Yeah, I know. Gagne’s Red Sox career wasn’t exactly stellar. OK. It wasn’t exactly decent either. But, boy, when the Sox made the move to acquire him, it was pretty big news. The Sox were caught in a race for the division. They were able to add a former elite reliever at the deadline to really bolster things. In the first part of the 2007 season, Gagne had actually been putting up some pretty decent numbers. But, in Boston, things went terribly wrong. Nobody’s exactly sure why. The one that is the most plausible is that Papelbon wouldn’t give him the closer’s job. Not that it’s entirely Pap’s fault. He was the better closer at the time. But, Gagne said he never really got over the feeling of looking over his shoulder. As a closer, he was used to it being his game, good or bad. As a set up guy, he kept thinking that one bad pitch could have him taken out of the game. He never really got it mentally, and it crushed his season.
Amazingly, he was on the playoff roster for the ALCS, which is where I got to see him pitch for the only time live. He came in to finish off game six against Cleveland. Notice I said, “finish off” and not “close.” When Gagne came into the game in the top of the ninth, the Sox were clinging to a ten run game. Amazingly, he held the lead. He pitched a perfect 1-2-3 ninth to put the Sox one win away from the World Series.
The Sox, of course, went on to win the World Series that year. That means Gagne has a ring from the Red Sox. That has to keep him in our good graces at least a little bit. A little bit.
Happy 36th Birthday Eric Gagne!