From the moment my daughter’s eyes lit up after getting Dee Gordon‘s autograph at Camelback Ranch during Spring Training, I knew the revamped infielder would have a great year. Dee was serious during Spring Training when I watched him take infield practice at second base on the back fields. After his workout alongside Alex Guerrero, Gordon stepped across to the next field to work on his swing. Not saying anything, Gordon signed a few autographs once he was done preparing for the Spring game later that afternoon. I knew his talents had a place on this team, but I never imagined that he would be donning an All-Star jersey and representing the Dodgers in this year’s mid-summer classic.
After 18 errors at shortstop in 2012, Gordon had all but been given up on. He also hit a disappointing .228/.280/.281 over 87
games, and he wasn’t able to utilize his speed enough while struggling to get on base. The Dodgers had rushed up Gordon in 2011 after Rafael Furcal‘s injury list continued to expand, and his raw skills were clearly unpolished and in need of redirection. Transitioning Dee to second base was one of the best decisions the Dodgers have made in recent years in response to a player’s abilities. Dee’s athleticism could still be used at second base, and his throws would be honed in more with a shorter travel distance to first.
The Dodgers could have traded Gordon, and there were rumblings of interest for Dee as an outfielder on another team. Instead the Dodgers chose to let veteran Mark Ellis leave, and they would then focus on shaping the newly signed Alex Guerrero into the future second baseman for the Dodgers. During Spring Training it was evident that Guerrero needed more work in order to shift from his natural position of shortstop to second base, and Gordon looked quite sharp at second during the Spring. Gordon became the Dodgers’ starting second baseman, and he never looked back.
Platoons of Guerrero and Gordon at second base were thrown around in the early stages of the season, and I also was all for a sharing of second between the two. While I don’t think Guerrero’s defense at second is as shaky as some make it out to be, Gordon’s range, flexibility, speed, and quick reflexes really have made him stand out as the Dodgers top choice for second base. His improved defense at second base was one of the factors which helped him to be voted into the All-Star Game. Gordon has redefined all parts of his game this season. His hard work and determination has paid off.
Dee Gordon is my mother’s favorite player, and she says he reminds her of Maury Wills. Dee’s game changing speed is really his trademark. I like to say if there was a fluster stat, Gordon would lead the Majors with his ability to fluster opposing pitchers and teams with his looming base stealing prowess and speed. Gordon can manufacture runs simply by flustering pitchers while on the base path. Gordon is stealing bases at a historic clip (he has stolen an appropriate 42 bases as of July 12). I’m not sure Dee can catch Maury Wills and his 104 stolen bases of 1962, his M.V.P. year, but Gordon is definitely the best base stealer I have seen on the Dodgers in many years. He may be the best base stealer of my generation, much like how Clayton Kershaw is the best Dodger pitcher since Sandy Koufax.
Wills also hit .299 in 1962, and Gordon is on par with a .296 batting average through 89 games. Dee has become more patient at the plate, and in return has improved his on base percentage and really has become the quintessential lead-off guy the Dodgers have always hoped he would become. He’s drawn a career-high 27 walks, and he has 104 hits (tied with Yasiel Puig) including 2 homeruns. His OBP is second best amongst NL second baseman at .348, and he has the second most hits behind Daniel Murphy. Gordon leads all the Majors in stolen bases (42) and triples (9).
I thought I would miss Mark Ellis more this season, but Dee’s exciting speed and much improved offense and defense has been really enjoyable to watch. His hard work and vigilance is inspiring. Not too long ago Don Mattingly was burying Gordon in the eighth spot in the lineup, and we were cringing every time he threw the ball into the stands instead of to Adrian Gonzalez at first base. Dee Gordon has now become one of the most valuable members of this Dodgers squad, and his All-Star nod is well deserved.
Dee might not catch Maury, but he has sure stolen my heart.