14 March 2011

the evolution of the center fielder, part 3

it's been a while since the last post, so here's part 1 and part 2 if you want to catch up.  i'll wait.

the dodgers were looking for a new center fielder in 1999 so raul mondesi could move back to right field.  enter devon white.

devon white (1999)
white, shown above on his 1999 topps stadium club card, was coming off a pretty decent year in arizona, although his best years were well behind him.  still, kevin malone signed him to a 3-year, $12 million contract.  white started 121 games for the dodgers as their center fielder, and hit .268 with 14 home runs.  known for his glove, white made just 4 errors in 280 chances, although his range factor was down.  white began the 2000 season as the dodgers' man in center once again, and was playing pretty well through april when he was injured and forced out of the lineup.  as a result, todd hollandsworth wound up leading the team in center field starts in 2000.

todd hollandsworth (2000)
holly, seen above on his 1999 keebler dodgers card, took over for white in early may and made a total of 55 starts for the blue in center.  he was hitting just .234 for the dodgers, and they bundled him in a trade deadline deal that brought tom goodwin back to la from exile in colorado.  goodwin took over in center, but did not eclipse hollandsworth's number of starts.  for the dodgers in 2000, their center field merry-go-round had hollandsworth at the top with the aforementioned 55 starts.  next was goodwin with 46, white wound up with 35, fp santangelo had 22, and the field had the rest.

prior to the start of the 2001 season, the dodgers traded white to the brewers for...

marquis grissom (2001)
that trade was interesting in hindsight, because white and grissom are essentially the same player (grissom is 4th on white's baseballreference most similar list).  grissom, shown on a 2001 topps traded relic card, played in 135 games for the dodgers in 2001, including 83 starts in center.  he hit .221 with 20 home runs, and while he stayed with the club for the 2002 season, grissom wasn't the answer.  after the 2001 season, the dodgers brought in another guy to play center.

dave roberts (2002-2003)
dave roberts is enjoying his re-signing with the dodgers on his 2003 upper deck vintage card, but that's getting ahead of ourselves.  in 2002, roberts played center in 115 games and hit .277.  he also stole 45 bases.  as the card above indicates, roberts was back in center for the dodgers in 2003.  that year, he hit .250 and stole 40 bases as their main guy, but he was not seen as the long term solution.  he played all three outfield positions for the dodgers in 2004 before they traded him to boston and he went on to postseason glory. the dodgers bucked their trend and went for a younger player to man the position.

milton bradley (2004-2005)
the dodgers acquired bradley prior to the start of the 2004 season, and i immediately embraced him.  i hadn't cheered for the name on the back of the jersey (figuratively speaking, as the dodgers removed the names from the backs around that time as seen on the above 2005 topps turkey red card) as hard as i did for bradley during his dodgers' tenure in a long time.  in '04, he played all three outfield positions but started 91 games in center.  he hit .267 and scored 72 runs with 19 homers and 67 rbi. he even had 8 outfield assists. he helped the dodgers get back to the postseason for the first time since 1996 and hit .273 in the nlds against the cardinals.

in 2005, he started all 73 of his games in center and hit .290 but the dodgers fell to 4th place and they grew tired of bradley's outbursts.  they went back to their old ways of acquiring a veteran center fielder for the 2006 season.

kenny lofton (2006)
the 2007 upper deck card above is actually a rangers card, but you get the idea.  lofton had a great year for the dodgers in 2006.  he hit .301 with 32 steals in 129 games (114 as the starter in center field).  the dodgers made it back to the nlds, but lofton hit just .077 in 3 games against the mets.  he was allowed to leave as a free agent after the season and had a comparable year for the rangers and indians in 2007.  his departure opened the door for ned to give the starting job to one of the youngsters in the fold - the only question was whether it would be andre ethier, who had been acquired for milton bradley, or dodger farmhand matt kemp.  ned tricked us all when he went out and signed juan pierre.

juan pierre (2007)
pierre, shown on his 2008 topps card (with mariano duncan lurking in the background), continued his consecutive games played streak for the dodgers in 2007.  he played in all 162 games, including 160 starts in center, and led the league in singles with 164.  overall, he hit .293 but the team underachieved, so ned and frank mccourt made some changes. 

out went grady little, in came joe torre, and for no good reason whatsoever, in came andruw jones.  pierre moved to left to make room for jones, who stunk it up pretty badly.  i still don't know how he managed to make 55 starts in center.  saner ideas prevailed, and the bison wound up being the dodger's primary center fielder in 2008.

matt kemp (2008-present)
matt kemp is my baseball salvation.  so far in his career, he is averaging 23 home runs and 86 rbi with a .285 batting average over 162 games - and he's only 26!  there has been no doubt as to who the center fielder for the dodgers is the past two years, and i hope kemp reigns in center longer than the duke. 

so, there you have the end to 60+ years of dodger center fielder evolution.  maybe next i'll look at the third basemen the dodgers have employed over the years.  that should take about a dozen posts.

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