December 21, 2005
Man, I don’t know about you, but I need a break from the dizzy pace of former Frisco and Boston players coming to Los Angeles. I’m not complaining, necessarily, but I need a break.
Oh btw, can we stop referring to the Dodgers as the West Coast version of the Boston Red Sox, please? A tally shows the ex-Giants on the roster leading the ex-Red Sox, 5-3. Thankfully discounting J.T. Snow, but adding soon-to-be Dodgers Kenny Lofton, Reggie Sanders and Brett Tomko, and it’s an 8-3 runaway.
Whatever. Let’s talk Dodger history, shall we. Namely, the best hitters in Los Angeles Dodgers history.
Feel free to assign your own criteria, but for the sake of argument, and in this approximate order, here are mine: batting average, “offensive accomplishments" (which is my way of adding items like at bats, hits, runs and stolen bases into the equation), power, clutch hitting (including the postseason), length of service, and importance to the lineup. If that’s not enough to get your Dodger blue blood red hot, here’s the top ten.
1. Mike Piazza, by a landslide. No explanation necessary, and if you don’t agree, you can just go right ahead and bite me. Fine; be that way. Let’s start with batting averages of .318, .319, .346, .336, .362 (the L.A. record) and .328 in his complete seasons as a Dodger, plus an L.A. record, .331 lifetime. And yes, it absolutely matters that he is a catcher.
2. Steve Garvey, second place by an equally large landslide. A National League record 1207 consecutive games played. Totaled 200 hits or more in six out of seven years, with 192 the other year. Lifetime L.A. leader in doubles, with 333, second in hits with 1968. Five 100 RBI seasons. Batting averages in consecutive seasons: .304, .312, .319, .297, .316, .315 and .304. Two NL All-Star MVPs. Postseason series averages as a Dodger include .389, .381, .308, .375, .389, .386, .286 and .417.
Most importantly, Garvey was simply and clearly, the best and most important player on a decade of admired Dodger ball clubs. He was a league MVP and a World Champion. Gold Gloves don’t count in this poll, but he won four of them. A should-be Hall of Famer.
3. Willie Davis. Lifetime L.A. leader in at bats (7495), plate appearances (8035), hits (2091), runs (1004), triples (110), extra base hits (585) and total bases (3094). Second in doubles (321), third in RBIs (849) and stolen bases (335). Again, Gold Gloves don’t count, but he won three of those.
“Three Dog” is also the author of one of the great quotes in Dodger history. Commenting on his divorce decree, Davis complained that so much of his salary was going to his ex-wife, that “she oughta go play centerfield.”
4. Gary Sheffield. Third in L.A batting (.312), with number two being Manny Mota. Lifetime leader in on base percentage (.424), and slugging (573), and in each case we’re talking L.A. and Brooklyn. Three out of three great seasons as a Dodger. A Davis to be named later only had two.
5. Pedro Guerrero. Fourth in L.A. slugging (512), fifth in homers (171), and a World Series co-MVP. Batting averages of .322, .300, .304, .298, .303, .320 and .338. 100 RBIs twice, 30 homers three times. Please note that sliding, defense and glove-throwing-down don’t apply.
6. Tommy Davis. Single season franchise RBI record (153); second in hits, single season (230); tied for lead in runs, single season (130); held single season batting record for 35 years (.346). Led the NL in batting in 1962 (.346) and RBIs (153) and in batting in 1963 (.326).
7. Tie (alphabetical).
Dusty Baker. Home run and RBI seasons of 30 and 86, 23 and 88, 29 and 97, and 23 and 88. .371 lifetime Championship Series average and an NLCS MVP.
Ron Cey. All-time Los Angeles leader in walks (765), second all-time in homers (228), and fourth in RBIs (842). An All-Star six consecutive seasons. Vital contributor to four pennant winners and a World Series Champion, and a World Series co-MVP.
Shawn Green. L.A. and Brooklyn single season record holder in home runs and doubles (49 each). Fifth in L.A. career slugging (.510). Games played in his five seasons as a Dodger: 162, 161, 158, 160 and 157.
Raul Mondesi. Sixth in L.A. career home runs (163) and slugging (.504). 20-plus homers eight straight years. Rookie of the Year.
Eric Karros. Los Angeles leader in lifetime homers (270), second in RBIs (976), second in extra base hits (582), third in doubles (302) and fourth in games played (1401). Five seasons of 30 homers and 100 RBI. Franchise leader in lifetime sacrifice flies (74).
12. Tie (alphabetical).
Brett Butler. Pre-illness batting averages of .296, .329, .298, .314, .300 in five seasons, filling the roll of leadoff hitter in the precise manner his team needed.
Bill Russell. All-time L.A. leader in games played (2181), second in at bats (7318), third in hits (1926), fourth in doubles (293) and fifth in total bases (2571). Postseason highlights include averages of .389, .412, .423 and .312. Career postseason average of .294, with 57 hits. Clutch hitting and importance to the lineup over the longest period of time in Los Angeles Dodger history.
Dave Lopes. Second in stolen bases, L.A. and Brooklyn (418), third in L.A. single season steals (77) and second in L.A. career walks (603). Importance to the team over a long period of club success, contributing to three pennant winners and a World Championship.
Steve Sax. Fourth in L.A. stolen bases (290) and the franchise rookie record (49). Rookie of the Year. Season hit totals include 180, 175, 210, 171, 175. Career high .332 batting average. Value to the lineup over a significant period of time.
Maury Wills. Franchise leader in stolen bases (490) and single season record holder (104). Led the NL in stolen bases six straight years. Second in L.A. runs (876), fourth in hits (1732). NL MVP and NL All-Star MVP. Leadoff hitter and team captain on four Dodger pennant winners and three World Championship teams.
Very respectful honorable mention: Adrian Beltre, Bill Buckner, Kirk Gibson, Jim Gilliam, Frank Howard, Gil Hodges, Paul Lo Duca, Mike Marshall, Wally Moon, Manny Mota, Eddie Murray, Charlie Neal, Wes Parker, Reggie Smith, Duke Snider and Jimmy Wynn.
Fine, so it’s a top 16. I couldn't contain myself. OK, readers. It’s your turn. Talkback.
Next week? Well, if you think I’m going to bother with an Angels best hitters list, think again…
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