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Saturday, January 26, 2008

December 17th: UW Whitewater, Favre, and Eric Gagne

Congratulations to UW-Whitewater, for their Division III championship win. They won 31-21 over Mount Union, the winningest program in college football since 1990. Justin Beaver ran for 249 yards for the Warhawks.

See, Division I? That’s what a champion looks like. You do some playoffs, and the better team wins. It’s not really complicated. Figure it out so that we don’t have any more debacles like this season.

So, due to circumstances beyond my control, I couldn’t watch the whole Packer game. I caught the end of it, and listened to the beginning. However, I do have some points from the game.

  • I was worried about this being a trap game for the Pack. Sure, St. Louis is 3-11 now, but they finally got back Marc Bulger and a healthy Steven Jackson, and they really had nothing to lose. It seemed like it would be that way until the Packers broke it open in the 2nd. But you really can’t overemphasize how well prepared this team is, something that was sorely lacking in the Sherman years.
  • Don’t be too upset about Steven Jackson running for 147 yards. Jackson ran hard, and when he has a full head of steam, he’s hard to stop. The Packer defense played their assignments almost perfectly at times, and he still broke off some runs. He’s just that good. If Jackson was on a better team, you would be hearing the same superlatives about him that you hear about LaDainian Tomlinson.
  • Of course, Brett Favre is now the all-time NFL passing yardage leader. Quick weird stat: The previous all-time passing yardage leaders, Fran Tarkenton and Dan Marino, had no NFL championships between them. That’s kind of weird, isn’t it? I don’t know what it means, but it means something.
  • Seriously, though, what other great things can you say about Favre? We’re just lucky he’s been here as long as he has, and it’ll be a sad day when he hangs it up. Here’s to 17 amazing seasons, and here’s to several more.

As we all know, the Mitchell Report just came out. We’ve heard the big names, like Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Barry Bonds. But the name that's probably the most important to Brewer fans is Eric Gagne. There are other former Brewers on the list, but none of them got $10 million contracts just a couple of days ago.

First, the good stuff about the report. While there were some juicers on the team, it doesn’t seem like the Brewers were encouraging steroid use like some other teams were (cough Yankees cough). That’s definitely a good thing, and let’s hope no other reports come out to prove otherwise.

The problem with Gagne isn't just the contract, although I'm not crazy about a guy who barely closes anymore and pitched horribly in Boston. Even if there were no steroids involved, that would still bother me, but this is my problem. Here's a quote from the report (italics ours):

When the Boston Red Sox were considering acquiring Gagné, a Red Sox official made specific inquiries about Gagné’s possible use of steroids. In a November 1, 2006 email to a Red Sox scout, general manager Theo Epstein asked, “Have you done any digging on Gagne? I know the Dodgers think he was a steroid guy. Maybe so. What do you hear on his medical?” The scout, Mark Delpiano, responded,

Some digging on Gagne and steroids IS the issue. Has had a checkered medical past throughout career including minor leagues. Lacks the poise and commitment to stay healthy, maintain body and re invent self. What made him a tenacious closer was the max effort plus stuff . . . Mentality without the plus weapons and without steroid help probably creates a large risk in bounce back durability and ability to throw average while allowing the changeup to play as it once did. . . Personally, durability (or lack of) will follow Gagne . . .

Awesome. So we've got this guy and we're on the hook for $10 mil.

There's been suspicion about Gagne around baseball. He's one of those players who did great and then all of a sudden just stopped right around the time that they started doing better steroid testing. But what kills me is this: Instead of waiting for the Mitchell Report, they went out and got the guy anyway, five days before it came out.

You know what this tells me? It tells me that the Brewers already knew what kind of player Gagne was. They already knew he was juicing and they didn't care.

In Wisconsin, we have certain things we like. We like our sports stars a certain way. Our favorite stars are guys like Brett Favre, Robin Yount, Michael Redd, guys who punch the clock, work hard, and get the job done. We want our guys to leave it all on the field, and we don’t like players who take plays off. So, Gagne isn’t an effort guy, just a pill guy. That’s fantastic. That’s not the kind of player we like here.

I still wish they would have gone after a different route for their closer. Would it had been so hard to get Joe Nathan from the Twins? He is absolutely money, having a better save ratio than Cordero did last year. If he would have been playing in New York or Boston, he would be bandied about as a “best ever” type of guy.

Instead, we got Eric Gagne, a guy who closed successfully for the beginning of last year and hadn’t done anything for the two years previous, who we’re paying $10 million to, and who doesn’t have the tenacity to stay healthy.

I really hope I’m wrong about this, but this could be an absolute disaster.

One really good thing about the report though: How ridiculous does the Yankees team of 2000 look now? I’m a Yankee hater, though, so that might just be me.

What do you think? Do you like the Gagne deal more or less now? Do you think we should have given him the contract we did? Also, should I back off the Yankee hate, or is that justified? (Hint: No, I should not, and yes, it is justified.)