LAT's Plaschke on Dodgers and Gagne
June 17, 2005For non-Dodger fans, Darren Dreifort has had so many surgeries to repair so many things that his career is over. I'm told, at one time, he had great stuff but injuries piled on and the great potential was lost. Fans have dumped on Driefort for the big contract while on the DL seemingly all the time. Yet, all the Dodger radio broadcast reporters have described him as a tireless worker in rehab and physical therapy but simply the body kept breaking down.
Somebody Should Have Saved Gagne
When taking the mound for his first game this spring, baseball's toughest pitcher didn't swagger, he limped.
When throwing his first pitch to an opposing hitter this spring, baseball's most fearless pitcher didn't fling, he lobbed.
Why didn't I rail about the lob?
After Eric Gagne's first appearance in late March, in the quiet of the Vero Beach clubhouse, I approached him with the intention of writing a column.
He was altering his mechanics to compensate for an injured knee. He should stop pitching immediately or risk damaging his arm.
I had seen it a dozen times before. It was Baseball 101. The story was clear.
Today, Eric Gagne, with a torn elbow, is on the verge of a surgery that could change a career, alter a season and spark an eternally Blue question.
It is the same question asked in 1990 when another Dodger pitcher two years removed from a Cy Young Award blew out his shoulder and was never the same.
It is the same question asked later that season when yet another Dodger Cy Young Award winner lost his velocity — and eventually his job — at the reported age of 29.
Orel Hershiser, Fernando Valenzuela, and now Eric Gagne, franchise cornerstones forever cemented together by a single shaky thought.
Could the Dodgers have prevented Cy Burnout?
Even if they could, did they have a choice?
Hershiser won a World Series almost single-armedly, and said he had no regrets about the 15 complete games and 267 innings required to get there.
Valenzuela rose from a small Mexican village to become a Dodger icon, never once complaining about being ridden for more than 250 innings for six consecutive seasons during the journey.
Flash back to last Aug. 1, when the clubhouse was reeling from the trade of Paul Lo Duca and Mota, when the Dodgers desperately needed a settling win.
Gagne pitched a season-long three innings and they defeated the San Diego Padres in what Manager Jim Tracy later, and correctly, called the biggest victory of the season.
It was also the beginning of a six-day stretch in which Gagne appeared four times and threw 109 pitches. And that doesn't include the countless tosses in the bullpen.
After struggling throughout a hot August stretch, Gagne regained his form in September, but batters were whispering that he seemed tired.
If Gagne needs Tommy John surgery, he should be nicely asked to shut up and shut it down.
By the end of next season, he could be playing again. Remember, he recovered pretty well from his first Tommy John surgery in 1997.
The odds against a player requiring that famous procedure twice are high indeed.
But, counting Darren Dreifort, the el-blowed Dodgers have now had two of them.
Gagne will be examed by famed Dr. Frank Job to see if surgery will be needed.