02 May 2011

the evolution of the left fielder, part 2

here's part 1 if you missed it.  and, as promised, here are bill buckner's wooly eyebrows.

bill buckner (1974-1976)
billy buck was a part of the dodgers' historical 1968 draft, and he worked his way into the starting lineup as a left fielder after spending most of his time in la playing right field and first base.  as the dodgers' every day left fielder in 1974, buckner hit .314 and was the guy who climbed the left field fence at fulton county stadium when hank aaron hit number 715.  he finished 25th in the league mvp voting and hit a home run in the dodgers' world series loss against the a's.  in 1975, buckner was limited to 72 games in left and the dodgers used 10 other players in left during his absences.  buckner came back in 1976 to play in 154 games and hit over .300 in what would be his dodger swan song.  he was dealt to the cubs after the season with ivan dejesus for rick monday and mike garman.

dusty baker (1977-1983)
dusty baker had been acquired in a trade after the 1975 season, and spent the 1976 season playing center and right field for the dodgers.  after they acquired monday in the buckner trade, baker was shifted to left and stayed there for 7 seasons and all of my youthful years of fandom.  during those 7 campaigns, baker hit .285 with 140 home runs (30 in 1977), two top-ten mvp finishes, four monster nlcs performances, three world series appearances, a world championship, and a gold glove in 1981 for his play in left.  it was a sad day when he became a free agent and an even sadder one when he signed with the giants.

mike marshall (1984)
baker's departure opened up a spot in the lineup for candy maldonado, and mike marshall moved from right field to left field to accommodate candido.  in left for the dodgers in 1984, marshall played in 116 games and was named to the all-star team although he didn't appear in the midsummer classic.  in 1985, marshall moved back to right field, as the dodgers moved pedro guerrero out of the infield.

pedro guerrero (1985, 1987)
guerrero had a monster year in 1985.  he finished third in the league in the mvp voting (his third top-4 finish in 4 years) while leading the league with a .422 obp and .577 slugging percentage.  he was named to the all-star team for the third time (he did not appear in the game) and went 33/87/.320 while splitting time between third base and left field, along with a few stops in center, right and at first base.  still, his 70 starts in left were tops on the club in 1985.  after losing to the cardinals in the nlcs, all eyes were on guerrero heading into 1986.  unfortunately, guerrero forgot how to slide and tore up his knee in a spring training game.  he missed all but 31 games that year, but bounced back in 1987 to reclaim left field from franklin stubbs.  he started 108 games in left in 1987, and hit .338 with a .955 ops that year. named to the all-star team, guerrero lined out in his only at bat.

franklin stubbs (1986)
stubbs became the dodgers' primary left fielder in 1986 by way of guerrero's knee injury, and cesar cedeno's ineffectiveness.  he had played in only 10 games in 1985, but took to a bigger role fairly well.  he established a career high of 23 home runs (15 of which came with the bases empty), although he drove in just 58 and hit only .226 on the season.  some of the other players the dodgers trotted out to left in 1986 included enos cabell, ken landreaux, mike marshall, len matuszek, reggie williams, terry whitfield, and bill russell!

kirk gibson (1988-1989)
kirk gibson came to the dodgers as a free agent and immediately made his presence known in left field.  that's because he left the field of a spring training game after jesse orosco put eye black inside his hat.  gibby served notice that such nonsense was a unwanted distraction and the rest is history.  he may have had a statistically weak mvp season (25/76/.290) but there is no doubt that without him, the dodgers would have not achieved what they did in 1988.  gibson still played more games in left than any other dodger in 1989, but injuries limited him to just 62 games (51 starts) there.  10 other dodgers spent time in left that year, primarily mickey hatcher, who just might have been the mvp of the 1988 world series if not for the bulldog.

kal daniels (1990-1991)
gibson spent most of his playing time in 1990 in center field, while newcomer kal daniels took over in left. he had actually been acquired from the reds in july of 1989, but injuries limited him to just 11 games as a dodger.  in those games, however, he hit .342 and expectations ran high in 1990.  daniels didn't disappoint, hitting 27/94/.296 in 130 games.  in 1991, he played in 137 games, but hit just 17/73/.249 as his balky knees were getting the best of him.  he was eventually dealt to the cubs during the 1992 season, which turned out to be his last in the big leagues. 

eric davis (1992-1993)
davis was acquired by the dodgers in a trade after the 1991 season, and replaced another former red in daniels as the dodgers' everyday left fielder.  the plan to reunite him with friend and fellow hometown product darryl strawberry may have looked good on paper, but it didn't turn out so well in reality.  davis hit just .228 with 5 home runs in 76 games.  he did have 19 stolen bases in 20 attempts, but that was really the only bright spot to his season.  in 1993, he upped his stolen base total to 33 while raising his average a few points and hitting 14 home runs in his 108 games as a dodger.  still disappointed, the dodgers sent davis to the tigers at the end of august.  davis would eventually get healthy and return to his former self with the reds and orioles in the late 1990's.

henry rodriguez (1994)
with davis gone, henry rodriguez took over in left field for the rest of the 1993 season.  he returned in 1994, and played in 104 of the dodgers' 114 games during the strike-shortened season.  he hit 8 home runs, but didn't really show the power he would later provide for the expos. 

in the 11 seasons since dusty baker roamed left, the dodgers had 7 different 'primary' left fielders.  sadly, stability was nowhere in sight after rodriguez was traded early in the 1995 season, as we will see next time.

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