Shout at the Devil

I’m sorry, but Rich “Goose” Gossage is not a Hall of Famer. Sure, in his heyday, roughly 1977 to 1984, he was one the most intimidating pitchers in the league. And yes, he had a half-dozen seasons in which his numbers rank up there with any Hall of Fame reliever. And okay, he has one of the best nicknames in the history of baseball. And the best mutton chops. But he’s not Hall of Fame material.

Except that he is.

Despite appearing on just 71.2 percent of the ballots cast by the voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America last year (75 percent is needed for induction), and only 33.3 percent in his first year of eligibility in 2000, he was voted in yesterday at 85.8 percent. He received 78 more votes this year than he did last year! He more than doubled his percentage during his nine years of eligibility!

Did his stats suddenly improve? No. He’s the same Rich Gossage who, upon retirement in 1994, stood little chance of being elected into the supposedly hallowed Hall. So what gives?

The main problem is that the 500-plus members of the BWAA seem to have a collective desire — an annoying and stupid desire — to induct at least one player each year. Usually that baffling directive doesn’t matter much, as bona fide shoo-ins enter the pool of eligible candidates in most years, such as Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn in 2007, or Wade Boggs in 2005. But occasionally there are no slam dunk candidates — generally speaking, guys with 300 wins, 3,000 hits or 500 home runs who have never been accused or found guilty of taking steroids or betting on baseball. In those years, this collective agreement to induct somebody, anybody leads to folly. Which is why Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays are now rooming with relative scrubs like Gary Carter, Bruce Sutter and, yes, Goose Gossage.

What’s stupid about this is that, each year, voters are allowed to list as many eligible players on their ballots as they deem worthy of induction. A particular voter could choose to elect no one; he or she could choose to elect twenty players; most choose to vote for just a few. Why, then, did 78 people decide that Gossage was suddenly worthy of the Hall? Why wasn’t he elected last year? Is it because they didn’t think he was good enough for induction last year? Yes. Is it because they thought the name Gossage didn’t carry the same weight as Ripken and Gwynn last year? Yes. And yet just twelve months later, 78 voters decided, “Wait a minute! The name Gossage is equal to the names of Ripken and Gwynn after all!” It makes no sense.

The big loser here is Jim Rice. In his penultimate year of eligibility, he finished in second place in this year’s voting with his highest-ever tally of roughly 72 percent — just shy of induction. Is he a lesser player than Gossage? Or Sutter? Or Gary Carter? Not really. If anything, he’s probably more worthy than those guys. He would likely get over the hump next year — if there weren’t any newly eligible shoo-in candidates appearing on the ballot. But next year is Rickey Henderson’s first year of eligibility. It’s probably game over for Rice.

Not that I think he’s worthy of election anyway.

Whatever. It’s all subjective. And it’s my subjective opinion that many of the baseball writers who get to be part of the voting pool are total idiots.

Certainly that one person who voted for Chuck Finley is. Yes, it’s true — Chuck “I Got Beaten Up by Tawny Kitaen” Finley received one vote for the Hall of Fame yesterday. Other mediocre players who received votes: Shawon Dunston, Chuck Knoblauch, and Todd Stottlemyre. I’m not going to suggest that the dumb-asses who voted for these scrubs get rounded up and dropped off in East New York with signs around their necks saying “WHITE POWER!” But I am going to suggest that someone might want to revoke their voting privileges.

Are the primaries over yet? Please?