Is Jerry Sands the next Paul Konerko for Dodgers?

Switched at birth: Jerry Sands and Paul Konerko? (Kirby Lee/US Presswire)

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Another way to say it is: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!

The Los Angeles Dodgers may just be finding themselves in a “shame on you, shame on me” situation with outfielder/first baseman/find-me-a-spot Jerry Sands. How can Sands be the kind of player who can cause the Dodgers to get burned by a dose of history?

Just flip through the “Dodgers Book of Ill-Advised Transactions” and make your way to the “K’s.” When you see Paul Konerko and the pile of homers and RBIs that he has posted for the Chicago White Sox over the past 13 years, stop!

That could very well be the Jerry Sands of 2012 for Los Angeles.

Close your eyes, and let me take you back to a simpler time in 1998. Okay, on second thought, don’t close your eyes because then you won’t be able to read my column! Listen to this and see if you can tell whether it is describing Konerko’s time with the Dodgers in the late ’90s, or Sands in the here and now:

• A 220-pound slugger whose bat looks like a toothpick in his hands.
• Couldn’t seem to find a position to settle into, but was willing to move to hasten his course to the major leagues.
• Posted sick offensive numbers at single-A, but had too many strikeouts.
• Posted sick offensive numbers at double-A, and advanced up the ladder.
• Posted sick offensive numbers at triple-A, and appeared ready for the big club.
• Got several tastes of the good life with Los Angeles call-ups, but struggled offensively each time.

Konerko was a can’t-miss prospect for the Dodgers in 1998. After four minor-league seasons in the Los Angeles system, Konerko seemed destined for a spot at Chavez Ravine for years to come.

Konerko smacked 19 homers and drove in 77 runs at single-A in 1995. He followed that up in 1996 with 29 dingers and 86 RBIs at double-A. When Konerko blitzed triple-A and the Pacific Coast League with 37 homers, 127 RBIs and a .323 average in 1997, there was no question that his future was so bright, he had to wear shades.

Now that he’s been entrenched at first base for the Chicago White Sox since 1999, it seems strange to think of Konerko as a man without a position. However, his spot at first wasn’t always secure. The Dodgers moved Konerko around like a Roy Halladay curveball during his minor-league stint.
In 1995, Konerko played catcher at single-A. In 1996, he tried his hand at first base. In 1997, Konerko moved around to second base, third base and first base. The next year saw him dabble at first base, third base and in the outfield. My head is hurting trying to keep up with Konerko’s different fielding positions!

We all know the rest of the story with Konerko. The Dodgers didn’t think Konerko was “untradeable” and shipped him to the Cincinnati Reds for closer Jeff Shaw. The following year, Konerko hit 24 homers and drove in 81 for the White Sox and the Dodgers were left wondering, “What if?”
Sands seems to be taking the “Paul Konerko Path to the Big Leagues” with the Dodgers. In 2009 at rookie and single-A, Sands stroked 19 homers, drove in 58 runs and posted a .315 batting average.

In 2010, Sands improved upon those numbers at single-A and double-A with 35 homers, 93 RBIs and a .301 average. In 2011 at triple-A Albuquerque, all Sands did was hit 29 homers, drive in 88 runs and hit .278.

However, now Sands appears to be a 24-year-old without a place to play. And I’m starting to get the sickening feeling that he might end up in the major leagues wearing another team’s uniform, just like Konerko.

The Dodgers aren’t actively trying to trade Sands. He just hasn’t done anything with the chances that the team has given him to stay in Los Angeles. Last year, in what was a rebuilding effort from day one, Sands was handed the keys to the left field Los Angeles Porsche.

Unfortunately, Sands crashed his car and was demoted to triple-A for 94 games. Sands started the season in Los Angeles hitting well beneath the Mendoza Line, which led to his demotion. He did turn things around in a September call-up, and ended up hitting four homers, driving in 26 runs and batting .253. Four homers in almost 200 plate appearances, though, is nothing to write to Paul Konerko about.

So, how has Sands reacted to 2012 and another chance to grab the left-field bull by the horns and run with it? So far this spring, Sands is hitting .167 in 24 at-bats, with no homers, one RBI and seven strikeouts.

In other words, “Welcome back to Albuquerque, Mr. Sands!” Either that, or “Welcome to _______ (fill in the blank with another team’s triple-A affiliate city). I’m not predicting that Sands will be traded, but I just don’t like how this thing is playing out.

I’m not sure I can take another can’t-miss Dodger prospect wearing another team’s uniform like Konerko. I used to purposely avoid watching the White Sox on TV because I didn’t want to have to be reminded about the Dodgers’ mistake.

Memo to Ned Colletti: Let’s not make the same mistake this time around with Sands. If you do, it will read: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on Ned.

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