Earlier this week one of the biggest names in baseball, Alex Rodriguez, admitted to taking a banned substance in 2003. He tested positive with a group of 104 players in a random testing that was suppose to remain confidential.
That brings one big question to everyone’s mind, “Who were the other 103 that tested positive in 2003?” Well, aside from all the test results being publicly announced, or all of the other players admitting they took a banned substance like A-Rod, we will likely never know. But we can speculate.
One player I can not help but pick out is Eric Gagne. Aside from 2003 being the best season of his career, he was also mentioned in the notorious Mitchell Report, in which Kirk Radomski stated he took calls from Paul Lo Duca, who was ordering Human Growth Hormone for Eric Gagne.
He also recalled one time when Lo Duca called and put Gagne on the phone who had asked Radomski how to get air out of a syringe. The only response Gagne had about his name being mentioned in the Mitchell Report was that he apologized to his teammates for "a distraction that shouldn't be taking place."
Gagne declined to answer any specific questions about his mentioning in the Mitchell Report, and could only add that he feels “bad” for what his friends and family went through during the offseason. All of this went under the media’s massive radar because there were much larger fish to fry during this time. Roger Clemens and Andy Petttitte.
If his side-stepping of the Mitchell Report doesn’t have you skeptical just yet let’s consider his statistics. For the 2000 and 2001 seasons Eric Gagne was a starting pitcher. He pitched an average of 126.15 innings during those two seasons. He also averaged 104 Strikeouts during that time.
The following seasons of 2002, 2003, and 2004 Gagne moved to the bullpen, where he did not see as many innings on the mound, but managed to average more strikeouts per season. For those three seasons Gagne averaged only 82.1 innings per season. But he averaged 121.6 Strikeouts over those three seasons.
His vs. average plummeted as well. In 2000, Gagne had a vs. average of .270 and in 2001 .251. In 2003 opponents were only able to hit .133 against him.
The last stat I came across that had the most interest to me was Gagne’s K per 9. While he was a starter Eric posted a K/9 of 7.02 in 2000 and 7.71 in 2001. In 2003, he almost doubled those numbers. His K/9 that season was 14.98! If that number doesn’t show a drastic improvement, I don’t know what does.
With all this in mind, there is only one more question to ask. “How did Gagne do after 2003?” Well in 2004, he posted similar numbers to 2003, although not quite as good. But the MLB did start their new policy until the beginning of the 2005 season. Prior to that, almost no player was punished for testing positive to a banned substance.
But in 2005, when the policy started Gagne’s numbers started to slip. He was bothered by nagging injuries, only pitched 13 innings in 2005, and two innings in 2006. The 2007 season Gagne split with the Boston Redsox and the Texas Rangers. That season he pitched a lot more, but wasn’t touching his superstar numbers of 2003.
Last season Gagne was with the Brewers, still in the bullpen. He pitched only 46.1 innings, and had an ERA of 5.44, which is humiliating when you compare it to the 1.20 that helped him earn the Cy Young in 2003. And where did his K/9 fall to? All the way back down to 7.38.
Eric Gagne is my front runner for one of the other 103 “cheaters” in baseball during the 2003 season. The way he hid from the questions about his involvement with Kirk Radomski, and the mentioning of himself in the Mitchell Report have me skeptical. But the rollercoaster ride I like to call his stats has me convinced. If anyone has a confession to make about the 2003 season, it's Eric Gagne.