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Off Base
You Know What They Say About a Bird in the Hand

June 19, 2006

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. OK fine. Let’s say a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. I mean, who’d know? But if a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, if that's the case, two shortstops must be better than one.

And if two shortstops are better than one, then almost certainly it follows that with Cesar Izturis back in action, all will be right with the world and the Dodgers will be as happy as a dog with two tails. In two shakes of a lamb’s tail. Because as everyone knows, it takes two to tango.

Unless the club has a deal in the works to trade their old shortstop for some new pitching, there’s no reason for Izturis and Rafael Furcal to serve as two ships passing in the night. That’s my two cents worth on the topic.

I’ll stop hurling clichés at you now, but in exchange, how about an all-points moratorium on the insipid Furcal-Jose Offerman comparisons, huh?

Comparing Furcal to Steve Sax, on the other hand, is appropriate, and is pretty tame as far as insults go. Sax’s throwing problems are well-chronicled, so we won’t go into them here, except to say that what isn’t generally mentioned about Sax’s inability to throw the ball fifty feet in 1983, is that it was a 1983 thing exclusively.

Offerman was an incompetent shortstop from day one, who ended up as a non-power hitting first-baseman slash designated hitter in Kansas City, which is a fitting a place for him as can possibly be. And Steve Sax was a problem on defense for a single season.

Sax’s errors the seven seasons after 1983 were 21, 22, 16, 14, 14, 10 and 10. He was a great leadoff hitter and sparkplug, an integral part of the 1988 Dodgers World Championship club, and a standout American Leaguer the rest of his career. There were no issues with the glove either before or after 1983.

The same will be true for Rafael Furcal. He’s a great player. A great player, experiencing difficulty his first year with a new club.

What do you say we forget the Jose Offerman comparisons for a minute and spend all of ten seconds with Dusty Baker’s curriculum vitae, shall we? Here’s Baker’s 1976 line, after he, like Furcal, went from Atlanta to Los Angeles in a much ballyhooed deal: .242, with a whopping 6 homers and 39 RBIs. And what did Baker do the following season? Oh, not much. Just .291, with 30 and 91. Plus a little thing called the National League Championship Series Most Valuable Player Award.

In the long run, Furcal will be fine. He’ll be better than fine. The Dodgers would be wise to hang onto Izturis until they’re overwhelmed with trade offers, but Furcal will be fine.

More From the “He Boots It!!!” File: Again, forget Jose Offerman. Maury Wills holds the Los Angeles record for errors by a shortstop over a three year period. From 1960 to 1962, Wills committed 105 errors. Bill Russell is a close second, with 104 miscues in the years 1972, ’73 and ‘74. Izturis has a grand total of 36 in his three seasons as the Dodgers shortstop.

Trivia Question: Who won the National League Gold Glove Award for shortstops in 1961 and 1962?

Off Base Revealed: Take a good look at the logo below. That’s not just any base you’re looking at there. In fact, it’s the bag swiped by Lou Brock in 1974 to break Maury Wills’ record for steals in a season. I found it in about about Cooperstown. Brock's number 105 can be viewed in person at the Hall.

For the Record: ESPN.com features a Page 2 column of by Jim Caple which also uses the name “Off Base,” and yes, he had the name first, but I didn’t steal it from him. I came up with the name independently prior to BaseballSavvy.com’s March 2000 launching, and upon discovering the name already in use, and with a dorky logo I might add, switched to the “Off Base with Howard Cole” name. So tell me, who has the better logo for a baseball column?

Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…

Double Super Secret Trivia Question: What player holds the distinction of being the only man to win a Gold Glove Award while playing primarily as a designated hitter? Hint: He’s famous for another distinction.

Lest We Forget: Look, baseball’s “Home Run Challenge” is a wonderful thing, and forgiveness is all well and good, but a sentence about the man behind the program every so often isn’t out of line one bit.

Michael Milken is a felon, a junk bonds fraud and racketeer, sent to prison in 1989 by Rudy Giuliani. He cheated the system he played in as badly as the home run hitters who have contributed to the campaign he supports today. Some of them, anyway. Milken can give back all he likes. Good for him. But for those who don’t remember, or who are too young to recall, there you go…

Trivia Answer: Maury Wills won back to back Gold Gloves, with 29 errors in 1961 and 36 in 1962. In 1960, interestingly, when Wills made 40 errors, Ernie Banks won the Gold Glove with 18. And in 1963, with Wills committing just 21 errors, Bobby Wine was the winner with 17.

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All things considered, Grady Little’s managing is a welcome change from Jim Tracy’s, but Little’s sacrifice calls in the 17 inning loss to Oakland looked frightening familiar. Giving away outs with a base stealer at first, a .300 hitter at the plate, and a catcher working extras is one thing, but putting the A’s in a position to walk Noman Garciaparra to get to Olmedo Saenz is incredibly lame…

Double Super Secret Trivia Answer: Rafael Palmeiro won the 1999 Gold Glove for American League first baseman, appearing in all of 28 games at the position. He played 135 as a DH…

Statue for Sandy: The Koufax in bronze campaign continues. Please Vote “Yes on 32.” And tell a friend…

Remember, glove conquers all….



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