Sports

Gossage Lashes Out at Yankees After Losing Spring Training Gig

TAMPA, Fla. — Rich Gossage, the Yankees’ irascible Hall of Fame relief pitcher, stood on a practice field last spring training, answering questions about the hair policy that George Steinbrenner put in place more than 40 years ago. Gossage, who played for eight teams in a 22-year career, said there was only one person who could have filled the imperialist owner’s boots: Donald Trump.

“I think they were out of the same book, of stirring it up and keeping people on their toes, and that’s the way it was around here,” Gossage said, peppering his language, as he often does, with expletives. “You hated to see him coming. Man, I saw grown men go to the bathroom and they didn’t even have to go to the bathroom because he was going to read somebody the friggin’ riot act.”

Those days don’t exist any more, of course.

The Yankees have long been a more staid and stable operation under Steinbrenner’s son Hal, and there is less tolerance for drama and eccentricities — or, apparently, continued cranky rants from Gossage.

That point was underscored Monday, on the eve of pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training, when Gossage, 66, told various news media outlets that he had not been invited by the Yankees for his usual role as camp instructor, then launched into a broadside against General Manager Brian Cashman.

“He would’ve been gone 10 years ago if George was still around,” Gossage told The Daily News in an expletive-filled rant.

Cashman, who like Gossage did not return phone messages seeking a comment, may have had enough of Gossage’s outbursts in recent years during spring training.

It will be Aaron Boone’s first spring training as the Yankees’ manager. Gossage had a lengthy relationship with the former Manager Joe Girardi, dating back to 1988, when they were both in the Chicago Cubs organization. Girardi, then a Class A catcher, got a ride home from a spring training workout with Gossage.

The Yankees have a long history of inviting former players and coaches to spring training as camp instructors, allowing the current players to establish a deeper bond with the old-timers. Reggie Jackson, Ron Guidry, Willie Randolph, Stump Merrill, Lee Mazzilli, Andy Pettitte and Gossage have been among the regulars in recent years. Last year, Alex Rodriguez made an appearance.

And before them, Yogi Berra, who died in 2015, was one of the most popular presences in camp. He would store a bottle of vodka in the manager’s desk and regale players and coaches a like with his quirky bits of wisdom.

The special instructors share a dressing room with the coaches in the Yankees’ clubhouse at Steinbrenner Field, just around the corner from the manager’s office, and are in uniform on the practice fields, offering observations and on occasion helping to run drills.

Few seem to relish it more than Gossage, who despite his age carried himself with the swagger of the late 70s do-anything, say-anything Yankees.

He still sported his familiar Fu Manchu mustache, which then and in recent years had somehow evaded the Yankees’ ban on facial hair below the lip. And unlike most current players, Gossage always had an opinion on whatever topic was put before him — whether it was impolitic or not.

Two years ago, during spring training, he criticized sluggers Jose Bautista, then with the Toronto Blue Jays, and Yoenis Cespedes of the Mets for what he considered showboating with their bat-flip celebrations during the previous years’ playoffs. He singled out Bautista as a “disgrace to the game.”

In that same interview, with ESPN.com, Gossage ripped fans who cheered Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun after his return from a performance-enhancing drug suspension and derided data analysts as “nerds” who were ruining the game. That last comment earned a talking-to from Cashman and Girardi, who have one of baseball’s largest analytics staffs. (The Yankees analysts themselves largely rolled their eyes over Gossage’s comments.)

Last year, Gossage said one-inning relievers like Mariano Rivera, who is likely to join him in the Hall of Fame, and the current Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman should not be compared to relievers of previous generations who regularly worked multiple innings.

Gossage told NJ.com it was “an insult” to compare Rivera and Chapman to him.

For Gossage, conversations with reporters seemed to be an opportunity to get something off his chest. As he was watching pitcher’s fielding practice one day last year, Gossage observed that it was not just Yankees players who had become more circumspect in their public comments, watching what they had to say.

“It’s across the board,” Gossage said. “Nobody calls a spade a spade any more.”

He added: “Back in the day, we were individuals. We could say things — and it kept everybody on their toes.”


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