In an effort to build a roster that is capable of challenging for the division crown, and hopefully go even further, GM Ned Colletti has been working diligently to add veteran experience and depth to the roster. Jon Garland, Matt Guerrier, Blake Hawksworth, Ron Mahay, and Lance Cormier have been added to the pitching staff although not all will make the final cut. Juan Uribe, Tony Gwynn Jr., Marcus Thames, Aaron Miles, and Dioner Navarro have been added to the team roster to improve the lineup and give some depth to the bench.
Whether these moves will lead to more wins is yet to be determined. But one addition to this team that could pay huge dividends could go unnoticed by many fans. On November 22, 2010, the Dodgers welcomed their new first base coach, and former player, Davey Lopes.
Of course Davey Lopes is a name that should be familiar to every member of Dodger Nation. Lopes began his career with the boys in blue as part of the famed 1968 draft class that included Bobby Valentine, Bill Buckner, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Joe Ferguson, Doyle Alexander, Geoff Zahn, and Tom Paciorek. Lopes manned second base from 1972-1981 before he was traded to Oakland to make room for a young prospect named Steve Sax.
During his ten years with the team, Lopes was a four-time all-star. He hit a solid .262 with 99 homers, 384 RBI, and scored 759 runs. Lopes biggest contribution was his 418 stolen bases. Lopes was a big reason that the Dodgers had such great success as a team, playing a key role for four pennant winning teams, one of which won the World Series in 1981, Lopes last season on the team.
Lopes is perhaps best known as being part of one of the most famous infields in major league baseball history. The legendary infield of Ron Cey at third, Bill Russell at shortstop, Lopes at second, and Steve Garvey at first was together for eight and a half seasons. It is highly unlikely that we will ever see anything like that again with players moving so frequently these days.
The Dodgers held a reunion for these four men a few years ago when Lopes’ Phillies were in town. Out of respect to his employer, Lopes declined to take part in the festivities. Lopes just finished a four year stint with the Phillies coaching first base. This was the ideal place for Lopes as he was also the base running coach. He had a prime position to watch the opposing pitcher’s move and help the runner get a good jump.
Lopes put his experience as a base stealer to excellent use. During his four years with the Phillies, the team led the majors in stolen base percentage each season. And in case you attribute this to a lack of a running game and attempts, the Phillies finished with 501 swipes, fourth most in major league baseball during that span.
Now Lopes is back in Dodger blue. He brings the expertise to implement the aggressiveness new manager Don Mattingly wants to see on the base paths. Lopes knows what it means to wear the Dodger blue and the success that this franchise is accustomed to having. His track record as a player and a coach should get him instant credibility with players such as Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier as he attempts to improve their success on the base paths.
There is no reason to doubt that Lopes will be nothing but a positive addition to the 2011 Dodgers. Hopefully he can help to instill an aggressive hard-nosed approach that will lead to success on the field.