Carleton: The case of the missing firemen

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on August 9, 2017:

What if Goose Gossage showed up at a team’s spring training camp. Not the 66-year-old, still fabulously mustachioed version of Goose Gossage. Imagine if Gossage stepped out of a time machine from, oh, let’s just say 1978, and reported with the rest of the pitchers and catchers on a February day. The Gossage who was quite happy to work multiple innings to pick up a save. And he was pretty good at it. He is, after all, in the Hall of Fame.

Let’s for a moment mute the arguments about whether he should be in The Hall and whether WAR properly captures his value. Let’s also mute Gossage’s own well-publicized views on whether he should be in The Hall and whether WAR properly captures his value. He was really good at being a relief pitcher, but he filled a role that doesn’t really exist anymore. Gossage was a prototypical “fireman.” And he was one of the best.

Whatever else one thinks of the “fireman” role, there’s no question that the ability to pitch multiple innings of non-embarrassing relief is a very valuable skill to have in a bullpen. Why is it then that if Gossage were plunked into the middle of a current team’s camp, he wouldn’t be allowed to do the thing that he was undeniably good at? There aren’t any more firemen in MLB. I have a hard time believing that it’s because there aren’t pitchers who could do it. I think that MLB has simply foreclosed on the role itself.

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Originally published: August 9, 2017. Last Updated: August 9, 2017.