As long as there are old dudes – and baseball never will run out of those – there will be the kind of generational crossfire generated yesterday when Rich Gossage went all Mr. Mitchell (Dennis the Menace reference) on the current state of the game.
And that’s a wonderful thing, because this sport more than any other is the referendum on just how much we choose to obey the past. This is never a tiresome debate, unlike the ones on CNN.
To be clear, a one-time glowering closer who went by the nickname of Goose and played with one of the all-time self-promoters (Reggie Jackson) took exception to just about everything happening in the modern individualistic game today.
The various f-words he sprinkled in like salt into a pickling brine were for dramatic effect. They’ll be omitted here.
The Hall of Famer’s comments were coincidental to an ESPN magazine story on Bryce Harper in which the young star lamented the lack of personality in baseball. Didn’t that provide the perfect contrast? Let’s get UFC’s Dana White to put Harper and Gossage in a steel cage – now that I’d pay to see.
A couple general thoughts:
Goosage had some valid points – it’s just that maybe they could have been driven home with a jeweler’s hammer rather than a jackhammer.
And while Bryce “baseball is a tired sport because you can’t express yourself” Harper is a redoubtable talent, I’m not trusting him with any intellectual argument this side of who he thinks really would win between Superman and Batman.
So, let’s take Goose’s comments one at a time:
- Toronto’s Jose Bautista, famed for his ALDS bat flip is “a disgrace to the game, embarrassing to all the Latin players who played before him.” Just as excessive as Bautista’s gesture was Gossage’s claim that it reflected upon an entire heritage. That’s like saying Carrot Top’s career is an insult to redheads everywhere. Just leave it at: How about a little class to go with that talent, Jose? You really deserved to get a fastball earring after that.
- Ryan Braun “gets a standing ovation on opening day in Milwaukee, how do you explain that to some kid after throwing people under the bus and lying through his teeth (about steroid use).” Ok, spot on. Very useful perspective, Goose.
- Baseball’s suffering from “the nerds who are running it – these guys played rotisserie baseball at Harvard and wherever they went and they thought they figured the game out.” As one of the nerds who cover the game, I have to admit that I was a little uncomfortable with that one. Hits a little close to home. But I also believe talent evaluation is cyclical and baseball just may be swinging more back toward eyeball evidence as opposed to hard math. There’s room for everyone in the press boxes and executive boxes of baseball, both the human calculators and the tobacco spitters.
In summary, we are experiencing something of an epidemic of Old Men Gone Wild. First Oscar Robertson. Now Goose Gossage.
And that’s OK, they’ve earned the right to say whatever the (bleep) they want (sorry, channeled my inner Goose there). And we get the pleasure of weighing the past against the present – one of the most fundamental rights given a sports fan. Even if the young'uns involved don't know what they're talking about.