As a kid, I had my favorite players and I played in baseball leagues. I got older. I had new favorite players and I stopped playing, but some of my friends were scouted by pro teams. I got older. I had new favorite players and some of the guys on my softball team used to play minor league baseball.
And then a few years ago, I had the somewhat disturbing realization that I had reached an age where most players in the major leagues were younger than me. Obviously this is how the aging process works, and it didn’t come as a surprise so much as just a crippling understanding that I was getting old. I suppose I’ll soon be talking about how players used to play tougher and how I saw Pedro Martinez strike out 48 Yankees in one game and then save Don Zimmer from a burning building while discovering a sustainable energy source in that year he won the Cy Young Award, the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Nobel Peace Prize.
But those days are still a bit away. In the meantime, I still enjoy my capacity for (mostly) rational thought and my ability to cut my own food. I also have a baseball tradition of sorts where I take the time at the beginning of each season to look around the league and find the one player I think is going to be a star for years to come and bring joy to millions with his superhuman exploits on the baseball diamond.
This year, the player is Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon.
Before I go any further, I just want to make sure you guys get how clever the title of this article is. You guys get it, right? Stephen King. No? His book “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.” Come on, readers. Let’s get educated. This is why the Chinese are kicking our butts. Though, in your defense, I doubt if many of them have read that book either.
Dee Gordon just happens to be the son of the actual Tom Gordon whose name is used in the Stephen King book, so reference to it is even more clever than you thought. I also changed it from “girl” to “boy” because I am a boy and not a girl. Well, maybe not a boy, but a man – definitely not “The Man” but occasionally “Da Man.”
At first sight, Dee Gordon looks like he should still be in high school. Not only does he look young, but he is very skinny. When he chucks the ball to first base or he swings the bat, he looks like he might snap in half. The last time I saw someone this skinny was every actress on TV. (Hey, Hollywood, let’s get it together. The only other Americans who are actually that skinny are on crystal meth. We want to see some meat on those bones. Don’t believe me? Well, if I’m wrong then why does The Olive Garden exist?)
In previous years, I’ve done a pretty good job of singling out players who would go on to be All-Stars – guys like Nomar Garciaparra, Ryan Braun and Hanley Ramirez. Sometimes I’m not quite so accurate with guys like Milton Bradley, or just recently, Jason Heyward – though there’s still hope for him to turn things around with the Braves. Maybe you’ve noticed there are no pitchers on this list. Yes. Pitchers get injured too easily, take longer to develop and are kind of boring.
Obviously, the big news in Dodgertown is the defenestration of Frank McCourt. [Editor’s note: Really, Jed, “defenestration”?] [Note to editor: Yeah, Jon, that’s a real word with legitimate historical relevance here.] [Editor’s note: I know it’s a real word. I’m just not sure that most casual baseball fans know that it means throwing someone or something out the window, let alone the centuries-old Eastern European political upheaval you are alluding to.]
The new owners are expected to pay $2 billion for the team – yes, billion, yes, dollars, yes, team – and while it really bothers me that Frank is going to turn a profit, it will be nice to have that jackhole out of baseball. And after paying $2 billion (not on credit, by the way) you have to assume the new owners, led by the gregarious Ervin “Magic” Johnson, will turn the team into one of the league’s elite franchises financially and join the likes of the Red Sox, Yankees and Phillies, spending whatever it takes to put a winning team on the field.
Anyway, now that Frank is out of the way, Dodger fans can turn their attention to the field and get excited by super studs Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. Unfortunately there ain’t much else on the team. For now. And don’t give me any of this Andre Ethier and Chad Billingsley crap. These two dudes need to be traded before the rest of the league figures out how ordinary they are. Kemp and Kershaw are it. And now they can add Dee Gordon to their crock pot of excitement.
This kid is a real-life Willy Mays Hayes (played by the occasionally excellent and frequently tax-delinquent Wesley Snipes in the first Major League, not the ridiculously disappointing Omar Epps version in Major League 2). He runs like the wind – if the wind had legs and the motor skills to place one leg in front of the other at a rapid rate.
Dee is running wild in spring training this year, and last season, in just a third of the games, he stole 24 bases. That’s a pace for about 75 stolen bases in a full season. Zoiks! That’s a lot of stolen bases. Strangely, a lot of the stat predictors and experts and whatnot are predicting about 50 stolen bases for his 2012 campaign. That is bananas. Now, lean closer, I’m going to share a secret with you. Closer. Closer. Not that close. Okay …
Dee Gordon will steal 75 bases this year. Mark it down. Bet the house. (Please don’t actually bet the house – these are tough economic times. Unless your mortgage is upside down, then go ahead and bet it – you’ve got nothing left to lose.)
It’s not just that Dee is fast – which he is. He also has one of the best base stealers in the history of the league coaching him at first base: Davy Lopes. Stealing bases is about speed, sure, but it’s also about so many other things, like reading the pitcher, knowing the catcher, knowing the infield dirt conditions. There’s a lot of smarts involved. And Lopes has those smarts.
My excitement for Dee hasn’t quite reached a full-blown man crush. Usually a guy has to have more home run power and Dee probably won’t hit any all year. I’d say it’s more like when someone has a cyber-crush – going through all the Facebook updates and pictures and checking out Tweets and learning far too much about a person so when you meet, it can only be awkward because you’ve got this huge secret that you’ve been borderline stalking them for the last few weeks and they don’t really don’t know anything about you.
Dee Gordon is going to be the next big thing in a town that loves the next big thing. Los Angeles loves its Dodgers (sorry, Anaheim Angels) and with Frank gone, the team and its fans can finally breathe easy. It’s like when they finally catch a serial killer after he’s been on the loose for months and the city gets into a panic that terrorizes everyone to their core. Now, they’ve all got a new lease on life.
Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw and Dee Gordon are going to be the guys who make everyone forget about the past, love the present and embrace the future.
Remember: 75 steals. At least. Guaranteed.