Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Dip, Dip, Dive
2006-01-11 05:16
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

Goose Gossage was understandably upset that he wasn't elected to the Hall of Fame yesterday. He told Jack Curry in The New York Times:

"Right now, I don't think I'll ever get in," Gossage said. "Why would I feel good about this? Because Sutter got in, that's supposed to help me? Let me tell you, I don't have to take a back seat to anybody."

..."I was a pioneer in how the bullpen is used today," Gossage said. "I did the work it takes three guys to do today. Don't compare what Mariano does today to what I did. It's two different positions."

Regardless of how he's currently feeling, I say Gossage will eventually make it. But he isn't alone in his criticism of the results. Joe Sheehan ran some telling numbers in his column the other day proving that Gossage was a better pitcher than Sutter. His conclusion?

Gossage had Sutter's career and another ten seasons of work...There is absolutely no rational argument for having Bruce Sutter on a ballot, but not having Rich Gossage on it as well. You can vote for Gossage alone, you can vote for both or neither, but all ballots that list Sutter and not Gossage are fundamentally flawed, and reflect a lack of understanding of what the two pitchers accomplished in their careers.

Rob Neyer adds:

The voters certainly can't be supporting Sutter because of his value; if they were voting for value, they would have Gossage ahead of Sutter, because Gossage so obviously was more valuable than Sutter. They must be voting for Sutter as a "pioneer" -- a pioneer of the split-fingered fastball (even though he didn't invent the pitch) and a pioneer of the save situation (even though he was just following orders). Voting for Sutter but not voting for Gossage is simply an irrational act. Nothing personal; I act irrationally at least a couple of times a year, so I can't exactly hold that against my esteemed colleagues.

Meanwhile, Bruce Sutter was overcome when he learned that he was headed for Cooperstown:

"It's been 18 years since I threw my last ball," Sutter said in a conference call. "I didn't think it would affect me as it did. When I got the call and was told I was in, I gave a 'thumbs-up' to my wife and sons and then I broke down and cried.

Sutter, of course, is famous for popularizing the split-finger fastball, a pitch that was taught to him by Fred Martin in 1973 when Sutter played for the Chicago Cubs' Quincy team in the Midwest League. Previously, Sutter, who had worked as a printer's assistant the winter before to pay for surgery on his right elbow--a fact that he concealed from the Cubs, was an ordinary pitcher. But he took to the new pitch, a harder version of a forkball, almost immediately. Sutter detailed his story to Roger Kahn in "The Head Game":

"I threw it," Sutter says, "and the first time I did it, the ball broke down. Right away it broke down. I don't know why it came so quickly. I have big hands and long fingers, but maybe, aside from that, it was something in my natural motion. Anyway, it broke great that first time and then it was just a matter of...well, now that I think about it, a lot of things. Learning to throw it for a strike. Learning to bounce it in the dirt. Getting the hitters to chase the one that bounces. Fooling them. Keeping them fooled."

"All right," Bruce Sutter begins an unpretentious but profoundly knowledgeable lecutre, "a baseball has two seasm, which run in lines. take the point where those seams are closest together. Put your index finger on one seam and your middle finger on the other. Now speard your fingers about a quarter of an ince so they rest on either side of the seams. If your fingers are long enough, you'll be sort of reaching around the ball and your fingertips will come to rest on the front seams. The ball is touching the meaty area on the inside of your fingers but actually you grip it--apply pressure--only with the fingertips on the seams at the front of the ball. Very different from the grip for any other pitch.

"Okay. The second thing is positioning your thumb underneath. When you set your grip so that there are those two parallel seams on top, inside your fingers, you find two seams on the bottom of the ball. Nothing complicated. Just the nature of how a baseball is stiched. Your thumb goes on the back seam, not the front one. That makes the ball move out of your hand a little bit, away from the palm.

"Now something else. Pressure the ball more with your index finger than with your middle finger. That's hard for some to do; they're used to applying most pressure with the middle finger. It just so happened that I always threw off my index finger, even when I was a little kid, even when the coaches didn't want that. There it is. Fingers spread, wrapped around the ball. Thumb on the back seam on the underside. Most pressure from the index finger. Let 'er rip.

"...It was some time before I could control the splitter the way I had to. After a while, I found out that I did my best throwing for the top of the catcher's mask. That became my target. If I used a wide finger-split, the ball would end up in the dirt. If I split the fingers a little less it would be a strike at the knees. Once in a while, maybe one pitch in ten, to cross 'em up, I'd play real dirty. I'd throw a straight fast ball that didn't drop at all.

"Before I learned the splitter, the Cubs were ready to release me from a bottom-level minor league team. Back to the print shop, kid. That's what it would have been. Two years after I learned the splitter, I was pitching in the major leagues."

Sutter went on to explain his success:

"I used to play long catch in the outfield before games. I liked to throw long distance. I think that helped my arm. That and certain stretching exercises. Whoever first said pitching is not a natural motion is right. It strains the arm, the elbow, the shoulder. What pitch strains an arm the most? That depends on your physique. Some guys throw sliders for years. Some kill their elbows with a slider. The splitter was easy for me, for it isn't a pitch for everyone, not even everybody with the hands and fingers to throw the thing.

The biggest question is how do you get batters out. That's different for different people, too, as you know. Take intimidation. How could a pitcher intimidate Dave Parker, who ran around six foot six and two hundred forty pounds You couldn't hit him in the head. He was too quick. You couldn't hurt him with inside pitches. He was too big. You can't physically intimidate him. No way. But big and strong as these hitters are, I never met one who wasn't embarrassed by being struck out in [the] clutch. I mean, like this: Ninth inning. Tying run on base. I strike the hitter out. His team gets beat. Some reporter says, hey, how come you swung at a pitch in the dirt? The man, whoever he may be, is going to be embarrassed. Now, next game I'm working on the hitter's psyche. Pretty soon, all of them start going, "Dammit. That guy's warming up again. He's gonna make me look terrible.' Then they go, 'Shit, we gotta get a lead before the eighth inning. If we don't that guy is going to come in and show us up and end the game.' I haven't met too many who enjoy looking ridiculous in public.

"I was that guy. I was an intimidator. Not because I was knocking everybody down. Because I'd get everybody out."

And now, he's a Hall of Famer. Congrats.

2006-01-11 06:17:28
1.   rbj
"who had worked as a printer's assistant the winter before to pay for surgery on his right elbow"
Truly a different era.
2006-01-11 06:52:49
2.   wsporter
Sheehan is absolutely right. Did anyone see Jayson Stark's piece at ESPN on 1/9. It was a pretty good summary of why both Sutter and Goose had to go in together. This is a bad result that makes the voters look foolish and casts The Hall in a very unfavorable light. I'm glad Sutter got in, he deserves to but so does Gossage. I wish the voters who had Sutter on their ballot but not the Goose could be debriefed about what their logic was and held up to public scrutiny. This is nonsense, I don't blame Gossage for being frustrated in the least.
2006-01-11 07:50:00
3.   Simone
I'm of the opinion that the voting system for the Hall has to be changed. I saw this one writer pompously explaining why he didn't vote on ESPNews. What the hell is that about? There are simply too many voters who have personal agendas and don't understand how to evaluate the performances and contributions of baseball players. Next year promises to be even more ugly with McGwire on the ballot.
2006-01-11 08:24:45
4.   Chris
Nuts. Goose was better than Fingers, too. If we were to rank the factors that might explain the voters' preference for Sutter over Gossage, would it look like this?

1. Sutter somehow looked more unhittable than Gossage.
I think this is the biggest thing. The splitter looked unhittable (and novel), and people remember that. Goose's fastball may be diminished in voters' minds because he stayed around so long. Of the three most famous Goose moments (popping up Yaz, beaning Cey, Brett's homer), two go against him.

2. Sutter's getting extra credit for popularizing the splitter.
Closely related to the point above.

3. First guy used in save-only situations ("pioneer points"), leading to higher single-season save totals, so looks in the record book more like what the voters understand to be a "closer."
Yes, but I don't think stats are what drove the Sutter vote. I think they were at most used for supporting perceptions.

4. Voters are tougher on Yankees.
I believe they are, probably because they think, erroneously, that the Yankees win more than their share of the awards. Maybe also some of them just think it's cool to snub the Yankees. But I don't think this would hurt Gossage unless his case was already regarded as marginal.

5. Gossage is mouthing off too much.
I doubt this is much of a factor, because the voters' preference was established before Goose's most aggressive statements.

2006-01-11 08:53:55
5.   ChuckM
Has anyone ever heard of a wriiter getting his voting priviledges revoked?
2006-01-11 09:01:35
6.   Sliced Bread
The offseason has reached "Fever Pitch" status at the NY Times, and by that I mean a shocking new low. In today's paper, Murray "The Yankee Chasstizer" Chass gives the Red Sox front-office the sloppiest wet kiss since the big-screen Sox-fest, "Fever Pitch."
The Chasstizer declares the Red Sox front-office is running like a Swiss watch. No centerfielder, no shortstop, no problems, he says.
Chass neglects to remind his readers that the Times is a part-owner of the Red Sox, Fenway Park, and the New England Sports Network (which airs Sox games). However, he does manage to find a little room to remind us that the Yanks could have had Carlos Beltran instead of Johnny Damon.

You'd figure a team that has at least two GMs, and at least two prominent newspapers shilling for it (see the Boston Globe) wouldn't have as many gaping holes to fill this close to Spring Training.

The dearth of Yankees news is frustrating enough this time of year, but to read how great the Red Sox front-office is doing, IN THE NEW YORK TIMES of all places, is beyond annoying.

2006-01-11 09:11:52
7.   celli23



2006-01-11 09:26:33
8.   Simone
Sliced Bread, I commented about the Chass article earlier. Did you see his puff piece on Lucchino a few weeks ago? I have come to the conclusion that the NY Times has officially lost its freaking mind. Conflicts of interests and questionable editorial decisions run rampant throughout the "Gray Lady" and its mentally ill little sister, the Boston Globe.
2006-01-11 09:42:23
9.   Sliced Bread
Yes, Simone, I caught Murray tickling Larry a few weeks ago -- and you're right, the Gray Lady (and it's wacky little sis!) is going off the deep-end shilling for the Red Sox. It's becoming sort of funny in an irritating way. What's next, Chasstizer, a slam-job on Jeter's lovelife? with the wretched headline: "Four Rings, But Still No Wedding Band: Why Can't The Yankee Captain Commit?"
2006-01-11 09:59:10
10.   Alex Belth
To be fair to Chass, he's just murdered Red Sox management over the past several years, including for most of 2004. I agree that the NY Times has an annoying Red Sox-slant, and also understand that Chass has long been a critic of the Yankees, but I don't think he's been on Boston's bandwagon for long.

I find his columns to be amazingly uneven. I often can't finish them--sometimes he just leaves me scratching my head. But I grew up reading him, when he was a beat reporter for the Yanks and then later a columnist. Like Bill Madden, he's been through the Bronx Zoo wars, seen it all. Yes, he's of an older generation now, but still, I respect the fact that he was one of the first baseball writers to really address the labor side of the sport--to this day he's a significant supporter of the Players Association.

2006-01-11 10:01:08
11.   wsporter
I wrote about Chass's thing earlier as well and the more I think about it I do think there is a piece to write about the Yankees. I would like to see one of the geniuses at one of the daily fish wraps do an interview with Brian Cashman and others in the Yankees' Front Office and discuss their apparent new philosophy and determine if it is: 1. new and 2. a coherent philosophy that has taken hold. I'd like to know what it holds for the future. Who and what is the Front Office now? What is the extent of it's authority? What does the Front Office now see as the role of the Farm System. What about Free Agents in the future? What about our players whose contracts are winding down? What about right field and the starting staff in 2007? If we are heading into a new philosophical territory from a management POV can they define and describe it? Can they tell us where we are we going with it? Where are we in trouble and where do we maintain future strength from the perspective of the Front Office? I'd like someone without the bias both claimed and displayed by Murray the C to write it. I'd like someone who is trusted by Cashman not to do a hatchet job to take a good look at this. I'd also like to own a team and a brewery. Probably won't get that either.
2006-01-11 10:15:30
12.   vockins
Chass knows what side his bread is buttered on, I guess.

My favorite part of the Chass article today was this:

"The signing of Snow, on the contrary, shows that the front office is functioning well. "One of the themes of this off-season has been to get better defensively," Lucchino said. "Theo articulated that idea in 2004, but we got away from it in 2005."

Snow, who is expected to platoon with Kevin Youkilis, has long been considered one of the best defensive first basemen in baseball."

You know, if the Sox were really on the ball, they probably could have gotten Mientkiewicz back since defense at first is so important, and after a cursory examination of Mink's numbers, he may have an offensive upside, too.


2006-01-11 10:23:31
13.   YankeeInMichigan
The Sporting News ran such a piece on Bob Watson the Spring of 1997. Watson was fairly candid on the ups and downs of working for The Boss. He resigned a few weeks later.

As for the Goose thing, Jay Jaffe inserted in his BP chat transcript a few metrics (provided by Keith Woolner) in which Sutter comes out on top:

Sutter Gossage
1 0 Cy Young awards
3 1 Top 3 in Cy Young voting
5 2 Top 10 in MVP voting
4 1 Rolaids Relief awards
5 3 Led league in saves

Jaffe comments: "That's the kind of stuff that impresses writers. None of whom ever had to step into the box against the Goose, clearly."

Another factor in Sutter's favor (I am not sure why) was that he was in his 13th year of eligibility.

2006-01-11 10:24:12
14.   standuptriple
I recently threw out the possible use of Snow in CF and as a leadoff hitter to a PinkSox fan/friend. Then I mentioned that really isn't their worst option right now. It gave me a few laughs. JT is a good player, just not what you want from your corner IF.
I too, am frustrated with the HOF voting. It seems extremely antiquated and a final pissing contest for supposedly-disrespected writers. Something needs to be done, but I'm afraid an updated process will be worse than the current one for some reason.
2006-01-11 10:46:52
15.   jdsarduy
Maybe Chass isn't a Red Sox fan but you couldn't tell from that article.
"The Red Sox are smart enough, though, to know they have to fill those holes."
Doesn't sound like an objective opinion to me.
He also goes through the rumors of who the Sox will get, for nothing, to fill those holes.
Just like a fan he's throwing out there some good names that will come to the Sox for nothing.
Is there anything wrong with a Red Sox fan in NY, no, but when you're a writer then your objectivity about the Yanks and Sox goes out the window. And you become unreadable.
Chass might have criticized the Red Sox in the past but his admiration piece on the Sox just doesn't make sense, if you know your baseball.
In the same article he was praising the Red Sox he got in a critique on the Yanks, I guess that says it all.
2006-01-11 10:52:05
16.   rbj
Yankee in Michigan,
Sutter only had two more years of eligibility left after this year (if you don't make it in after 15 years, it goes to the veterans' committee.) Next year, with Ripken & Gwynn going in I don't see any one else joining them. McGwire, I think, is going to be made to twist in the wind for a couple of years due to Andro & his Congressional non-testimony & homers aside his numbers aren't truly outstanding.
Thus for Sutter it was either this year or '08. That still is no excuse or reason for voting in Sutter and not Goose.

I think Alex and Cliff should have HoF voting privileges.

2006-01-11 11:30:24
17.   Sliced Bread
No question Chass deserves respect for his past work, which makes his descent into shilling for the Red Sox even more pathetic.

I think he's an old school Dodgers fan, which explains and even justifies his anti-Yankee bias.

I don't mind NY columnists being tough on the Yanks. I think it's their job to shock and enrage us, as much as it is to delight and enlighten us.

I can stomach a Chass cheapshot at Bernie, for example, since so many fellow Yankee fans have been taking shots at Williams since he came up.

What sickens me are Murray's mealymouthed press releases on behalf of his corporate cousins on Yawkey Way - and those love letters are becoming more graphic and frequent.

wsporter, you'll get your brewery and baseball club before you get an honest or insightful self-assessment from the Yankees front-office.

Even if a reporter was granted access to the Yankee braintrust it would probably be a short story.

Regardless of whatever plans Cashman and Michael have for the future, I think the overriding Steinbrenner philosophy remains "win now at any cost."

Had they resisted Damon I'd say it might be otherwise.

2006-01-11 11:48:25
18.   Nick from Washington Heights
Sliced Bread, shouldn't the Yanks' philosophy at this moment be some kind of variation of "win at any cost"? They have A-Rod, Jeter, Matsui, Sheff, and Giambi, all just past their primes. These guys are great and will be great for just a short time more.

Cashman added Damon which makes them the hands-down favorites to win the tough Al East. He also held onto all his prospects, and upgraded the pen with high k guys. Compare this to last year's off-season. I think yanks fan should be encouraged. There has been a change (if subtle) in front office approach.

2006-01-11 12:26:57
19.   Sliced Bread
Absolutely, Nick. I agree with everything you said, especially the part about the "subtle" changes in the Yanks approach.

The Yanks future is now, unless Mariano Rivera, Jeter, A-Rod etc. can somehow reverse the aging process.

I don't think the Yanks kept the kids (Cano, Wang) because they have a new philosophy -- but more because other teams wouldn't give enough in return for them.

As a fan, I'm mostly happy with the moves the front-office made, and didn't make this winter. The lineup looks great, the bullpen's improved, now, the starters have to do their job and stay healthy.

2006-01-11 13:21:08
20.   RZG
It doesn't appear to me that Chass is shilling for the Red Sox. Maybe some of you are just being too sensitive?
2006-01-11 13:23:56
21.   wsporter
I agree we're in a "win now" mode and have been since Mr. Steinbrenner bought the team. What I'm hopping has changed this year is the "at any price" part. We could have moved Hughes, Duncan, Wang, Cano, Smith, et. al. and gotten some pieces back yet didn't. I hope that portends a new philosophy about how we should build a club to be successful both now and in the future. Maybe we didn't move them because we couldn't get anything back. I hope it was because we could the right things back.
2006-01-11 13:42:52
22.   Dimelo
I couldn't help but post this email conversation I was having with another coworker of mine. Putting it here for all to enjoy, hope you guys get a good laugh.
His last response (Ted Williams) really made me laugh. Reading it over again, it made me think of the soxaholix site - just better, if you're a Yankee fan. Start from the bottom and work up.


Sent: Wednesday, January 11, 2006 4:17 PM

Subject: RE:

Yeah that seems true. Same deal. You never hear a bad word about them, and they live like kings. Man, can you imagine boning Marilyn Monroe? F-ing Joe D had it made. Out in Manhattan every night, treated like a god, banging Monroe. Meanwhile Ted Williams is alone up in some shack in Maine wearing red flannel, tying flies for 16 hours a day, and swearing to himself. Then he ends up in a steel tank with his frozen head lopped off. That sums up the difference between the Yankees and Red Sox perfectly.


Sent: Wednesday, January 11, 2006 4:12 PM

Subject: RE:

The way I hear old timers talk about Joe DiMaggio, I think that Jeter has to be our version of joltin Joe.


Sent: Wednesday, January 11, 2006 4:11 PM

Subject: RE:

He has the best life. The guy is single, king of NYC, has won titles. No wonder he basically orders bunches of hot chicks to his place and tells them to bend over and wait in line to be f-ed. He's figured out that he doesn't even need to chit chat or buy them dinner. That's great.


Sent: Wednesday, January 11, 2006 4:08 PM

Subject: RE:

I'm listening to this interview from the Best Damn Sports Show and Derek Jeter. This guy is awesome….can anyone have a more perfect life? He said that he was going to church with Tiger Woods in Vegas when Rob Dibble asked him if he went to Vegas because they were having the porn convention.


Sent: Wednesday, January 11, 2006 4:06 PM

Subject: RE:

Wow, all this green tea makes me piss like a racehorse.

2006-01-11 14:42:14
23.   standuptriple
Nice. A good friend of mine is a bartender in SF. Last year when the Yanks made their trip out to the Bay he saw DJ, Bernie and Jorge chillin' with the hottest hookers in town (100% female too, which sadly is more difficult than it seems to find). Needless to say I was at the game the next day. Bernie and Jorge went 0-fer. DJ went 3-4 and a couple RBI. Yeah, he must be used to that.
2006-01-11 14:50:25
24.   YankeeInMichigan
Back to the Gossage-Sutter thing. Steve Goldman has the last word:
2006-01-11 15:02:48
25.   Simone
I loved Goldman's insults to baseball writers because they are so on target. Just about an hour ago, I watched Bob Ryan arrogantly and full of self-righteousness try to justify his reasoning for voting for Sutter over Goose and it just confirmed how totally uninformed he and some of his fellow voters really are about baseball. They really have no clue. I always remember reading a few articles over the years, where sports writers point out that most sports writers don't love sports and for the most part they resent waiting for a player to say two lines after a game. There has to be a better voting system out there. How about a statistical baseball knowledge test to all voters and baseball enthusiasts? Weed out the stupid. Enough Already.
2006-01-11 15:19:57
26.   standuptriple
Good article my Aaron Gleeman...

2006-01-11 15:26:36
27.   wsporter
The good news is that 64% of the Voters had it right. That leaves an uninformed or irrational minority of 36%. In contrast, given the way our National Elections have been going are the HOF Voters doing all that badly?
2006-01-11 16:56:12
28.   rbj
that was on Around the Horn, right? Basically he voted for Sutter and not Goose because Bruce "pioneered the split finger fastball" and that broke the tie. First, "pioneering" a new pitch (though I bet it has been around since Cy Young) doesn't beat better stats, and second you don't have to vote for only one guy. Bob Ryan needs his vote revoked.
2006-01-11 17:48:19
29.   JohnnyC
Bob Ryan? God, he's more of a homer than Peter Gammons. Bleeds pink for the Sox to go along with his idiotic mutterings about other sports that Boston teams play. My favorite memory of Ryan is the year he picked the Sonics to go all the way on The Sports Reporters the week before the playoffs started and they got swept out of the first round. He didn't reappear on the show until September. And it wasn't because Schaap didn't invite him.
2006-01-11 18:22:06
30.   wsporter
I would have bet anything Bob Ryan had a better handle on things than that. I didn't see him say what he said in explaining his split vote but if that's his thinking to hell with him, he should have his vote yanked. It makes him sound like a thorough hack.
2006-01-11 19:27:01
31.   brockdc
Can't decide which makes me more uneasy: Alito possessing the Supreme swing vote or buffoons like Bob Ryan possessing a HOF vote. I wonder if he's the one who voted for Weiss (Ryan, not Alito).
2006-01-11 21:35:19
32.   susan mullen
I heard Bob Ryan say a day or 2 ago that this
system is "criminal" & needs to be scrapped
"immediately." There's no oversite---the complicit parties are going to remove all this power & intrigue from themselves?
What time I have will be devoted to exposing this fraudulent empire. Many organizations don't
allow their employees to vote for baseball awards. Including the Balt. Sun, where the
current pres. of the BBWAA works (Schmuck has
no vote). These frauds are guarding the hen
house--of course they're going to try & save
themselves. Boycott the newspapers.
2006-01-11 22:17:32
33.   wsporter
As long as we're discussing the 4th Estate I sure would feel better about the upcoming season if Shaughnessy would go ahead and bury us now.
2006-01-11 23:13:24
34.   susan mullen
Just 1 request of Goose--I don't blame him for
being angry. But, if he's going to continue to
say that current relievers are worthless compared to him, could he possibly not use
MARIANO RIVERA as his example of today's relievers who are so crappy? I've seen & heard
this clip of Gossage' for a couple of years now, even saw it today. He repeatedly says
Mariano Rivera is nothing compared to him. Could he maybe think of someone else to compare himself to? Nobody was mentioning the great Mariano, but if he wants me to I will.
2006-01-12 05:58:36
35.   Alex Belth
I saw Bob Ryan's interview and was left shaking my head too. But I thought that Steven's piece was unnecesarily contemptuous. I felt that his opening position running down beat-writers was not only harsh, but mean-spirited, even if there is truth to it. Steven has accurately written about the mainstream media being anti-intellectual in the past, but this column seemed like the same thing, only in reserve. He made good arguments about the topic, but the angry way his piece began reminded me of when two people are having a dispute and one calls the other an "asshole." After that, nothing constructive can happen, all anyone can think about is being called an "asshole."

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