Gossage on PED users in the Hall: “I really don’t know what we’d do”
So earlier I asked if someone had Rich Gossage’s cell. Seems someone did, and I just got off the phone with the Goose. Nicest guy in the world, by the way. If you’re going to talk to a Hall of Fame reliever today, I highly recommend that you make it Gossage.
Anyway, the reason I called him was because I wanted to know, in light of his feelings on Mark McGwire and other steroid users, what he’d think if Jose Canseco was proven right and we found out that a current member of the Baseball Hall of Fame used performance enhancing drugs. And Gossage was honest: he has no idea.
“I don’t really know what I’d do,” Gossage said. “We’d have to find out all the facts,” he said. “It’s a big dark cloud. I don’t know what the scenario would look like.”
Gossage went on to say that it would probably depend on what the writers did going forward with steroid users like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens -- guys who are sure shot Hall of Famers if they hadn’t used. “If they let in some of those guys, I guess things are different. What I said about integrity yesterday still stands, but as for the Hall, we’d have to see how the writers handled it. I can only speak for what I believe.”
Gossage wouldn’t speculate about whether it would be appropriate to remove someone from the Hall of Fame. And though I didn’t ask him, he volunteered that he has no idea what member, if any, could have possibly used steroids, and doesn’t know one way or the other if anyone had (he wouldn’t comment on the issue of Canseco’s credibility).
To date, no member of the Hall has ever been de-inducted, as it were, and I could find nothing that suggests that the Hall even has a procedure for doing so. Of course, if they wanted to, the Hall could simply call a meeting of its board and make a rule in about five minutes. But let’s face it: if the Football Hall of Fame hasn’t taken out O.J., what are the odds that the Baseball Hall of Fame would remove a juicer?
But back to Gossage, who was gracious enough to chat with me a bit longer than I thought he might: He thinks that there’s a difference between drugs of abuse and performance enhancing drugs. He says “Dave Parker was one of the top five baseball players I ever played with.” He does not think that his -- or Tim Raines or any other player’s -- cocaine use should be held against them in Hall of Fame voting. “Parker belongs,” he said. “What he did, with the cocaine, that decreased his performance, it didn’t enhance it. If he hadn’t done that stuff we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” Gossage clearly thinks Parker would have been a first ballot Hall of Famer absent his mid-career cocaine-induced swoon.
“It all boils down to one word: integrity,” Gossage said. “When it comes to steroids, you have to talk about the records, and records are something huge. The home run record is the greatest record there is.”
I had to ask, of course: is Aaron still the home run king? “In my mind he is. Not only was he the best. But look at where he came from. All he did. That’s a Hall of Famer.”
I came away from our conversation with the impression that Goose Gossage is a reasonable and level-headed guy when it comes to this stuff. He believes what he believes, but he knows others disagree. He’s not out to moralize on the subject or tell others what to think.
It’s easy to get the opposite impression of the man, however, from reading some of the reporting about him that we’ve seen in past couple of years. Some of that stuff has made him look like a fire-breather on the subject of Hall of Fame standards in general and steroids in particular. It’s enough to make one wonder if the writers who have elicited all of those juicy quotes from him are trying to make him seem more of a crusader than he really is.
To me he just seems sensible. But then again, he’s from Colorado, and I’ve never known anyone from Colorado who was anything but sensible.