Never at a loss for words, Rich "Goose" Gossage said on Thursday that his former boss, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, deserves his own spot in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. And once again injecting himself into the Joba Chamberlain situation, Gossage said the young right-hander is "more valuable" to the Yankees in the bullpen than as a starter. Gossage, the former closer who will be inducted on July 27 wearing a Yankees cap, answered succinctly when asked whether Steinbrenner should be voted in.
"Oh, absolutely," he said during a conference call. "There wasn't an owner who was any better than George Steinbrenner." Using an old line coined about himself by former Yankees teammate Reggie Jackson, Gossage added: "He was kind of the straw that stirred the drink all over. He was very tough in a lot of ways. He was very tough on commissioners and league presidents and umpires. There was never a dull moment playing for George." About Chamberlain, once the setup man for Mariano Rivera and now a starter, Gossage said: "I think he's more valuable, personally, in the bullpen. To utilize him three or four days out of the week is more valuable than starting him. And the way starters are used today -- now it's five innings. Six innings is a quality start. They can get most anybody to be a starter with the emphasis on those setup guys, who have really been instrumental. You don't win a World [Series] championship without a great, great bullpen. So that's where his value is." Earlier this year, when Gossage toured the Hall of Fame, he was asked whether Chamberlain should be less emotional on the mound. Of course, Gossage didn't mince any words. "There's no place for it in the game," Gossage said back in May about a particular celebration Joba had on the mound. "I will stand by that and I love Joba Chamberlain. I'm with him down in Spring Training. He's a great kid, but no one is passing the torch today. Nobody talks to them. When I broke into the big leagues I didn't say two words all year." That story kicked up such a fuss that Gossage was compelled to call Chamberlain and explain himself. Chamberlain accepted the explanation, but said he wouldn't tone down. Steinbrenner, the 78-year-old owner of the Yankees, purchased the team in 1972 and injected what had become a moribund franchise under CBS with what he determined was a necessary stream of cash. In the first blush of free agency, Steinbrenner signed Catfish Hunter, Jackson and Gossage -- among others -- thus forming the building blocks of the 1978 World Series-winning team. Sans Gossage, the Yanks also won in 1977. There was a downside: Steinbrenner was suspended from baseball twice during his ownership, but under him the Yankees have won six World Series titles and 10 American League pennants. "[George] doesn't have to take a back seat to anyone, he was the leader," Gossage said. "Certainly he had a huge hand in changing the game and how salaries evolved. He wasn't afraid to go out and spend his last dollar on trying to put the best team out there. I'm not sure that if anyone else bought the Yankees, anyone else would've recognized the value that George recognized in owning the Yankees. "He's done a wonderful, wonderful job of keeping the Yankees in that winning tradition. George was tremendously responsible for keeping the Yankees the Yankees." To be elected to the Hall, Steinbrenner would have to garner a 75-percent vote of the 12-person Veteran's Committee that is charged with electing pioneers and executives. And that couldn't transpire until after he sells the team or is retired from the game. This year, that committee voted in Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and owners Walter O'Malley (Dodgers) and Barney Dreyfuss (Pirates). They will be inducted along with Gossage and Dick Williams, who was elected by another Veteran's Committee, which evaluates managers and umpires. Both of those committees won't vote again until 2009 for the Class of 2010.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.