- Tony Jackson, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- Eric Gagne, whose legacy as the greatest closer in Los Angeles Dodgers history was sullied somewhat when his name appeared in the Mitchell report on performance-enhancing drug use in baseball, has decided to retire, according to a report by the French-Canadian website RueFrontenac.com.
The report comes less than a month after Gagne failed in his comeback bid with the club as a non-roster invitee to spring training. MLB.com reported the story, citing the French-language site's interview with Gagne, who lives in Phoenix area but is originally from Montreal.
After pitching last season for the Quebec Capitals in the independent Can-Am League, Gagne signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers in February and came to big-league spring training, where he admitted that his career had been tarnished by the Mitchell report and eventually told the Los Angeles Times that he had used human growth hormone.
After a handful of Cactus League appearances, it became clear that Gagne wasn't ready for major league competition. He initially agreed to go to minor league camp and try to work his way back to that level, but the Dodgers released him -- technically at Gagne's request, although the release would have come even if he hadn't asked for it -- on March 22.
At that time, it was widely assumed Gagne's career was over. But he didn't make it official until he told RueFrontenac.com.
Gagne won the National League Cy Young Award as the Dodgers' closer in 2003, a season in which he converted all 55 of his save opportunities as part of a three-year stretch in which he successfully converted a record 84 consecutive save chances. For most of that time, he was the face of the franchise from a marketing standpoint.
The phrase "Game over" -- a reference to Gagne's reliability when he would jog in from the bullpen at the start of the ninth inning -- quickly began to adorn T-shirts, caps, posters and other memorabilia sold by the club at the time.
The Dodgers beat Gagne in an arbitration hearing after his Cy Young season, meaning he settled for a $5 million salary in 2004 instead of the $8 million he was seeking. He then agreed to terms on a two-year, $19 million contract before the 2005 season, but because of injuries, he wound up making a total of 16 appearances over the life of that contract. He signed with Texas as a free agent after 2006.
Gagne spent the next two seasons with three different major league organizations, including Boston and Milwaukee, and although he stayed relatively healthy, he was never quite the same in terms of dominance on the mound. The Mitchell report was released in December 2007. Gagne had signed with the Brewers by that time, and when he arrived at spring training the following February, he apologized to teammates for causing a distraction but didn't allude to any specific violations he may have committed.
Gagne finished his career with a 33-26 record, a 3.47 ERA and 187 saves in 10 major league seasons. He began his career as a starter for the Dodgers, but didn't see much success until he found his niche as a closer in 2002.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.