The 8 1/2 Year Infield

On June 13, 1973 exactly 48 years ago today…The Dodgers’ infield of Steve Garvey (first base), Davey Lopes (second base), Ron Cey (third base) and Bill Russell (shortstop) played together for the first time in a 16-3 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. The quartet would set a major league record for longevity by playing 8 1/2 years in the same infield.

Growing up I didn’t have to wonder who would be playing where. My personal opinion is this record will not be broken…free agency, trades, and money have changed the game.

None of the four players are in the Hall of Fame. Garvey is the closest one to the Hall but all were very good players. The weakest would be Russell but in the seventies shortstops were not lighting up the scoreboard.

Those four players played in 4 World Series together and won  1…that one in 1981 against the Yankees. I do think if they would have won 2 World Series…they would be remembered more. 1981 was their last year together. Lopes was traded that offseason, Garvey left after the 1982 season to a record breaking contract with the Padres and Ron Cey was stupidly traded to the Cubs before the 1983 season. Garvey would make it to his 5th  World Series in 1984 with the Padres.

Bill Russell retired with the Dodgers in 1986 and became a coach in 1987. He became manager in 1997.

Garvey was an All Star 10 times,  Cey 6, Lopes 4, and Russell 3 times.

They will always be my favorite infield of all time… I would take them now in their prime if I could and place them on the 2021 Dodgers.

 

 

 

A Salute to Clayton

This year it’s different  being a Dodger fan.  I see more Dodger blogs, merchandise, games, and chatter about them. If they don’t win this year that is alright…it was nice seeing that win back in October.

Between 2004 the Dodgers were owned by Frank and Jamie McCourt…better known to Dodger fans as McBroke. The last three years of their reign were heart breaking for Dodger fans. Fans stopped going to the games while Frank and Jamie were going through a divorce. Finally the Commissioner …Selig finally intervened and stopped the non-sense of them both draining the Dodgers dry and attempting to under sell their Fox TV contract by getting quick money…but Selig is NOT without blame in this. Although McCourt was denied for buying the Red Sox…he was approved buying the Dodgers from Fox with a loan from…you guessed it…Fox.

While all of this was going on, Clayton Kershaw kept fans watching the Dodgers. He was maybe the best pitcher in MLB between 2011 and 2014. His stats were 72-26 with a 2.11 ERA with 3 Cy Young Awards and a second place finish to R.A. Dickey. He would have had more wins but most years the bullpen was awful…and that bullpen would cause some of those post season failures. He would be on the ropes in the 8th inning but he would be kept in because the bullpen was not to be trusted. That didn’t cause all of his troubles but it added to them greatly.

On April 11, 2021 he won his 177th career game against 77 loses. He is 100 games over at this point in his career and he looks like he has plenty in the tank at this point. It’s not just his great pitching either…more importantly from all accounts he is a nice decent human being. Fans of other teams who hate the Dodgers seem to like Clayton Kershaw. I saw Giants fans happy to see him win…only him though…and that’s the way it should be. Vin Scully was the other person associated with the Dodgers who was loved by rival teams.

Clayton is great for the game of baseball and the Dodgers. I’ve tried not to take him for granted because players like him don’t come along often. Clayton is only 33 years old and my hope is he remains a Dodger until he is ready to hang them up. If he quit today he should be Hall of Fame bound.

In past off seasons Kershaw and his wife Ellen go to Africa and help build and rebuild villages and give relief to poverty stricken areas. They formed a charity called Kershaw’s Challenge.

Tommy Lasorda (1927-2021)

https://www.latimes.com/obituaries/story/2021-01-08/dodgers-legendary-manager-tom-lasorda-dies-at-age-93-heart-attack

When I was 10 years old I started to follow the Dodgers for the first time in my life. It was 1977 and Tommy was the manager and they had one of their greatest teams with a great core.

That is still MY team. When I think of the Dodgers that is what comes back to me…not Piazza, Kirk Gibson, or even Kershaw…but that seventies and early eighties team with Lasorda as manager. His name went with the Dodgers… he was with them since the 50s…and so was Vin Scully. Those two will forever be Dodgers. I would love to catch a Dodger-Giants game on tv in Candlestick park and watch the Giant fans boo Lasorda as he changed pitchers…he loved the attention.

In September of 1976 the quiet and understated Walter Alston stepped down and the loud and boisterous Lasorda became the manager. Lasorda was a brawler…he loved to fight but O’Malley told him he would have to calm down especially when he was manager. Tommy never really calmed down a lot…but the fist fights did. He managed them from 1976-1996.

I disagreed with many of his managing decisions but he did win 2 World Championships…My favorite being 1981 by beating those Reggie Jackson Yankees. They had lost to them in 1977 and 1978…and of course the other championship in 1988 with the Kirk Gibson homerun.

My favorite Lasorda moment? After Dave Kingman hit three homeruns against the Dodgers…a reporter asked him his opinion of Kingman’s performance.

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Your Favorite Teams Worst Trades

I can speak about the Dodgers because I lived it… What are the worst trades your favorite team made? If you want…comment below…I would love to see them.

1…1993 Pedro Martinez The number one bad trade – 3 words… Delino for Pedro. No Dodger fan will forget/forgive this trade that involved Delino DeShields from the Expos going to the Dodgers for Pedro Martinez. If free-agent second baseman Jody Reed agrees to a multiyear contract and returns to Los Angeles, this doesn’t happen. It’s not like they didn’t know Pedro was good… in 1993 he appeared in 65 games (two starts) and went 10–5 with a 2.61 ERA, including 119 strikeouts and 57 walks in 107 innings…then Fred Clair traded him…because of his size Lasorda didn’t think he would hold up and he would be a bullpen guy. Then GM Fred Claire takes responsibility for this though.

2… 1998 Mike Piazza and Todd Zeile to the Florida Marlins for Manuel Barrios, Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich, Charles Johnson, and Gary Sheffield. Yes, they did some quality back with Sheffield more than anyone else…but Piazza was the face of the franchise and a future Hall of Famer. 

3…1998 Paul Konerko traded for Jeff Shaw – This was stupid. Yes, the Dodgers needed a closer that part is true and they had Eric Karros at first but he didn’t have anywhere near the career Konerko had with the White Sox. Paul was given 54 games to show what he had with the Dodgers. When he had all of that time to hit…he was traded. Tommy Lasorda was made GM for a very short time…I’m thankful it was short…and he did this. To be fair Shaw was a successful closer but he was not worth the price. 

4…1983 Ron Cey to the Chicago Cubs for prospects Vance Lovelace and Dan Cataline. This trade made NO sense. Living by Branch Rickey’s logic…better to get rid of someone one year too early than a year too late…great advice but Cey wasn’t near being done. Cey would end up knocking 84 home runs for the Cubs in the next 4 years. Al Campanis really messed up with this one. Third base would be a wasteland for the Dodgers for years and years after Cey left. Adrian Beltre did great briefly but then…they didn’t resign him. Justin Turner is the first good regular third baseman the Dodgers have had since Cey was traded in1982.

5…1982 Rick Sutcliffe traded to the Cleveland Indians for Jack Fimple, Jorge Orta and Larry White. All because Sutcliffe rearranged Lasorda’s office. This was in 1981 and he just won the Rookie of the Year in 1979.

Honorable Mention…I will lump 3 trades together… Juan Guzman traded by the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Toronto Blue Jays for Mike Sharperson a utility player… Sid Fernandez with Ross Jones to the New York Mets for Bob Bailor and Carlos Diaz…and John Franco to the Cincinnati Reds for Rafael Landestoy. Three very good pitchers for not much at all.

 

 

 

MLB Players who had the “Yips”

Yips: The yips is the loss of fine motor skills in athletes. The condition occurs suddenly and without apparent explanation, usually in mature athletes with years of experience. … The condition is also experienced by snooker players, bowlers in cricket and pitchers in baseball.

The Yips can come at any time. When Atlanta’s then-manager Bobby Cox was watching his team play the Mets. The Mets catcher Mackey Sasser had problems just throwing the ball back to the pitcher. Cox turned and told his second baseman Mark Lemke that anyone on the field is just one bad throw away from having what Mackey has…Cox had seen the yips before.

It’s so hard to watch as the player totally losses his confidence. Many times players cannot pinpoint when it starts and for some they never find the cure.

I just finished a book about the 1981 Dodgers and it reminded me of Steve Sax who had a problem throwing a ball from second base to first. I thought I would find some more players who had problems. Some lasted just a little while while others it took their career.

It has affected pitchers significantly. They lose the ability to throw a strike and their career along with it.

Steve Blass – He may be the most famous case of the yips. He was a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1964 to 1974. He went from a 2.49 ERA in 1972 to a 9.85 ERA to 1973…1974 was his last year. For every 1 strikeout he had 3 walks. Balls flying to the backstop at times… Steve Blass: “I had no control over it, nor did I understand it. I would sit in my backyard 2…3…4 o’clock in the morning thinking, ‘My God, what’s happened to me? What is this? Has someone put a curse on me or something?”

He was only 31 when this happened. His stats were 100-67 with a 3.24 ERA from 1964-1972. He was 3-1 in post season with a 3.10 ERA and a World Series winner in 1971. He ended up with a 103-76 record with a 3.63 ERA.

The Yips have been called by some “Steve Blass Disease.”

Rick Ankiel – Ankiel looked like the real deal. A powerful left handed pitcher that USA Today called “the most promising young left-handed pitcher in a generation.” Tony LaRussa put it to the test and inserted the 21 year old into the 2000 NLDS against the Braves. It was painful to watch. Ankiel walked 6 men in 2.2 innings. He eventually went to the minor leagues and it didn’t get any better…in fact it got worse…but he did do something else about it. He became an outfielder and hit as many as 25 homeruns in one season. He was never as good of an outfielder as he was a pitcher though. He played until 2013…I’ve always wondered what his pitching career would have been like.

Chuck Knoblauch – After being traded to the Yankees in 1998 this second baseman’s trouble started. His errors doubled but hardly any throwing errors in 1999. In 2000 it started and his throws to first base would be wild. In fact… an errant throw sailed into the stands and hit sportscaster Keith Olbermann’s mother in the head.

He returned to second base briefly, but never regained his throwing accuracy. He was moved to the outfield and designated hitter for the remaining two years of his career, including New York’s World Series run in 2000.

Steve Sax – Steve joined the Dodgers in 1981 in the last half of the season. Steve was on the playoff roster for the World Series. His troubles started in 1983 after an error involving Andre Dawson. After that he could not throw accurately to first base. This went on for 2 months and he had over twenty errors before the All Star break. Something his dad said broke the spell.

His father told him, “One day you are going to wake up and this problem is going to be gone,” confessing that he had suffered the exact same problem in high school, but his confidence had eventually returned and he overcame it.

Six hours later John Sax died. It was the last conversation his son had with him. But buoyed by his father’s words, Sax persevered, slowly regaining his confidence over time. Baseball became fun again. Sax didn’t make a single error in the last 36 games of the season.

Years later Sax’s mom, who had known his dad since the fifth grade, told him the truth: His father never had a throwing problem. 

“He lied. He didn’t want to see me fail, so he lied,” “He bailed me out on his death bed. And it changed my life.”

Some people also call the yips from a fielder “Steve Sax Syndrome” Steve went on the play with the Dodgers, Yankees, White Sox, and A’s after this and the problem never resurfaced.

There have been other players in the MLB and many other sports to suffer from this.

 

 

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