• Sparky & The Goose

    Posted by on September 4th, 2008 · Comments (11)

    Over the last couple of days, I’ve been thinking a lot about Sparky Lyle and Goose Gossage (and their time together as Yankees).

    It’s probably because I just was in Cooperstown and they have a ton of stuff up there, now, on Gossage – this being the year that he got into the Hall of Fame, etc.

    In 1977, Sparky Lyle, who was then 32-years old, had the best season of his career. In fact, you could say, that season, Lyle had one of the best seasons ever by a left-handed relief pitcher – right up there with John Hiller in 1973 and Willie Hernandez in 1984.

    Further, in the 1977 post-season, Sparky Lyle saved the Yankees’ rear-end in Game 4 of the ALCS – and he had a big hand in New York winning Game 5 too.

    And, on October 26, 1977, Lyle was rewarded for his excellent season when he won the A.L. Cy Young Award – becoming the first relief pitcher in A.L. history to win it.

    However, less than a month later, on November 22, 1977, the Yankees went out and signed Rich “Goose” Gossage as a free agent.

    At first, this signing was explained as the Yankees wanting Lyle and Gossage to be “co-closers.” However, just as a quarterback controversy is a bad thing in the NFL, the “co-closer” thing doesn’t work in baseball – and it soon became obvious that Gossage was the man in New York. And, Lyle, despite all his efforts and greatness the season prior, was soon to be out of Yankeeland.

    Now, was this a heartless and shifty thing for the Yankees to do (to Lyle)?

    Well, think of it this way…

    Suppose you had a relationship with a particular pizza parlor…because the pizza was quality stuff. However, it was not a perfect relationship, from your angle, because the pizza parlor was not geographically convenient in terms of being close to you. Further, while the pizza there was high quality, this parlor was a one-man shop – which meant that you couldn’t get this pizza unless he was there (when you wanted it).

    Now, let’s also suppose that another pizzeria – which was right around the corner from you – suddenly became available in the sense that they started selling pizza to the general public instead of dealing exclusively with local school cafeterias. And, while their pizza was not as “top notch” as your pizza guy, their pies were pretty good too. Further, this pizzeria was manned by several guys – which meant that there was never an issue with them not being around because someone was on vacation, etc. Lastly, on top of all this, this “other” pizzeria could deliver sixteen slices of pizza for the same price as one pie from that the pizza parlor (with whom you had a relationship).

    This all said, if you started using this other pizzeria – despite having a relationship with a particular pizza parlor – could anyone question the move? The “new” place – which became available – simply meets more of your needs, etc. And, it would not make sense for you to pass on the pizzeria that was now out there.

    The whole Lyle-Gossage situation was no different than this “particular pizza parlor” and “another pizzeria” scenario. And, just as a switch in pizza joints in our little comparison was more a reflection of the new place becoming an option than it was one on the old place, the move to acquire Gossage was not because of something related to Lyle. More so, it was just a matter of being able to pick up Goose when the opportunity presented itself.

    But, I’m not sure that many Yankees fans – especially those under the age of thirty-five – realize that Gossage coming to the Yankees was not a bad reflection on Lyle. And, that’s a shame – because Sparky had a lot to offer a team…and he was one darn great relief pitcher in his own right.

    Comments on Sparky & The Goose

    1. OnceIWasAYankeeFan
      September 4th, 2008 | 8:16 pm

      As I said back in April, it was Sparky Lyle that made me a Yankee fan in 1972 when I was seven years old. I’d watch him close games on my parent’s black and white set in their bedroom, and the next day I’d cram two or three Kraft Caramel squares in my mouth and strike out the side against the garage door. I’m pretty sure I only broke the window once or twice. ;)

    2. September 4th, 2008 | 10:46 pm

      Then you’ll like this snip from…
      http://tinyurl.com/6cvz4n

      ~~~It invariably happens late in the ball game. The starting pitcher is tired, the home team’s lead is threatened, and help is needed. The gate in Yankee Stadium’s right-centerfield fence swings open and a Datsun painted in pinstripes taxis a relief pitcher toward the diamond. Eyes strain to see who is inside the car, voices murmur, hopes rise. The car stops, the stadium organist sweeps into the regal strains of Pomp and Circumstance, and the crowd exults. Out steps Albert Walter (“Sparky”) Lyle. He sheds his warmup jacket with measured nonchalance and strides toward the pitcher’s mound, one cheek distended by chewing tobacco. A few practice throws, a couple of spits, and Sparky is once again ready to try to quell a crisis.~~~

    3. September 4th, 2008 | 11:43 pm

      I don’t think you’re pizza place analogy works.

      The point of that story seemed to be you have a higher quality pizza at the first place, but there are reasons to switch.

      Let’s look at the tale of 2 pitchers–

      In 1977, pitcher A had 35 RSAA.
      In 1977, pitcher B had 27 RSAA.

      Over the most recent 3 year span, 1975-77, pitcher A had 59 RSAA. Pitcher B had 46 RSAA.

      So, following the 1977 season, pitcher A was coming off a better year and had been a better pitcher over the 3 most recent seasons.

      Who was that better pitcher?

      It was Gossage.

      I suppose you could say that Gossage wasn’t “as top notch” as Lyle in both 1977 and from 1975-77. You could say that, as long as you said he was “topper notcher” than him.

      Oh, and Gossage was also 7 years younger.

      It wasn’t merely just the right move in retrospect (as Gossage went on to have a 133 to 0 RSAA edge in future years), it was the clear correct choice at the time.

    4. September 5th, 2008 | 7:49 am

      ~~The point of that story seemed to be you have a higher quality pizza at the first place, but there are reasons to switch.~~

      Actually, the point of the story was meant to be that you had a relationship with one pizza place (Lyle) and it was the first and existing relationship – which worked fine, since the pizza was good and you liked it a lot. But, despite all that, you then started to also use another pizza place (Gossage) because it also had good pizza, it was available, and it also met some of your other needs better (because it was close by, manned by many, bigger bang for the buck, etc.).

      And, to me, that’s the Lyle-Gossage thing. The Yankees added Gossage because he was available, and good, and met some needs – but they didn’t add him because there was something wrong with Lyle…

    5. OnceIWasAYankeeFan
      September 5th, 2008 | 9:37 am

      I remember that pinstripe Datsun, Steve! :)

    6. September 5th, 2008 | 10:17 am

      I always wanted that car as a kid. Heck, I still want it.

    7. Tresh Fan
      September 5th, 2008 | 11:08 am

      That pinstriped Datsun sure took a beating, though. There were days when it seemed nearly every other fan from the centerfield bleachers to the third base boxes took a shot at it.

    8. Raf
      September 5th, 2008 | 11:53 am

      When did they do away with those? I seem to remember a “Yankee Supra” sometime in the mid-late 80′s

    9. September 5th, 2008 | 12:17 pm

      Once it became common place to pelt the car with junk, from the stands, they did away with it and had guys running in from the pen, instead.

      More on the cars:

      http://waswatching.com/2007/10/18/driving-mr-relief-pitcher/

    10. July 22nd, 2009 | 11:04 pm

      [...] you may know, I have a soft spot in my heart for Lyle. So, of course, I have to offer him a “Happy Birthday!” here – as well as my best [...]

    11. September 20th, 2009 | 5:50 pm

      [...] mentioned in the past that I’m a fan of Sparky Lyle’s work as a Yankee. So, yes, it was a thrill to meet him today. He’s truly a nice guy. It’s not everyday [...]

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