Cy Magnifique!

Times Staff Writer

With his trademark goggles, sweat-stained cap and flawless late-inning work, the Dodgers' Eric Gagne won the National League Cy Young Award on Thursday, the first relief pitcher to be so honored in 11 years.

Gagne, who converted all 55 save opportunities in 2003, received 28 of 32 first-place votes and 146 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Assn. of America.

Jason Schmidt of the San Francisco Giants finished a distant second with two first-place votes and 73 points. Mark Prior of the Chicago Cubs had the other first-place votes and 60 points, finishing third.

Dennis Eckersley of the Oakland Athletics was the last reliever to win the award, when he was named AL winner in 1992. Mark Davis of the San Diego Padres in 1989 was the last NL reliever to win it.

Gagne also is the seventh Dodger to have won the award, the first since Orel Hershiser in 1988, and the ninth reliever in baseball history. He ended the four-year reign of Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks as the NL Cy Young Award winner.

Gagne, from Montreal, is only the second Canadian in baseball history to win the award. Ferguson Jenkins of the Cubs won in 1971.

In Gagne's honor, a huge Canadian flag flapped in the breeze beside Old Glory beyond the center-field fence at Dodger Stadium on Thursday afternoon.

"It's so good for baseball in Montreal and Quebec and all of Canada," said Gagne, who said he'd met Jenkins at a baseball function in New York this month.

Gagne had a 2-3 record and a 1.20 earned-run average with 137 strikeouts and 20 walks in 82 1/3 innings last season. He also had 52 saves in 2002, becoming the only pitcher with 50 or more saves in consecutive years.

Eckersley had the previous major league best, 94 saves in 1991 and '92.

"I didn't think I was perfect this year," said Gagne, 27. "I was perfect in save situations, but I gave up runs and I didn't hit all my spots."

Still, Gagne was a model of consistency in 2003. The Dodgers finished with an 85-77 record and failed to make the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season. They haven't won a playoff game since Hershiser led them to the 1988 World Series championship.

Only in the All-Star game, when Gagne gave up a two-run go-ahead homer to Texas' Hank Blalock in the eighth inning, did the Dodger right-hander fail to hold the lead for his team. The AL defeated the NL and earned home-field advantage for the World Series.

The Florida Marlins took Gagne off the hook for his All-Star breakdown, however, by defeating the New York Yankees, four games to two.

Thursday, Gagne didn't exactly pin his success on his glasses -- he wears them to protect his eyes, which he injured as a youth hockey player, from more injuries -- or his unsightly cap, which he selects in spring training and wears until the (smelly?) end of the season.

At some point, he said, he might undergo laser surgery on his eyes. He made it plain, though, that he won't halt his practice of wearing one cap from start to finish each season.

There's no reason to alter his intimidating presence on the mound.

"There are still mountains for him to climb," Manager Jim Tracy said when asked whether it was possible for Gagne to improve upon his 55-for-55 save performance next season.

"He's very interested in playing baseball in October. It's been disappointing that we haven't been able to accomplish it. His main objective is to be on that mound in late October. Yes, the game is about individuals and they win awards, but Eric Gagne is very interested in the other 24 guys on this club.

"There's a lot more out there for this guy. In some ways, he's still not the complete product."

Gagne barely missed Bobby Thigpen's major league record of 57 saves in a season, set in 1990 while with the Chicago White Sox.

When asked if winning the Cy Young Award would cast him in a different role with the Dodgers next season, Gagne said, "I want to be a leader by example. I'm not that old. It's all about experience. Every year, I get more comfortable in that role. It's great that people listen to you when you have a little success."

How that success will affect contract dealings with the Dodgers remains to be seen.

Scott Boras, Gagne's agent, said Wednesday he expected the team to reward Gagne with a lucrative contract befitting a pitcher of his stature.

Gagne is eligible for arbitration but cannot become a free agent because he has yet to play six seasons in the major leagues.

Gagne did not receive a bonus to his $550,000 salary for winning the Cy Young Award. San Francisco's Schmidt and Chicago's Prior got bonuses for placing second and third in the balloting.

"It's the business part of baseball," Gagne said. "I accept that. I'll have to write that down for the next contract. Last year, they had leverage. I'm not bitter. No hard feelings. I didn't expect [a bonus]. I'll have the leverage next year. It's all about the Dodgers right now. Scott Boras can take care of all of that."

In fact, Gagne credited the Dodgers for their faith in him after he struggled to make the team as a starter in 2001 and was moved to the bullpen during spring training the next season.

"I have a passion for the game," Gagne said. "I love the game so much. I just had to work harder and harder. I'm glad the Dodgers believed in me."

Tracy told about the meeting he had with Gagne in 2001, when he informed his struggling pitcher that he was being sent to the minor leagues.

"One of the last things I said to him that day was, 'Eric, let's make sure this is the last time we have this kind of conversation,' " Tracy said.

Tracy also recalled the day Gagne put an end to the Dodgers' closer by committee situation at the start of 2002.

The Dodgers led the Giants at Pacific Bell Park in early April, and Tracy had Gagne on the mound, with Jesse Orosco warming up in the bullpen to close out the game. When Tracy went to remove Gagne, he got an icy stare from his new reliever.

"Barry Bonds was coming to the plate," Tracy said. "I had Orosco warming up. It was the only trip I've made to the mound and didn't take the guy out. I looked in his eyes and it was like, 'If you take me out, there's going to be a conversation in the clubhouse about this.' The look I was getting was well received."

The next day, after Gagne had walked Bonds, but retired Jeff Kent and Reggie Sanders to save the game for the Dodgers, Tracy announced the club had a new closer.

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Cy Young Closers

A look at how Eric Gagne's statistics this season compare to closers who have won the Cy Young Award and/or were a league most valuable player (denoted by *):

*--* Year Closer G IP H ER BB SO W-L SV ERA 2003 ERIC GAGNE Dodgers 77 82 1/3 37 11 20 137 2-3 55 1.20 1992 *DENNIS Oakland 69 80 62 17 11 93 7-1 51 1.91 ECKERSLEY 1989 MARK DAVIS San 70 92 2/3 66 19 31 92 4-3 44 1.85 Diego 1987 STEVE Philad 65 89 79 28 28 74 5-3 40 2.83 BEDROSIAN elphia 1984 *WILLIE Detroit 80 140 1/3 96 30 36 112 9-3 32 1.92 HERNANDEZ 1981 *ROLLIE Milwau 47 78 55 9 13 61 6-3 28 1.04 FINGERS kee 1979 BRUCE SUTTER Chicag 62 101 1/3 67 25 32 110 6-6 37 2.22 o Cubs 1977 SPARKY LYLE N.Y. 72 137 131 33 33 68 13-5 26 2.17 Yankee s 1974 MIKE Dodgers 106 208 1/3 191 56 56 143 15-12 21 2.42 MARSHALL 1950 *JIM Phila. 74 152 108 45 50 56 16-7 22 2.66 KONSTANTY (NL)

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Note -- There was no Cy Young Award in 1950; Konstanty was NL MVP that season.

Young Men

Most Cy Young Awards by team. The award was given to the best pitcher of both leagues from 1956 to 1966 and has been given to the best pitcher in each league since 1967.

*--* 9 Brooklyn/L.A. Dodgers (Sandy Koufax 3, Don Newcombe, Don Drysdale, Mike Marshall, Fernando Valenzuela, Orel Hershiser, Eric Gagne) 7 Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves (Greg Maddux 3, Tom Glavine 2, Warren Spahn, John Smoltz) 6 Boston Red Sox (Roger Clemens 3, Pedro Martinez 2, Jim Lonborg) 6 Baltimore Orioles (Jim Palmer 3, Mike Flanagan, Steve Stone, Mike Cuellar) 6 Philadelphia Phillies (Steve Carlton 4, John Denny, Steve Bedrosian) 5 N.Y. Yankees (Bob Turley, Whitey Ford, Sparky Lyle, Ron Guidry, Clemens) 5 Oakland Athletics (Vida Blue, Catfish Hunter, Bob Welch, Dennis Eckersley, Barry Zito). 4 N.Y. Mets (Tom Seaver 3, Dwight Gooden) 4 Chicago Cubs (Ferguson Jenkins, Bruce Sutter, Rick Sutcliffe, Maddux) 4 Toronto Blue Jays (Clemens 2, Pat Hentgen, Roy Halladay) 4 Arizona Diamondbacks (Randy Johnson 4)

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Eric Gagne's Cy Young Season

Note: The Cy Young Award was first given out in 1956. It was given to the best pitcher of both leagues from 1956 to 1966 and has been given to the best pitcher in each league since 1967.

Dodgers in Voting

How L.A. Dodgers have done in Cy Young voting:

*--* 1962 1st -- Don Drysdale, 25-9, 2.83 ERA 1963 1st -- Sandy Koufax, 25-5, 1.88 ERA 1964 3rd -- Sandy Koufax, 19-5, 1.74 ERA (winner: Dean Chance, Angels, 20-9, 1.65) 1965 1st -- Sandy Koufax, 26-8, 2.04 1966 1st -- Sandy Koufax, 27-9, 1.73 1971 3rd -- Al Downing, 20-9, 2.68 1972 5th -- Don Sutton, 19-9, 2.08 1973 5th -- Don Sutton, 18-10, 2.42 1974 1st -- Mike Marshall, 15-12, 2.42, 21 saves 2nd -- Andy Messersmith, 20-6, 2.59 4th -- Don Sutton, 19-9, 3.23 1975 5th -- Don Sutton, 16-13, 2.87 5th -- Andy Messersmith, 19-14, 2.29 1976 3rd -- Don Sutton, 21-10, 3.06 1977 2nd -- Tommy John, 20-7, 2.78 1978 2nd -- Burt Hooton, 19-10, 2.71 8th -- Tommy John, 17-10, 3.30 1980 2nd -- Jerry Reuss, 18-6, 2.51 1981 1st -- Fernando Valenzuela, 13-7, 2.48 1982 3rd -- Fernando Valenzuela, 19-13, 2.87 1983 8th -- Bob Welch, 15-12, 2.65 1985 3rd -- Orel Hershiser, 19-3, 2.03 5th -- Fernando Valenzuela, 17-10, 2.45 1986 2nd -- Fernando Valenzuela, 21-11, 3.14 1987 4th -- Orel Hershiser, 16-16, 3.06 8th -- Bob Welch, 15-9, 3.22 1988 1st -- Orel Hershiser, 23-8, 2.26 1989 4th -- Orel Hershiser, 15-15, 2.31 6th -- Tim Belcher, 15-12, 2.82 1990 2nd -- Ramon Martinez, 20-6, 2.92 1995 4th -- Hideo Nomo, 13-6, 2.54 5th -- Ramon Martinez, 17-7, 3.66 1996 4th -- Hideo Nomo, 16-11, 3.19 5th -- Todd Worrell, 4-6, 3.03, 44 saves 1999 6th -- Kevin Brown, 18-9, 3.00 2000 6th -- Kevin Brown, 13-6, 2.58 2002 4th -- Eric Gagne, 4-1, 1.97, 52 saves

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The Saves

Game-by-game breakdown of Eric Gagne's 55 saves in 55 chances. Gagne pitched 77 games overall for the second season in a row:

*--* 1 April 8 Arizona 29 June 21 Angels 1 Inn., 1 K 1 Inn., 3 H, 1 ER 2 April 9 Arizona 30 July 5 Arizona 1 Inn., 1 K 1 Inn., 1 H, 2 K 3 April 16 S.D. 31 July 9 at St. Louis 1 Inn., 2 K 1.1 Inn., 1 W, 2 K 4 April 17 S.D. 32 July 17 St . Louis 1 Inn., 1 K 0.1 Inn. 5 April 22 at Cin. 33 July 18 St. Louis 1 Inn., 1 W, 1 K 1 Inn., 1 H, 2 K 6 April 25 at Pitt. 34 July 22 Colorado 1 Inn., 1 H, 2 K 1 Inn., 1 K 7 April 26 at Pitt. 35 July 27 at Arizona 1 Inn., 2 H, 2 K 1.1 Inn., 1 W, 1 K 8 April 30 Phila. 36 Aug. 5 Cincinnati 0.1 Inn. 1 Inn., 2 K 9 May 3 Pitt. 37 Aug. 6 Cincinnati 1 Inn., 2 K 1 Inn., 1 K 10 May 4 Pitt., I Inn., 38 Aug. 7 Cincinnati 1H, 1 ER, 1 W, 2 K 1 Inn., 3 K 11 May 7 at N.Y. Mets 39 Aug. 8 Chicago (NL) 1 Inn., 2 K 1 Inn., 2 K 12 May 11 at Montreal 40 Aug. 14 at Florida 1.1 Inn., 1 K 1 Inn., 3 K 13 May 16 Florida 41 Aug. 17 at Chi. (NL) 1 Inn., 1 K 1 Inn., 1 H, 2K 14 May 17 Florida 42 Aug. 21 Montreal 1 Inn., 2 K 1 Inn., 1 W, 2 K 15 May 18 Florida 43 Aug. 22 N.Y. Mets 1 Inn., 3 K 1 Inn., 1 H, 2 K 16 May 20 Colorado 44 Aug. 28 at Houston 1 Inn., 3 K 1.1 Inn., 2 K 17 May 21 Colorado 45 Aug. 29 Colorado 1 Inn., 1 H, 3 K 1 Inn., 1 H, 3 K 18 May 22 Colorado 46 Aug. 31 Colorado 1 Inn., 2 K 1 Inn., 1 H, 2 K 19 May 31 Milwaukee 47 Sept. 2 Houston 1 Inn., 1 W, 2 K 1.1 Inn., 2 K 20 June 5 Kansas City 48 Sept. 5 at Colorado 1 Inn., 2 K 1 Inn., 1 H, 1 K 21 June 6 Chicago (AL) 49 Sept. 7 at Colorado 1 Inn., 2 K 1 Inn., 2 K 22 June 10 at Detroit 50 Sept. 9 at Arizona 1 Inn., 1 K 1 Inn., 1 K 23 June 11 at Detroit 51 Sept. 14 S.D. 1 Inn., 2 K 1.1 Inn., 2 K 24 June 12 at Detroit 52 Sept. 18 Arizona 1 Inn. 2 Inn., 3 H, 1 W, 2 K 25 June 13 at Cle. 53 Sept. 21 S.F. 1 Inn, 1 H, 1 W, 3K 1.1 Inn., 3 K 26 June 15 at Cle. 54 Sept. 23 at S.D. 1 Inn., 1 H, 1 W, 2K 1 Inn., 1 K 27 June 17 S.F. 55 Sept. 24 at S.D. 1 Inn., 3 K 1 Inn., 1 H, 1 W, 1 K 28 June 20 Angels Tot 82.1 Inn., 37 H, 12 R, 1 Inn., 1 K 11 ER, 20 W, 137 K

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Top Closers

Most saves in a single season:

*--* Player, Team Year Svs Bobby Thigpen, Chi. White Sox 1990 57 Eric Gagne, Dodgers 2003 55 John Smoltz, Atlanta 2002 55 Trevor Hoffman, San Diego 1998 53 Randy Myers, Chi. Cubs 1993 53 Eric Gagne, Dodgers 2002 52 Rod Beck, Chi. Cubs 1998 51 Dennis Eckersley, Oakland 1992 51 Mariano Rivera, N.Y. Yankees 2001 50 Jeff Shaw, Dodgers/Cinc. 1998 48 Rod Beck, San Francisco 1993 48 Dennis Eckersley, Oakland 1990 48

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