Given his release from the Dodgers even though he accepted a minor league assignment it’s no surprise that Eric Gagne has decided to retire.
For about three years there — 2002 to 2004 — Gagne was the best closer in baseball, going 152 for 158 in save opportunities, including a perfect 55 for 55 in 2003. He won the Cy Young Award because of that. Elbow surgery came in 2005 and back surgery in 2006, and that was more or less that for the guy as an elite player. Since leaving the Dodgers after the 2006 season he bounced from Texas to Boston to Milwaukee to the Can-Am League, never able to recover top form.
Gagne was named as a Kirk Radomski customer in the Mitchell Report. He spoke about his PED use to some extent with the Los Angeles Times last year, voicing remorse but declining to go into details because he didn’t want to implicate others. His PED use also implicates teams to some degree, as the Mitchell Report noted that the Red Sox had scouted Gagne at one point, writing “steroids is the issue.”
And it remains the issue with Gagne insofar as career assessment is concerned. His best years were all about power, all came prior to the advent of steroids testing and ended at basically the same time. Yes, injuries killed him, but his inability to take whatever it was he was taking back in the day likely didn’t help matters.
I enjoyed watching Gagne shut things down during his brief but dominant
prime, but that was a different time in baseball history, both temporally and philosophically speaking.
LAS VEGAS — Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg appeared at the Winter Meetings a few minutes ago and said that the project which was intended to result in a new ballpark for the team in Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa has fallen apart. No new ballpark will be built and the three-year window granted to the team by the City of St. Petersburg to negotiate for a new ballpark will come to a close without any deal. The Tampa Bay Rays appear to be stuck in Tropicana Field through 2027.
Sternberg’s statement came mere hours after it was reported that Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred sent a sternly-worded letter to Hillsborough County officials, blasting the framework for the deal for the new stadium in Ybor City, saying it lacked specifics and criticized “the actual level commitment” from the public side. It’s not unreasonable to read that as the Commissioner’s dissatisfaction with how much public money the County was pledging to complete the project. Sternberg said just now that “we were not close to a workable framework.”
In his comments this morning Sternberg noted that the Rays had worked “for ten years” to get a new stadium and that they’d continue to try to work to that end, but the team’s options are extremely limited. The Rays are party to what has been described as an iron-clad lease for Tropicana Field, lasting through 2027. Until three years ago the Rays were prohibited from even talking to anyone about building a new ballpark outside of St. Petersburg. In December 2015 St. Pete granted the team a window to negotiate with Hillsborough County which Sternberg called “very generous.” It is now closing, however, and Sternberg said that there are no plans to ask St. Petersburg officials for a new one.
Which means that the Rays are likely stuck in Tropicana Field through 2027. While Sternberg talked of being creative and searching for any and all available options, he likewise said that “we need to figure out where the 2028 season will be played.”