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Gagne Est Malheureux, Mais C'est la Vie
2004-02-24 06:24
by Jon Weisman

Why can't I work up any sympathy for Eric Gagne?

The part of me that savors the energy and dominance he brings to the ninth inning wants to feel bad that the Dodgers didn't give him the contract that he wanted, but that feeling never made it to the stadium.

The part of me that always wants to see Gagne in a Dodger uniform is mollified by the fact that he can't become a free agent until October 2006, by which time it's at least debatable whether the energy and dominance will still be there. (It probably will, but it's so far off.)

As someone perennially disappointed by his own salary, I understand Gagne's frustration and even his anger, yet when I hear him talk about the level of respect that he feels is lacking, my gut reaction is to scoff and tell him to get over it.

What hardened my heart?

The best answer I can come up with is that the baseball salary system is so patently illogical - like life - that I don't know if any player should be taking their contract issues personally.

Guys like Todd Hundley and Darren Dreifort will always make money than guys like Gagne in a system where the market fluctuates dramatically and where the front office can't or won't see the potential for injuries.

Plus, for every Gagne that appears to be underpaid, there is an, oh, let's say Mike Davis c. 1988 that gets overpaid. And - it's tired but it's true - you won't see those players showing any "respect" by returning their salary - not that the players union, which almost always has my sympathy, would let them.

There is another issue here concerning whether the Dodgers are shooting themselves in the foot by limiting Gagne to the ninth inning, but that's not really my point today - and I certainly don't want to have to get out the numbers again this morning to prove once more that Gagne can be effective in non-save situations.

Really, the issue is that baseball salaries are a force of nature.

Sure, the Dodgers could afford to be generous with Gagne and the fact is, maybe they will and Gagne's feelings won't be a problem anymore.

But in the end, the Dodgers don't get my sympathy when a player demands a salary beyond his worthy, and the team is pressured to capitulate. So I guess that's why Gagne's pain and suffering haven't penetrated my soul. When it comes to salaries, life just ain't fair, and a tough skin is in order.

If I were Gagne, starting today, I wouldn't dignify any questions about his contract with responses. I would suck it up and just focus on playing ball. I am optimistic that he will at least do the latter, and that's what I think is important.

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