This week, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America announced the 19 former MLB stallions that would join the game’s best on the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. Among those past stars was the Los Angeles Dodgers’ closer, Eric Gagne. While Gagne had his amazing moments, the closer position is a difficult sell to HoF voters and Gagne’s resume is just not complete enough to merit the great honor.
In all of HoF history, there have only been five closers – unless you preemptively include Mariano Rivera as the sixth – elected into Cooperstown: Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers and Hoyt Wilhelm. When I think back on Gagne’s career, I remember the amazing run he had, but these men were known for their dominating performances day in and day out for years. Gossage was an example of longevity as he finished his 22-year career with a 3.01 ERA and 310 saves. Fingers was even better in his 17 seasons as he retired with almost 350 saves and a sub-3.00 ERA. Although Gagne did last ten years in the majors, his greatness was mostly limited to a three-year span between 2002 and 2004.
Over that span, Gagne posted a ridiculous 1.79 ERA in 224 games pitched while recording 152 saves. During that time, you may remember the miraculous run Gagne went on in which he converted an amazing 84 consecutive save opportunities, demolishing the previous record by 29 saves. Nevertheless, 2004 signaled the technical end of Gagne’s major-league career. His 2005 and 2006 seasons were riddled with injuries and despite having a good but short run with the Texas Rangers in 2007, Gagne just could not return to his successful ways of the past.
Despite being one of only a handful of closers to ever win the Cy Young Award, Gagne’s career was stunted. It is unfortunate as the right handed Canadian definitely had potential to be one of the best ever, but Gagne’s name will still live on in baseball lore, as it should. He may never be elected to the HoF, but Gagne’s legacy is already there as the shoes he wore the day he broke the consecutive saves record were delivered to Cooperstown. Baseball fans will not soon forget Gagne’s name, but he does not rightfully deserve a full-fledged membership into the Hall of Fame.