- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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The Dodgers are still having problems in the field. One of the runs off Honeycutt was scored because of mental and physical errors by all four infielders. Although Sax hasn't made a throwing error to first base since Aug. 5, he still tends to freeze before he throws. And Baker, ordinarily an excellent fielder, made errors in consecutive games in Montreal. The defense is better than what it was, though, and Russell has been the steadying influence.
A much maligned shortstop, Russell is having a good year at the plate, hitting .263, and an even better one in the field. At 34 he realizes he has only a few seasons left, so he's tutoring his successor, Dave Anderson. He has such class that, he says, he would be happy to play for the Dodgers in a reserve role when the time comes. A tip of Mr. Potato Head's cap to Bill Russell.
Los Angeles has plenty of offense. As of Sunday it led the league in home runs with 127, and six of its regulars have at least 13. The big gun has been Guerrero, who had 26 homers, 87 RBIs, 20 stolen bases and a .294 average. Sax had 44 stolen bases, although he had been thrown out 26 times.
Fimple, bless his name, has been a big help, alternating with the now-recovered Yeager behind the plate. Fimple was a throw-in in the trade that sent Rick Sutcliffe to Cleveland two years ago, so he eases the pain of that swap. "He has an idea," says Reuss, "I really like pitching to him."
The mouth on Mr. Potato Head belongs, of course, to Lasorda, who is having an excellent year, rhetorically speaking. After a tough loss to Atlanta a month ago, Lasorda gave a speech to rival Lincoln's second inaugural. According to Lasorda, "I told them of the great entertainer, Al Jolson, who, when he had the audience captivated, in the palm of his hand, said, 'You ain't seen nothin' yet.' " Before the start of a series against the Phillies two weeks ago, Lasorda, concerned that some of his players had gone to Atlantic City the night before, delivered a variation on the theme of "You can't stop and smell the roses." For all his bluster, Lasorda has done a good job of managing this season. The Dodgers have had more than their share of travail, more even than the Braves.
Lasorda was in all his glory on the Dodgers' eastern swing the last two weeks. In Philadelphia, his hometown, restaurateurs were literally running out of their establishments to get him to try their cheesesteaks. In New York on the night of Aug. 28, he and Dodger Publicity Director Steve Brener asked a policeman where they could buy a newspaper; after being escorted around the city in a squad car, they ended up helping a police sergeant celebrate his promotion in the holding cells in the subway station beneath Times Square.
Many visitors made their way to Lasorda's office at Shea Stadium last week. One day, WBA lightweight champion Ray Mancini stopped by. "Boom Boom!" shouted Lasorda. "Tommy!" shouted Mancini, who then introduced his stable of sparring partners and hugged Lasorda. Next a distinguished-looking man arrived. "Laz!" Lasorda shouted. "Tommy!" shouted Laz Barrera, the noted horse trainer. They hugged. Luckily, Barrera didn't bring his stable.
Lasorda saved his best performance for Thursday night in Montreal. After the 8-3 loss he was invited to appear on Jeff Rimer's Sports Talk, a combined audience and telephone participation radio show broadcast from Salon 76, the dining club in Olympic Stadium. Lasorda is immensely popular in Montreal, where he pitched for nine years, and by the end of the show he had the Expo fans on their feet. "If you tell people you're with the Padres," he said, "they ask where's your robe. [Pause.] If you tell them you're an Indian, they ask what tribe. [Pause.] But when you tell them you're a Dodger, they know that you're in the major leagues." The ovation was astounding, even though Lasorda promised to beat the Expos the next night.
Lasorda, too, has become fond of Mr. Potato Head. "I love that kind of thing. The guys are smiling now, laughing. It's been good for the team."
Friday night, after the Dodgers had chased Steve Rogers and beaten the Expos 4-1, the players gathered around for the award ceremony. The winner was Reuss, for his five-hitter.