By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Dec 16, 2007 at 5:46 AM

Forget about the steroid allegations for a second. Never mind the possibility of some sort of suspension and the cheater label that's been applied to Eric Gagné, signing him was the right move for the Brewers.

Nobody knew for sure what names were going to be included when former Sen. George Mitchell released his report on performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. Time will tell how Commissioner Bud Selig will handle the situation now that the report has been made public, and in time, Gagné will find out his fate.

For the moment, though, let's put the steroid issue on the shelf.

There are many that think it's a bad decision to sign a former closer that bombed so badly last year after a midseason trade to the Boston Red Sox that he was nearly left off the post-season roster. The right-hander is a long way from his heyday with the Los Angeles Dodgers, with whom he routinely turned games into eight-inning affairs, but he obviously is considered to be good enough for the Brewers to consider him to replace the departed Francisco Cordero.

If he fails, he fails, but give the Brewers this much credit: they're willing to take risks, including expensive ones.

The season had been over for just a few days when General Manager Doug Melvin spoke with reporters about the team's off-season needs. It was too soon for Melvin to formulate a complete list, but finding some experienced bullpen help was an obvious topic.

A pair of traded netted Guillermo Mota and Salomon Torres; two pitchers who have also seen better days, but might be able to find success with pitching coach Mike Maddux. He signed David Riske to a three-year, $13 million free agent deal. And after coming home from the winter meetings still looking to fill a void after Cordero and Scott Linebrink signed deals elsewhere, Melvin stepped up to take a flier on Gagné.

For a franchise that has accomplished next-to-nothing in the past 15 years and has been, at times, a breeding ground for young talent that's jettisoned as soon as their price tag catches up to their performance, that's quite a big step.

There will be those who think signing Gagné was a dumb mistake and are already putting the Gagné in the same category as Sean Berry, Ben McDonald or Teddy Higuera. The bottom line is owner Mark Attanasio has shown that he's willing to let Melvin take chances in an effort to win.

Pitching of any caliber in the big leagues is at a premium, and it doesn't come cheap. Just look at Linebrink's $19 million deal with the White Sox or the $46 million that the Reds dished out to Cordero. The Brewers, who dumped roughly $40 million when they let Geoff Jenkins become a free agent, traded Johnny Estrada and non-tendered Kevin Mench, had money to spend. With a number of players still awaiting arbitration or unsigned, the payroll will go up and Melvin is still looking to add a left-fielder or a third baseman to the lineup.

Again, that's going to cost more money; money the Brewers are obviously willing to spend in order to make a legitimate playoff run.

Now, let's go back to the steroid issue. The Mitchell Report changed the reality of baseball. Steroid use was so widespred during the past decade, that there is no real way to tell who was on what and how to handle it. It's going to take years before the era can be viewed with a collective opinion.

Gagné was named, not caught. At the time, there was no rule against using Human Growth Hormone in Major League Baseball. It will be up to Selig to decide what to do in terms of punishment, but Melvin had no choice but to make his move.

Nobody knew with any certainty who would be named and what the ramifications would be. This is a whole new ballgame for everybody involved and Melvin did what he had to do to make the Brewers a winner.

Fans can judge Gagné's actions all they want and in any way they so desire. There will be more than a few boos and catcalls when Gagné makes his first Miller Park appearance next season. That's their choice. But the bottom line is the Brewers are willing to get into the game.

That, in and of itself, is reason for applause.