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Gossage: Rivera’s Job a “Piece of Cake”

By Mike Silva ~ June 26th, 2011. Filed under: Mike Silva.

Goose Gossage was on the air with Evan Roberts of WFAN yesterday from Six Flags Great Adventure. They talked about the greatness of Mariano Rivera, but you could tell that Goose had his doubts that Rivera could sustain his current length of dominance if he had to do multiple inning saves.

From 1977 to 1985 Gossage was as good as any reliever in the history of the game. His ERA+ of 182 is right up there with Rivera, Eckersley, Hoffman, and Lee Smith.

Of course, during his era closers were expected to go 2-3 innings. Gossage period of dominance is better than similar multi-inning closers such as Rollie Fingers and Bruce Sutter.

“I wasn’t a closer, I was a relief pitcher,” Gossage said. He made a great point that he was not just the closer, but the seventh and eighth inning man. He pointed out that he came on with inherited runners in the seventh or eighth inning many times. Some of those situations required that he keep the ball out of play.

Gossage went on to say that “Mariano doesn’t come in with inherited runners. He gets to start out the ninth with nobody on… Easy? It is a piece of cake compared to what we use to do.”

While I do agree with Gossage that closing games during his era versus the modern game is different, I also think you can’t deny the length of dominance by him since no other one inning closer has lasted this long. Eckersley had a six year run; Lee Smith had an eight year run with Chicago and Boston; Hoffman was much more hittable after missing most of the 2003 season; Jeff Reardon had a 3 to 4 year run in Montreal; Billy Wagner was good until his retirement, but I don’t know if I can put him on the same level as an elite closer. He gave us his share of homers and blown saves. Rivera is entering his 16th season of ninth inning excellence.

I can see Gossage’s point about the roles being completely different. It just sounded like Goose wasn’t as impressed with the “Great Rivera” as the rest of us.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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6 Responses to Gossage: Rivera’s Job a “Piece of Cake”

  1. Andrew

    Times have changed. Mariano Rivera’s as great as he is because he’s got amazing stuff in his arsenal. So what if he only works one inning? That’s a CLOSER’S job. Get with it, Goose. You weren’t a closer because you went 2-3 innings. Rivera’s a closer because he finishes the game for the Yankees. He’s a great closer, and a fantastic pitcher, and he should be commended for his achievements.

  2. Craig

    Let’s not forget that one of the things that separates Mo from other closers is that he does pitch multiple innings in meaningful games, especially in the postseason. Just look at the 2009 postseason run, for example. He really got the job done across multiple innings during a postseason in which every other closer had at least one big failing that really hurt their team.

    Just take one those games against the Twins (IIRC). It may have been the game A-Rod tied up with the 2 run homer in the 9th, but I could be wrong. Anyway, the 8th inning reliever had men on 1st & 3rd with only 1 out. Girardi brings Mariano in and he promptly got out of the inning while stranding the runners. Then he pitched a scoreless 9th AND a scoreless 10th. The Yankees went on to win it in the 11th, so Mariano didn’t get credit for a win, but he was huge in that he kept the score right where it was until the Yankees could finally get a run across (the Tex walkoff homer, if that was the actual game). Mariano does this kind of thing a lot in the playoffs, and his presence looms large over the opposing team as the game wears on.

    I do, however, agree with Gossage in that I’m not sure managers always make the best decisions on which relievers to go to in the later innings. Certain big outs in the 6th, 7th, or 8th innings can be even more important than the 9th, so why would you want to use a so so middle reliever in a spot that could determine the whole game? Managers have to be smart about navigating those obstacles, and GMs have to be smart in how they put the bullpen together, understanding just how crucial it is, something the Braves or Red Sox, for example, have understood, and the Mets, unfortunately, have not. :(

  3. chili palmer

    Many NY baseball fans know that Gossage has been the go-to guy to tear down Rivera for many years. It’s not news. What is news is that you thought Gossage made any ‘great points’ since he failed to mention Rivera’s success in 3 levels of post season play as well as all star games. Rivera pitched countless multiple innings and numerous times with inherited runners in the post season. He pitched 3 days in a row in the 1996 World Series. Wow, he has it easy. Rivera has saved 2 games in one day 6 different times but no one mentions that. He far exceeds closers from 1995 on in multiple inning apps. and runners on base. All of this obliterates Gossage’s demented points that reporters repeat year in and year out. When is one person going to mention to Gossage the giant failure he was under the bright lights of post season and all star? In one World Series his manager told him to walk a guy, but tough guy Gossage ignored him and pitched to the guy who promptly hit a home run. Proving Gossage loses control of his emotions in big spots. When is one person going to mention the difference that Rivera plays up to 3 levels of post season play in driving rain and freezing cold weather when Gossage was sitting on the couch? In Gossage’s era there were only 2 levels of post season except for one year, 1981. Gossage reports such as this deny and misrepresent a large part of Rivera’s hard earned body of work. Players on opposing teams have always known Rivera could come in anytime from the 8th inning on.

  4. tnt1528

    rivera wasnt the closer in 96,wetteland was. what if rivera wasnt playing on a stacked,best player money can buy team? then he wouldnt be in playoffs every yr. and every closer usually pitches every game in the playoffs anyway.(wetteland all 4 wins,foulke all4 in sweep of cards.)

  5. daveminnj

    i’m not getting the same read from gossage’s comments as the rest of you.
    what i’m getting is that gossage thinks rivera’s prime would have been much shorter if he had to pitch multiple innings. and i think that’s a very fair point.
    apples and oranges, sure, but can you imagine if gossage had just
    done 9th innings? a few more great years, i think.

  6. Mike Silva

    Fair point Dave, but I also think Goose believes he was more of a pitcher since he went multiple innings

    Its clear from listening to him on the radio he believes Rivera’s job is easier

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