Saturday, April 14, 2007

GAME OVER: Gagne's Back!

For three years, there was simply no better closer in baseball than Eric Gagne. With a high 90's fastball and his so-called "Bugs Bunny change-up" amongst his arsenal of pitches, Eric racked up some quite amazing numbers closing games for the Dodgers between 2002 and 2004. To be exact he saved a record 152 games over that time with a 1.79 ERA, a 0.82 WHIP, a 13.3 K/9 IP ratio, and a .168 batting average allowed. Gagne also established a major league record 84 consecutive saves between the 2002 and 2004 seasons. It was truly a priviledge to watch almost every single one of those games during that stretch. In the home games, as many of you know, the Dodgers would put up the phrase "GAME OVER" on the stadium scoreboard while blaring the Guns N' Roses tune "Welcome To The Jungle" over the loudspeakers when it came time in the 9th for "Gags" to turn out the lights. It was truly an event every time Gagne came in to close a game for the Dodgers! Arm and back problems limited him to just 15 1/3 innings and nine saves over the past two years. Little did I know that the Dodgers-Mets game on June 6th of last year, which I specifically went to just to see future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez pitch in, would yield Gagne's final save as a Dodger. Japanese import Takeshi Saito filled in admirably for Gagne while he was out last year, saving 24 games in 26 opportunities for the Dodgers. As a result of Saito's success and due to Eric's injury plagued 2005 and 2006 campaigns, Gagne became expendable and was not re-signed by the Dodgers. The Texas Rangers decided to take a chance on him and signed him in the off season. Last night marked Gagne's debut as a Ranger and he pitched a scoreless inning to get his first save for Texas.. Even though the Canadian native is no longer pitching for my team, I'm still going to root for him to succeed nearly every time he goes out there. For those of us that are true Dodger fans, those memories he left us with are truly priceless. I hope that "Game Over" will be flashed on the Ameriquest Field scoreboard many many times this year!


In other sports news, Derek Lowe pitched a strong eight innings as the Dodgers beat the Padres 9-1. Despite striking out 10 batters, Johan Santana lost a game at home for the first time since August 1, 2005 as the Twins went down to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 4-2. John Patterson pitched a strong 5 1/3 innings for the Nationals yesterday, leaving with a 2-1 lead against the Mets before the pen blew the game. The ageless wonder, 48 year-old Julio Franco, had the game winning RBI single in the 7th for the Mets in their 3-2 win.

The NBA season is winding down... and my team is just falling apart. Does that sound familiar to any of you??? Normally, I'd write a lot about the Lakers here, but there just hasn't been that much good to say of late... On January 17th, the Lakers defeated the San Antonio Spurs 100-96 to get to a 26-13 record. At that time, it really looked like the "Lake Show" had returned and that the Lakers would make a serious title run... Unfortunately, a few injuries and some uninspired play has led to losing streaks of six, seven, and now the present four game losing streak. Over the past 41 games, the Lakers are 14-27 and have fallen to .500 for the first time this year. They are now are in danger of entirely missing the playoffs - I erroneously reported earlier that they just needed a win or a Hornets loss to get in. Actually, three teams (the Clippers and the Golden State Warriors), are fighting for the final two spots... Unless some sort of miracle happens, a first round exit awaits my Lakers if they do still happen to get in.

Across the coast, in the span of just five days, the Washington Wizards lost two of their star players in Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas. On April 1st, Butler went down with a broken hand... four days later, Arenas tore up his left knee. Without their two key players, the Wizards went from title contender to the team everyone now wants to play in the playoffs. Not surprisingly, the Wizards lost six consecutive games after Butler went down... Coach Eddie Jordan has done a masterful job with the Wizards, taking them from a team that had missed the playoffs for six consecutive years to one that has made it to the post season each of the last three campaigns. With these injuries though, it's going to take more than just the ex-Laker's coaching abilities for the Wizards to have any success in the 2007 playoffs. Someone will need to step up and fill the shoes of Caron and Gilbert. Perhaps it will be DeShawn Stevenson or Jarvis Hayes, who scored 25 and 20 points respectively in the Wizards' 98-85 win over the Atlanta Hawks last night. Can the Wizards recover and somehow make a run in the playoffs? One can only hope at this point.

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