"Game Over" Now Officially Over

Sources close to the Texas Rangers report that former Dodger All-Star Eric Gagne has signed a one-year contract for $6 million. The deal allows some $5 million in performance bonuses. It closes a storybook chapter in club history when impatience cost Los Angeles the best stopper in team history, perhaps in baseball.

Although no official announcedment has been made, all the deal hinges on is Gagne, the 2003 NL Cy Young Award winner, passing a physical before the contract can be finalized.

Injuries limited Gagne to 14 games and eight saves in 2005 and two outings with one save in 2006. The right-hander had surgery in April to remove a nerve from his pitching elbow - the same arm that required elbow-ligament replacement surgery in 1997. He then had season-ending surgery July 8 to repair a herniated disc in his lower back.

Gagne, the all-time saves leader in Dodger history, became the closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002, and saved 52 games with a 1.97 ERA in 77 appearances. The following season, when he won the Cy Young Award, he pitched in the same number of games and innings (82.1) and converted all 55 save chances with a 1.20 ERA and 137 strikeouts. He saved 45 more games in 2004 giving him 152 saves over a three-year period.

Canadian-born Gagne was a starter in the Dodger minor league system and saw limited action with the Dodgers over that period, working in 48 games. Over 38 starts he was 11-14 with a 4.81 earned run average.

Converted to a reliever to replace the departing Jeff Shaw, the transformation was stunning. His record over his first three seasons out of the bullpen was 13-7 with a 1.79 earned run average and 365 strikeouts in 224 innings. He held opposing hitters to a .168 average.

Rumbling in out of the bullpen with music blaring and the crowd screaming, he saved a stunning 84 wins in a row from August 20, 2002 to July 3, 2004 and over the streak he had an ERA of 0.84, allowing 43 hits and striking out 141 over 87.2 innings. Over his final 110 save opportunities, he blew two of them.

And during the process, he became one of the most popular players in Los Angeles history. Many stayed through the entire game to see he he was needed in the ninth inning.

Steve Hirdt of ESPN noted, "No, Gagne's streak is not DiMaggio's. But keep this in mind when judging their relative values; while a hit doesn't necessarily guarantee a victory, a save does."

From that point, the glittering Gagne story turns into tragedy.

He injured his knee during spring drills in 2005, then insisted on -- and was allowed -- to pitch before the injury completely healed. He was obviously having trouble landing on his injured left knee and the pain was obvious to the crowd at Holman Stadium but Dodger officials on the scene did nothing to stop him.

One member of the press corps almost left the stands and stopped the game to save Gagne permanent damage.

Like the injury to Dizzy Dean, who was injured by a line drive off his toe in an All-Star Game, Gagne compensated for the injury, putting more stress on his arm, leading to elbow and back problems, multiple operations and an almost complete shutdown in 2005 and 2006.

He became a free agent last month when the Dodgers declined his $12 million option for 2007 although they offered him $4 million and incentives that would have paide him $9 million.

As was expected (and reported yesterday), Texas reached a agreement with outfielder Kenny Lofton on a one-year contract worth about $6 million.

No Tampering Charges-- The Dodgers will not file tampering charges against the Boston Red Sox for acting improperly in discussions with the agent for J.D. Drew, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Drew chose to activate a clause in his contract to void the last three years of his contract, leaving $33 million on the table and some suggested that agent Scott Boras had discussed Drew with another team while the outfielder was still a Dodger. Drew recently signed a five-year, $70-million deal with the Red Sox last week.

The Red Sox and Boras denied any impropriety, which would have been nearly impossible to prove. A column in the New York Times suggested tampering had occurred, causing the Dodgers to consider looking into the matter.

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