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Yankee Panky #50: Goose Eggs
2008-05-15 07:22
by Will Weiss
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

It is a tired practice; writers contacting former greats from a particular team and having them comment on current players as if their words have any bearing on matters at hand. As much as I respect Goose Gossage and his shoot-from-the-hip style, I’m at a point where I do not want to see his name attributed to a quote unless it’s in a “where are they now” piece, or he becomes affiliated with the team in some kind of coaching capacity and has something meaningful to say pertaining to the team on a day-to-day basis.

It’s understandable, though. When a respected player with a good personality and rapport with the media reaches Hall of Fame status, he becomes a go-to guy for any story with the objective of comparing the past to the present. Such is the case with The Goose. With two and a half months until his enshrinement in Cooperstown, he is everywhere and is being treated as the de facto authority on all things Yankees.

Bob Klapisch’s Sunday column in the Bergen Record, which was later narced by the Associated Press, is further proof of this. When Joba Chamberlain caused a stir with post-strikeout histrionics last week, naturally, Gossage was the person Klapisch sought for comment/judgment. Gossage has for years waxed on the merits of players of his era, particularly relief pitchers and the development of specific roles in the bullpen. In his witty way, he’s been complimentary and critical, and always quoteworthy. Over the winter, Gossage, long a fan of Mariano Rivera, shifted his attention to the phenom, Chamberlain (at the media’s behest, of course). At the time, he said the right move for the Yankees was to leave Chamberlain as the set-up man and eventually have him assume the closer role once Rivera retires. In the subsequent months, he has continued his praise of Chamberlain, but this is the first time he’s openly questioned his maturity.

That this column came from Klapisch should not come as a surprise. Klapisch pitched at Columbia and still pitches in a semipro league. He likely viewed Chamberlain’s fist-pumping and primal screams as bush-league behavior and went to Gossage, knowing he’d have an agreeable audience. Very little work was involved save for making a phone call and transcribing quotes.

Klap’s lead:

The question was brought to Goose Gossage because who else to judge whether Joba Chamberlain was being a jerk on Thursday, pumping his fist and pirouetting after striking out the Indians' David Dellucci as if he'd toppled the Berlin Wall?

Once upon a time, the Goose was the game's hardest-throwing closer, who liked nothing more than to intimidate hitters. Not just throw the fastball by them — crush them psychologically. And Gossage, of course, was a Yankee, which means he and Chamberlain come from the same bloodlines.

Why does anyone have to judge at all? Klapisch, a veteran writer, is better than this. He fell into a classic reporter’s trap, which is building a story around a situation and an easy quote. The story is essentially written before the first word is typed. What’s worse, these types of articles invite responses from anyone willing to talk into a recorder or microphone. Predictably, the most boisterous response came from Hank Steinbrenner.

Later in the article, Klapisch criticized Joe Girardi for not taking action, adding that Joe Torre would have disciplined Chamberlain behind closed doors. Klapisch may be right, as well as he knows Torre, but he’s forcing a premise on his readers that may not be true. I can recall numerous times Torre saying, “I like the emotion. I don’t want to change (insert player name here).” Look how often he defended Roger Clemens.

Writers will continue to play this dangerous game, making assumptions and comparing players and teams from era to era. It’s part of the job to spur debate amongst fans in whatever way possible.

It’s unlikely that between now and the Hall of Fame ceremony that writers will cease calling Gossage. The question is: At what point will he stop answering?

OTHER INTERESTING MEDIA NOTES
• You can tell when a player has reached a nadir in the media’s eyes when the New York Times throws a humorous line worthy of print in either the NY Post or the Daily News. Tuesday, in his recap of the 7-1 loss to the Rays, Tyler Kepner observed that Kei Igawa was warming in the bullpen at one point, calling it “as sure a sign as any that the game was a lost cause.”

• A-Rod will miss the Subway Series. Pedro is out, too. What will the writers do to promote the it? For those of you who guessed Johan Santana, give yourself a prize. With the two-time Cy Young Winner pitching in Yankee Stadium Friday night, I’d put the odds of a Hank sighting at roughly the same as Big Brown’s chances at winning the Preakness. You know what that means: quotes a-plenty and follow-ups to his “earn your money” missive that made headlines on Wednesday. Who thinks Hank will fire Girardi by mid-season, bring in Bob Lemon, and then over the next seven years rehire Girardi four more times?

Until next week …

Comments
2008-05-15 07:51:56
1.   YankeeInMichigan
Hughes and Pedro both on the DL for the Mets series. It looks like we'll have to wait till next year to see Cliff's headline "Hughes Your Daddy."
2008-05-15 08:28:19
2.   Mattpat11
The way I look at it is if Joba's allowed to do it, you really can't whine about K-Rod or Papelbon's histrionics, or Manny's sight seeing.
2008-05-15 08:40:20
3.   Shaun P
Sometimes I wonder if Hank plays the role of George in the media on purpose, to bank up political capital, if you will, with the media. And because it gets the Yanks tons of free press. For example, when's the last time ESPN.com didn't link to a story about a Hank quote? They've already blown one of them from a non-story (Joba is going to go to the rotation) to a story (JOBA TO ROTATION SAYS HANK).

I can picture Hank and Hal having a good chuckle over it all.

But so far, Hank hasn't taken action. If this is just a game, how long can Hank play it without doing something? The writers will question his credibility, eventually . . . all bark and no bite.

And if its not a game, at least Hal (and their sisters?) are there to counterbalance Hank. I hope.

2008-05-15 08:44:08
4.   Bob B
His (Joba's) behavior is bush to all of us who grew up in an earlier day and time. You never saw anyone do anything but flip the ball to the ref after scoring a touchdown in the 50's and 60's. When Willis scored the first basket in game 7 in '69 he just backpedaled and set up the defense; there was no fist pump. I don't like it but the behavior of many athletes in many sports has become childishly self-centered. I think it's immature but it's obvious no one's going to be able to reason with him that it's unsportsmanlike. Too bad he doesn't have to bat, the message might get sent quickly and effectively.
2008-05-15 09:38:38
5.   Will Weiss
4 I agree, Bob. I don't have a problem with the criticism of Joba. I have a problem with the writers' lack of originality in thinking, "Hey, let's see what Goose Gossage thinks about this."
2008-05-15 09:42:30
6.   horace-clarke-era
Bob B, an over-reaction, I'd say, with respect. Your own point undermines your conclusion ... if you want to say (and I'd agree) that the culture of sport (and the world!) has changed a lot since the 'real men don't emote when they score' days, then what Joba did (I don't even want to say 'does' as I haven't seen it much before or since) simply FITS the current culture, it doesn't stand out. Who 'sends a message' if everyone does it, in other words?

Of course not everyone actually does it, and there are extremes (K Rod, Manny) and a different point could be made about superstar vets and near-rookies and who is allowed to parade ... but your main observation simply points out that all sports offer a lot more showboating, celebrating, what some might call 'self-expression'. Yeah, they do. Joba, at 21, is part of it, and still sorting his approach, I'd bet. I didn't like that moment much either (mainly because it was a minor hitter, spring game, personal story), but it has been WAY overfocused upon.

Times have changed. If you want to say the whole CULTURE looks bush sometimes, I'd buy into that ... but I sure wouldn't pick on Joba.

Hmm. Is Jeter's beloved, signature fist-pump something Willis would never have done? Sure it is! What do you want to say about THAT gesture?

2008-05-15 09:46:03
7.   JL25and3
5 It's the local version of getting a quote from Bob Feller.
2008-05-15 10:07:11
8.   bp1
4 I see your point, but Arnold would twirl around and toss his cap into the air after winning The Masters, and Jack would throw his putter sky high. Watson danced all over the green after his chip in on 17 at the '82 US Open - and the tournament wasn't over yet. Sometimes the emotion of the moment takes over, even in the most conservative and "gentlemanly" game of all. Sure, winning a major golf championship is a bit more of a feat than getting out of the 8th inning in an April baseball game, but emotion is emotion.

Remember when Posada hit that bloop over the infield to beat Pedro in 2004? He went bonkers on 2nd base. Yes - that was a game seven and all that - but geez - the game wasn't over yet. It was just honest emotion boiling over. Remember Matsui jumping into the air after sliding home? Who'd ever think that could be possible for such a quiet and reserved player.

I tend to give Joba a break. I do not believe he is being disrespectful to his opponents. I believe his actions are spontaneous and not at all similar to some of the dances seen in the NFL after a tackle or touchdown. I do not believe it is a case of "look at me - I'm going make a spectacle of myself and get on Sportscenter tonight".

I remember a few times when Jared Wright would walk off the mound after a key out and scream and shake his fist. I actually liked that about him. He gave a damn, and showed it. He was not disrespecting his opponent, just excited and passionate about the game and his performance.

I'd much rather have that passion than some of the zombie like strolls to the dugout by Carl "it really seems like I'd rather be someplace else" Pavano.

Passion is different than disrespect. We should be able to make that distinction.

2008-05-15 10:29:00
9.   YankeeInMichigan
It's interesting to note that post-goal histrionics have been a part of international soccer culture for years.
2008-05-15 10:36:12
10.   Just fair
Comparing today's game to the 50's is like comparing Leave it to Beaver to 2 and 1/2 men. For those of you who have never seen the latter, well here's the scoop. I am the polar opposite of bashful, yet my skin crawls at what they get away with saying on primetime TV. But I do kind of wish Willie Mays could have somehow struck Manny Ramirez after his antics yesterday. Just a little love tap.
HEY KIDS! GET OFF MY LAWN!! : )
2008-05-15 10:43:09
11.   YankeeInMichigan
New topic: I decided to do a bit of research regarding Kevin Long's line that A-Rod and Posada add "about a run and a half." The combined VORPr of the two last year was 1.169, by far the best of any teamates in baseball (Ramirez/Cabrera 1.008, Ordonez/Granderson 0.998, Fielder/Braun 0.934, Utley/Rollins 0.884), and was still far short of a run and a half.

Then again:
a) Having A-Rod and Posada in the lineup makes everyone else better, e.g. Abreu sees better pitches with A-Rod on deck.
b) The replacements for A-Rod and Posada have been playing below replacement level. As Pete Abe points out, the catchers and 3rd basemen are 17 for 92 (.185) since A-Rod and Posada have been out.

2008-05-15 11:35:55
12.   rbj
Didn't Al Hrabosky show emotion on the field. And are people forgetting Ricky Henderson's "snap catch."
2008-05-15 11:36:33
13.   DarrenF
Bizarre to me that Klapisch would claim that Torre would put a stop to this, especially considering that Joba did the same thing last season. Nobody styled more than Soriano and, after every stern meeting with Torre, Soriano went out and styled in the next at-bat.
2008-05-15 11:55:24
14.   Will Weiss
13 Excellent point.
2008-05-15 12:26:52
15.   williamnyy23
It is unfair to judge Joba's actions by any other standards than the one's pervasive in the game today. Otherwise, you could harken back to the days of the Babe when he would round the bases tipping his cap and saluting the fans. Is that Bush league too? I know I am not about to call anything the Babe did Bush league.

What's more, Joba doesn't use the fist pump as a preconceived ritual that follows every strikeout. He does it when he records a K in a very emotional situation. The Dellucci K may not have been a big moment, but for Joba, it was a confrontation with his first major failure. I'd have preferred that he not maintain his composure, but think it is ridiculous to call him a jerk for getting excited. In fact, I think you'd have to be a jerk to call him one.

Finally, I love Joba's response to the Goose. Basically, he said I respect your opinion, but I am who I am. Good for him.

2008-05-15 12:29:00
16.   williamnyy23
15 Should be "I'd have preferred that he maintain his composure".
2008-05-15 12:55:13
17.   Chyll Will
15 I absolutely agree. And another thing, has anyone kept track of how many times he's done the pump-twirl this season, and under what circumstances? Ridiculous, eh? I'm surprised, there's a stat for everything after all. Maybe it just seems like he's done it a lot because people pay way more attention to him than anyone else right now (or maybe they pay way more attention to it in NY), but I'm willing to bet that he's not done that even a fist-full of times in his appearances this season.

If it were a regular thing (or he did it now as a middle-finger to his critics) then I'd have a strong opinion against it, but with the cult of personality that drives professional sports and its media, I think there's at least a tinge of jealousy and condescending elitism permeating the airwaves and newsprint about this molehill...

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