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The Dodgers and the Dee Gordon dilemma

May 10, 2012|By Steve Dilbeck
  • Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon watches a his home run clear the wall in Denver last week.
Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon watches a his home run clear the wall in Denver… (Barry Gutierrez / Associated…)

Well, here we are again. Why do I suspect it’s not the last time?

Barring an unforeseen trade, for better or worse the Dodgers are currently wedded to Dee Gordon at shortstop. And at the moment, it is for the worst.

Right now he looks terrible at shortstop. Dare I say it, he looks like Jose Offerman. Looks like he has lost complete confidence. Every ball hit to him is pure adventure. He was advertised as an exciting player, but don’t think this is what anyone had in mind.

Then there is Gordon, leadoff hitter, another current disappointment. Gordon is currently batting .227 – and that’s after one of the season’s quietest eight-game hitting streaks (10 for 32) came to an end Wednesday.

For a leadoff man, he also has a miserable .268 on-base percentage. Mark Ellis, the No. 2 hitter, has scored 50% more runs than Gordon.

Manager Don Mattingly understandably keeps saying the same thing – it’s all about the growth process of a young player. That’s true, of course, but how long can the Dodgers wait for this maturation process?

They are unexpectedly on top their division by five games – the largest lead in the majors. It would be easier to put up with the stops-and-starts of his development if they were headed for another .500 season.

But if they are evolving into an actual contender, and Gordon continues on this path, then ultimately patience is going to be in shorter supply, or should be. They can’t afford him to cost them games.

Defensively he’s all over the map, capable of making an outstanding play and then dropping a routine grounder on the next one. His nine errors are the most in the majors. He looks achingly uncomfortable.

“People ask me about Dee’s defense, I haven’t really noticed it being bad,” Mattingly said. “What do you mean?”

So I mentioned his error on Monday against the Giants when he actually managed to make three miscues on one play – fumbling the ball, throwing it to Eagle Rock and then dropping the relay at second.

“To me that play is one mistake just kind of wearing the air, trying to do more,” Mattingly said. “That ball gets away from him, then he’s going to scramble and try to make a play, then he’s coming up thinking, `I shouldn’t throw this ball’ and is trying to stop it, then he throws. One got compounded.

“It goes back to him being young and trying to make something happen. To me, his defense has been fine. And I think it’s something we live with. We knew we had a young shortstop who was going to be out there a lot, you’re going to live with that. You’re going to get some excitement when he makes some great plays, and he’s made some of those. And then we’re going to have some plays …”

Gordon, 24, is like most young players these days. He arrived to the majors far from polished. Sort of the anti-Maury Wills.

Maybe he calms down, gets it together and plays the rest of the season closer to the way he did last September (.372). The Dodgers have no other real option at shortstop. So for now, they put up with the highs and lows, and await a leveling out.

“It’s part of what we live with, part of his growth,” Mattingly said. “The same thing on the bases. He’s still trying to force the action a little too much, instead of letting it happen and picking his spots. But that’s kind of what makes him a big-time base-stealer, is that he thinks he can make it all the time. He’s fearless.”

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