GibsonThe New York Yankees learned yesterday to maybe be careful about which hall-of-fame ex-player they invite to Spring Training to be a guest instructor. Hall-of-fame relief pitcher Rich (Goose) Gossage was grabbed on the field by an ESPN reporter this week and asked about the “state of the game”. Uh-oh.

Here are some excerpts and my responses as a lifelong old school baseball fan who thinks Gossage is a tad bitter, kind of like me.

Gossage on “nerds who never played” running the games these days:

I’ll tell you what has happened, these guys played [fantasy] baseball at Harvard or wherever the [bleep] they went and they thought they figured the [bleeping] game out. They don’t know [bleep].

A bunch of [bleeping] nerds running the game. You can’t slide into second base. You can’t take out the [bleeping] catcher because [Buster] 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 [bleepers] on their [bleeps] and see how they would do against pitchers in the old days.

Gosh, Goose, if nerds hadn’t taken over the game in the last few decades, we would have never had the movie Moneyball with the coolest actor of our modern era (Brad Pitt) completely miscast as Billy Beane, the patriarch of today’s nerdy MLB general managers. At least Jonah Hill carried the day and made it passably watchable. I’m with you on this one, Goose. You owned the inside of the plate and let people know it, which is why Barry Bonds started going to the plate in full body armor. He was the smart one. I say let the pitchers come in as far as they want to and let the players dress accordingly. There are only so many layers of bubblewrap that a batter can wear before it begins to affect his swing.

Goose on pitchers being put on pitch counts:

They have been created from the top, from their computers. 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 [bleeping] question, they would have said: “Son, get your [bleep] out there on that mound. If you get tired, we’ll come and get you.”

Amen, Goose. You also just made reference to the reason why baseball as a spectator sport is in steep decline with the younger generation. The reason that pitchers are asking about their pitch counts is that batters are standing in the box and not swinging. Pitchers get in trouble now (warnings, fines, brawls) for pitching too far inside, and that mentally takes away an entire side of the plate for them to work with. So now they’re getting too cute and are afraid to throw strikes. Games that were averaging under 2 hours 30 minutes in the 80’s and 90’s are now pushing three hours plus. I’ve been offered free tickets to MLB games countless times in recent years, and I usually turn them down. The game (that I love) just takes too long now, and the summer sun in Atlanta is too hot. It’s easier to stay at home and flip over to the game once in a while. I’m bitter, Goose.

Goose on the batters today (like the Toronto Blue Jay’s Jose Bautista) who flip the bat and stare at the home run they’ve just hit:

Bautista is a [bleeping] disgrace to the game. 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. [Yoenis] Cespedes, same thing.

This is where you start to lose me, Goose. It was ok for you to glare at a batter who is crowding the plate, then knock him (appropriately) on his butt and give him an “I dare you not to back off” stare as he picks himself. If that guy can dig right back in and hit the next pitch into the seats, let him flip the bat and showboat all he wants. More of that would actually get me back to a few ballgames.

Last year’s NL MVP (and bat flipper extraordinaire) Bryce Harper expressed these thoughts this week to ESPN the Magazine on the same subject:

Baseball’s tired. 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.

The new guys bare a burden that you never had, Goose–figuring out how to breathe new life into the American pastime. That’s a heavy yoke. The big personality hotshots today like Harper, Bautista and Cespedes are the main reason that a good percentage of fans still attend games. Those guys need to be encouraged, Goose, especially by the big personality guys who have passed the mantle to them. That’s you, Goose!

I get the bitterness though, and I hope that a bit of that will still fuel you. So while you’re talking to those Yankee pitchers this month, tell them they own the inside of the plate. Tell them not to back down and to stop worrying about pitch counts. Remind them that at the end of the day, they are entertainers, and that so are the guys they’re pitching to. Sparks and tension and visibly intense one-on-one battles are what we pay to see. It takes two to do that dance. Encourage the dance. Don’t speak from a place of bitter isolation. Help us breathe some life into our dying National Pastime.

And, Goose, should any of those hitters charge the mound and go after your pitchers who you are teaching to own the inside?, tell them to go Nolan Ryan on them: