman, the all-time leader with 524 saves, never did it.
Asked how effective Gossage might have been if he'd been restricted to one-inning saves, Williams quipped: "He'd still be playing."
Hoffman and Rivera are almost certainly future Hall of Fame electees, although Lee Smith, who held the all-time record of 478 surpassed two years ago by Hoffman, has been an afterthought among the writers, garnering only 235 votes or 43.3 percent this year.
Like Smith, Gossage said he always implored the writers not to compare him to the closers of this era.
"I'm probably the only pitcher to see the evolution of the bullpen from the time I broke in to the way it is today," Gossage said. "That's the only point I've ever tried to make: please don't compare me to these modern-day relievers. It's apples and oranges. It's not the same game. That's the only thing I've tried to set the record straight on. The way they're being used today is the way they should be used."
And the way the Goose almost never was.