Goof Gossage: HOF’er Blasts Baseball in Rambling, Profane Screed

A version of this story appears at Baseball Essential.

As a Hall of Fame reliever, Goose Gossage is familiar with doing as much as he could in a limited period of time. Perhaps that’s how he was able to pack so much indulgently self-righteous ignorance, not to mention at least a dozen f-bombs, into one interview.

Geese are best known for being annoying creatures that are prone to hissing and flapping their wings at people who get too close to them and crapping all over the place. That’s pretty much what Gossage did when he spoke with ESPN about the “nerds” who are ruining baseball and the disgraceful Latin players like Jose Bautista and Yoenis Cespedes who are shaming their predecessors by having fun playing a game.

“Bautista is a f—ing disgrace to the game,” Gossage said, probably while looking to the sky and shaking his fist at a passing cloud. “He’s embarrassing to all the Latin players, whoever played before him. Throwing his bat and acting like a fool, like all those guys in Toronto. Cespedes, same thing.”

The whole tirade started when Gossage, who played for nine teams in his 22-year big league career, was asked about Aroldis Chapman, no stranger to controversy himself after the events of this offseason, who was making his first appearance for the Yankees on Thursday.

“[Pitch counts] have been created from the top, from their computers,” the nine-time All Star lamented. “They are protecting these kids. The first thing a pitcher does when he comes off the mound is ask, ‘How many pitches do I have?’ If I had asked that f—ing question, they would have said, ‘Son, get your ass out there on that mound. If you get tired, we’ll come and get you.'”

I can just imagine ESPN writer Andrew Marchand stifling a bad case of the gigs while the curmudgeonly diatribe gained steam and threatened to go off the rails altogether. When that happens, though, all you can do is just hold onto the handlebar mustache and pray that your recorder doesn’t run out of juice.

“It is a joke,” Gossage continued. “The game is becoming a freaking joke because of the nerds who are running it.

“I’ll tell you what has happened, these guys played rotisserie baseball at Harvard or wherever the f— they went and they thought they figured the f—ing game out. They don’t know s—.

“A bunch of f—ing nerds running the game. You can’t slide into second base. You can’t take out the f—ing catcher because Posey was in the wrong position and they are going to change all the rules. You can’t pitch inside anymore. I’d like to knock some of these f—ers on their ass and see how they would do against pitchers in the old days.”

At this point, I’d have been running for the fire extinguisher to douse Goose’s self-immolation by hot take before it could threaten the Yankees’ Tampa facility. Then again, there’s something fascinating about having a front row seat to such a (mouth)breathtakingly beautiful trainwreck of a screed.

“Ryan Braun is a f—ing steroid user. He gets a standing ovation on Opening Day in Milwaukee. How do you explain that to your kid after throwing people under the bus and lying through his f—ing teeth? They don’t have anyone passing the f—ing torch to these people.

“If I had acted like that, you don’t go in that f—ing dugout. There are going to be 20 f—ing guys waiting for you.”

My God, it’s like reading a Quentin Tarantino script, only absent the witty repartee that just screams, “Look how smart and funny I am.” Ah, but the self-importance on display was more than enough to rival the quirky auteur.

The timing of his little table read for the role of Ranty Ranterpants couldn’t have been better though, preceded as it was by an article about Bryce Harper in which the reigning NL MVP expressed to ESPN The Magazine’s Tim Keown a desire to erase all the unwritten rules Gossage seems to have tattooed on his very soul.

“Baseball’s tired,” [Harper] says. “It’s a tired sport, because you can’t express yourself. You can’t do what people in other sports do. I’m not saying baseball is, you know, boring or anything like that, but it’s the excitement of the young guys who are coming into the game now who have flair. If that’s Matt Harvey or Jacob deGrom or Manny Machado or Joc Pederson or Andrew McCutchen or Yasiel Puig — there’s so many guys in the game now who are so much fun.

“Jose Fernandez is a great example. Jose Fernandez will strike you out and stare you down into the dugout and pump his fist. And if you hit a homer and pimp it? He doesn’t care. Because you got him. That’s part of the game. It’s not the old feeling — hoorah … if you pimp a homer, I’m going to hit you right in the teeth. No. If a guy pimps a homer for a game-winning shot … I mean — sorry.”

“If a guy pumps his fist at me on the mound, I’m going to go, ‘Yeah, you got me. Good for you. Hopefully I get you next time.’ That’s what makes the game fun. You want kids to play the game, right? What are kids playing these days? Football, basketball. Look at those players — Steph Curry, LeBron James. It’s exciting to see those players in those sports. Cam Newton — I love the way Cam goes about it. He smiles, he laughs. It’s that flair. The dramatic.”

Later in that ESPN the Magazine piece, Harper’s longtime friend Tanner Chauncey said that he often hears the superstar described in less than glowing terms

“A lot of people look at his attitude as negative, that he’s cocky or arrogant. Douche — that’s the word I hear a lot. Is he a douche? No, he’s not.”

I agree that Harper is not a douche, but I feel as though there’s gotta be a good way to apply that ubiquitous pejorative to the antagonist of this story. Let me think about that a bit more and I’ll come back to it.

Listen, I get the notion of the wistful “back in my day…” narrative, but where does this guy get off just dropping F-bombs all over anyone and anything that helps to bring the game into modernity? I’d love to see Gossage take the bump against Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. No, even better, I’d love to see Joey Bats or Yo dig in and launch a moon shot of a homer before pimping it like Iceberg Slim and then capping it off with an epic bat flip.

If baseball wants to be successful in its efforts to attract a younger audience, I can tell you there are better ways to go about it than to have senior citizens dropping expletive-laden lectures on how much better the game was in the 70’s. Spring Training should be a time for the grizzled older guys to impart wisdom, not to tear apart the game and demean the guys currently playing it. This is just a bad look.

If there’s anything positive to be taken from this, it’s that we at least know better than to step foot on Old Man Gossage’s lawn again.

Hey, I figured it out: Douche Gossage. Yeah, that’s got a nice ring to it.

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