Rich “Goose” Gossage is many things. He’s a Hall of Famer, a guy who used to throw baseball really fast and a former New York Yankee. He’s an also old white guy from Colorado.
On Thursday he sounded far more like the latter than the former. Gossage took the “kids today don’t know what’s what” spiel to the ends of the earth in an interview with ESPN to the point where he was calling Jose Bautista a “disgrace to the game” and accusing “nerds” of ruining baseball.
Regardless of where one stands on Bautista, who is undoubtedly a divisive figure, Gossage’s statements are ludicrous. However, they were picked up by media outlets across the country and shared by thousands because they made a good headline. This is where we need to break it down a little further:
Why did it make for a good headline?
Because Goose Gossage said it.
If some bench coach or former utility infielder said that Bautista was a disgrace it would have been noticed, but it wouldn’t have blown up. So the next question that beckons is:
Why did do we care what Gossage says?
Because he was a really good player, a Hall of Famer and a World Series Champion with the Yankees. He could pitch some baseballs in his day.
When we boil it down the only qualification Gossage has to comment on the game is that he was at one time an above-average participant. So, if we admit that we are giving credence based solely on baseball playing ability is it not fair to compare Gossage to Bautista?
If we only listen to Gossage because he was good, wouldn’t Bautista’s opinion be more valuable if he was objectively a better player than the persnickety old timer?
As it turns out that comparison is rather interesting:
It’s notoriously difficult to compare across eras and positions like this, but the similar WAR is interesting. At the peak of their powers you’d obviously rather have Bautista, but the total value created is similar.
Because he’s not a nerd, Gossage would have had no idea about these numbers when he spoke out against the Blue Jays’ right fielder, but we would have known he was targeting a very accomplished player. Even so, in the old reliever’s mind he was far more of a ballplayer than Bautista is.
But the numbers don’t bear that out.
If we accept that Gossage’s only credential for commenting on the game is that he was great at it, Bautista’s greatness seems to find relevance in the conversation. The 64-year-old thought he was targeting a player far beneath his stature, but in fact he was making a mistake of picking on someone his own size.
In the world of bullying, that’s a rookie mistake.
Lead photo: Jonathan Dyer / USA Today Sports