Goose was valuable innings-eater 

January, 8, 2008
Hall of Fame balloting does not exist in a vacuum.

Now that Rich Gossage is in, more people will wonder about Lee Smith.

Lee Smith did save 168 more games than Gossage. But a lot of guys saved more games than Gossage, who's just 17th on the all-time list. What sets Goose apart is not his 310 saves (roughly the same as Tom Henke and Jeff Montgomery), but rather his 1,809 innings, an immense number of innings for a relief pitcher. Innings, outs, have value. By way of comparison, Bruce Sutter -- who somehow was elected to the Hall before Gossage -- pitched barely 1,000 innings. And those were good innings that Gossage pitched, valuable innings. Even as he was padding his career stats in his late 30s and early 40s, Gossage still was effective.

Gossage was a truly great reliever for roughly 10 years, and a good one for another decade or so. If Sutter and Dennis Eckersley are in the Hall, Gossage belongs there, too. But he should be the last of his contemporaries. There's not room for Lee Smith or Jeff Reardon. Not John Franco, either. Reliever-wise, we just have to wait a few years for the best of the next generation.