When I mention the name of Eric Gagne, I can almost hear the collective groan of everyone in the world of fantasy baseball that has taken a chance on drafting him over the last few years. It is true that Gagne has proven time and time again that his days as a top rated closer are over, but we tend to focus the negative and conveniently forget all of the positives of the former Dodgers career.
Eric Gagne - RP
Team: Free Agent - No. XX
Born: January 7, 1976 (age 33), Montreal, Quebec
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Major League debut: Sept. 7, 1999. Los Angeles, Dodgers
Los Angeles Dodgers (1999-2006)
Texas Rangers (2007)
Boston Red Sox – World Series Champion (2007)
Milwaukee Brewers (2008)
3x All-Star (’02, ’03, ’04)
2003 NL Cy Young Award
2x Rolaids Relief Man of the Year (’03, ’04)
In 2002 I picked Gagne up off the waiver wire as an unproven commodity to say the least. He had just been given (in a very tentative manner) the vacant closer role for Los Angeles, and as most interchangeable young pitchers who are thrust into that spot so often in the majors was ready to sink or swim. The Canadian born pitcher was doing the backstroke past any competition he may have had into the first couple of weeks into the season.
Eric had a Dennis Eckersly type of season. He struck out one-hundred and fourteen batters, had an ERA under two, and most importantly led the league with fifty-two saves. The Dodgers franchise had a new face and a marketable superstar in a town where your status off the field is almost important as your ability on it.
The six foot plus two-hundred and thirty-five pound Gagne would trot out to the mound with “Welcome to the Jungle” blaring throughout Dodger Stadium. His scruffy goatee, trademark goggles, and loose fitting uniform almost instantly made him a fan favorite. Having a high nineties fastball, tight curve, and a devastating changeup did not hurt either.
Over the next two seasons the love affair of LA and Eric Gagne would continue in bliss. Gagne would become a three time all-star, collect a Cy Young Award, and put together a consecutive saves record that I will probably never see fall in my lifetime. It seemed like Gagne was destined to become the greatest closer the game had ever seen. It was not to be.
In 2005 the Dodger star sustained what would be a long line of injures that has completely derailed his career. Despite getting some hefty one year contracts over the last couple of years, he has not shown any sign of the pitcher we saw in those three dominate seasons. His velocity on his fastball has plummeted. No to mention, he has graduated to super heavyweight status, and a uniform that more resembles pajamas that anything else.
Despite the way his career has turned out, I will always remember Gagne the way the way I did in 2002. He was an unstoppable superhero who electrified the massive crowds every time Guns N’ Roses surged through the Dodger Stadium. That, to me, will always be Eric Gagne.