Lose a Bear, Gain a Wolf

Dodger fans are having a tough time getting their heads around the fact that "Game Over" Eric Gagne will be pitching for Texas this season and at the same time, Phillie fans are struggling with the fact that lefthander Randy Wolf slipped away to join the Dodgers in about the same manner.

Both young pitchers were outstanding and highly valued by their respective clubs. Gagne, a big bear of a man, rang up an astounding 84 consecutive saves and recorded 150+ over three seasons. Wolf, a hard-throwing lefty, won 48 games over four seasons.

Then both of them were injured and their world turned upside down.

Gagne is disappointed that his time with the Dodgers has ended. So are the fans. So, too, is Ned Colletti, in his second season as the Dodgers' general manager.

"It's one of the missing pieces to my time here, not having him," Colletti said. "When I took this job, it was one of the aspects of it I was really looking forward to. I knew how tremendous this guy was."

"I'm going to miss the fans in L.A. so much," Gagne told Steve Henson of the Los Angeles Times.. "It's going to be hard. You can't erase 11 years of your life just like that. All I know with my life is being a Dodger."

The Dodgers paid him $19 million for those the 2005 and 2006 seasons and they got nine saves over 15 innings.

But now he claims he is injury free and his contract has run out. The Dodgers offered $4 guaranteed and $6 million in incentives; Texas offered $6 million guaranteed and $ million in incentives.

If Gagne wanted to stay, and Colletti wanted him to stay, why is he here in Surprise? Is it as simple as saying Texas would guarantee him $6 million and the Dodgers would not?

"I don't like talking about negotiations," Gagne said. "They showed some interest. I guess they didn't show enough. For me, this is a great place to start again."

Gagne pointed out that it just didn't work out. "It's nothing personal," he said. It's just a business decision."

Did he think he should have given the Dodgers a break in the negotiations?


"I never felt I owed them something," Gagne said. "I felt bad that I couldn't perform, for the fans and for the team. I wish it could have worked out. It didn't. They went in a different direction, and that's understandable. No hard feelings. I've been hurt for two years. I wish I could have changed everything that happened in the last two years. I can't. Maybe our paths will cross again."

Switch now to the clubhouse in Vero Beach where Wolf is preparing to pitch for the club he grew up watching.

He was the Phillies' No. 2 draft choice in 1997. He was an All-Star in 2003. He was the team's player representative. He had his own cheering section, the Wolf Pack, that supported him from the upper deck, first at Veterans Stadium and later at Citizens Bank Park.

And then he heard the dreaded words "Tommy John" and doctors reconstructed his elbow.

But in this case, Wolf took less guaranteed money from his hometown Dodgers than he could have gotten by staying with the team he spent eight seasons with in Philadelphia.

Pat Gillick said pretty much the same thing that Ned Colletti said about Gagne: "From our standpoint, we wanted to make sure he was healthy before we did anything."

Wolf said he understood their point of view -- coming off surgery, pitching only the last two month of the season.

Now it was his turn to sound like Gagne: "I knew I was healthy. I knew I felt good. But they wanted to take the time to evaluate what they wanted to do."

So the two young pitchers went their separate ways. One back home to his roots and the other answered the call of more guaranteed money.

The Phillies said they would have been willing to guarantee Wolf three years but he went for less money, less contract length.

"There's a risk but, for me, it's more fulfilling. I could have taken - I won't say the scared approach - but the cautious approach and taken the guaranteed money," Wolf told a Philadelphia paper. "To me, I'm willing to take that risk and bank on my health and go for it. If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. But I did it with the right frame of mind and did it where I could go home."

"I appreciate everything they did for me. I don't have anything bad to say. It was just the opportunity to play in the stadium I grew up going to. It's just one of those opportunities you get to fulfill a dream."

Neither player or front office could point a finger and say, "there is no sentiment in baseball" -- because in reality, there never was.

Welcome to Major League Baseball 2007.

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