Ghosts of the Past
As the guitar riffs of Guns N’ Roses reverberate throughout Dodger Stadium, the stocky reliever jogs to the mound. His clear rec specs give him the appearance of a dentist waiting to make quick work of your annual visit. His jagged goatee, meanwhile, leads you to believe you’ll find him in your neighbor’s garage playing the bass along to a Weezer album. This is Eric Gagne, the Dodgers’ dominant 9th inning stopper. This is also 2003.
Fast forward fourteen years, and Eric Gagne’s life is much different. The biting curveball has been replaced by even sharper evidence of steroid use. The goatee has been trimmed. The rec specs seem to have given way to Lasik. At 41 years of age, Eric Gagne has been invited back to Dodgers spring training as a guest pitching instructor. After one bullpen session, he seems to be serious about considering a comeback to the Major Leagues.
Gagne seems to be forgetting one thing, however. Maybe no one in baseball wants him back. He is the epitome of a drug-inflated era, someone whose highlights were solely attributable to the extra chemicals flowing through his body. While Major League Baseball isn’t faultless in the game’s stewardship of the Steroid Era, its legacy seems to have recovered significantly. A new wave of fan-friendly superstars has taken baseball my storm. Seeing Gagne on the field with the Mike Trouts and Kris Bryants of today’s game just doesn’t seem to make much sense.
This is Farewell
When I first heard the news that Gagne was considering a return to the mound, the 10-year-old Dodgers fan in me cheered. After all, he provided one of the most electric performances in baseball night in and night out during the peak years of my childhood fandom. I was fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to be at the game when his 85-consecutive-saves streak was smashed to pieces by the Arizona Diamondbacks. I still have the ball he signed when my brother and I waited for him after the game. I got in trouble when I fist pumped like my Dodger hero after closing out a Pony League game. Heck, I was even Gagne for Halloween one year. But the more I thought about it, the less sense it made in my head for LA’s old star to return to these young, dynamic Dodgers. More importantly, it just didn’t feel right in my heart.
The city of Los Angeles deserves better than the Steroid and Frank McCourt Era. After watching its stars fall from grace and its beloved team fall victim to a bitter divorce from an undeserving owner, Dodger fans deserve this new-look, new-feel team that now graces Chavez Ravine. Eric Gagne, Paul Lo Duca, and the “Steroid Dodgers” of the past do not belong here anymore. “Welcome to the Jungle” just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.