WEEI – Eleven years after leaving town, Gagne finally got his save for the Sox. It was locked up while sitting in the living room of his Arizona home, but it was a save nonetheless. A big one. The story started just about 18 years ago when the kid from Montreal befriended an infielder who came from Puerto Rico. Gagne was a relief pitcher. Alex Cora was a utility player. Both had plenty of time on their hands while living life as Dodgers. They started a hobby: Identifying pitchers who were tipping their pitches…
The pitcher he witnessed Tuesday night, Craig Kimbrel, wasn’t one of the more difficult ones. For Gagne, it was pretty clear what was going on. As far as the former pitcher was concerned, the Red Sox closer’s high-wire act against the Astros in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series was no accident.
It was enough evidence that Gagne felt obligated to reach out to his old friend, and the new manager of the Red Sox…“Nowadays you don’t even need to talk to people, it’s perfect,” he said. “I just sent him a message saying, ‘Hey Craig, I’m not sure if you care about these things but I’m friends with Alex and I’ve been seeing this or that. I think you should sit down to look at it. It’s an easy fix. It’s not that difficult. You might change your set-up, but that’s not that big of a deal.’ It was a pretty easy fix once he knew what he was doing.”
What a wild story from an unlikely source. Remember our old friend Eric Gagne? The guy who at one point in time was the most dominant closer in all of baseball. The guy who once converted 84 save opportunities straight. The guy who Theo Epstein and the Boston Red Sox traded for as a “luxury, not a necessity” on a stacked 2007 team. As we all know, Gagne was absolutely abysmal for the Sox, finishing with a 6.75 ERA in 20 games. He fell so far that the Sox big trade deadline acquisition only pitched 4.1 innings in the 07 playoffs. Well, THAT guy might have just saved the 2018 Red Sox season.
Gagne spoke with Rob Bradford and told him how, from his couch, he was able to pick up that Craig Kimbrel was apparently tipping his pitches. Does that explain Kimbrel’s complete inability to find the plate in the playoffs thus far? No, but it does explain how basically everyone he’s faced has had more plate discipline than a monk and was pretty much ready for whatever he did get over the plate.
This is why you never burn any bridges. Gagne and Cora were two guys that came up together in the Dodgers minor league system and bonded over watching film and figuring out who was tipping pitches. Pretty obscure hobby for a super utility player and a 30th Round Draft pick turned stud closer. Moral of the story, ya just never know who’s going to come out of left field and throw you a bone. If Gagne doesn’t reach out to his old friend with some advice on why his all-star closer is suddenly a disaster on the mound, then maybe they don’t fix anything and we’re looking at another disappointing Red Sox postseason performance.
Kudos to Cora for accepting and welcoming the constructive criticism from an old teammate. How many managers would have just scoffed at a player that is “out of baseball” offering up criticism of his All-Star closer while watching at home on TV?
Was Gagne a bum for the Sox? Absolutely. But any time a guy with 187 career saves wants to throw out some advice for a struggling Boston bullpen then I am all ears. If Kimbrel is back to his 1-2-3 ways in the 9th inning then I think we all owe Gagne a beer, preferably one brewed by his 2007 Red Sox teammate Kevin Youkilis.