Turns a double play slicker'n Edward G. Robinson, that's for sure...
It’s Thursday night, and the Dodgers just beat the Brewers 6-4. Eric Gagne closed it out, although he took his time, and J.D Drew had two homers, the second with a man aboard. So maybe the Dodgers will start to pick it up a bit. I was at the Ravine last night, and despite the fact that it was just about as perfect a night for baseball as could be, and despite the fact that watching the game was a whole lot of fun regardless of the final score (I was there with my father-in-law, along with a couple of buddies, for his 83rd birthday), the Cubs completed a three-game sweep of the Dodgers and reduced them, for at least 24 hours, to a .500 ball club. The Dodgers have some heavy lifting ahead of them if they’re to pull themselves off the mat and make up six games on the surprisingly resilient, division-leading Padres, and they need to take advantage of the opportunities to do so. The Padres lost last night, and so did the entire NL West. But tonight, the Cubs continued their whipping ways in San Diego, and the Dodgers put together some offense against another third-place team—exactly what they need to be doing when they have the chance. So all hope is not lost. It’s just that third place is not exactly where I, or the Dodgers, I’m sure, thought they’d be on June 2 after that 12-2 start.
But now that I’ve come to terms with The Way It Is Right Now, I just want to talk for a second about our mighty shortstop. Last night was Cesar Izturis Bobblehead Night, and some 54,000 fans glided through the turnstiles to greedily gobble up their souvenirs. The throng were completely overjoyed at their toys, and each time Izturis’ name was mentioned, each time he came up to bat (he went 2-4 with two hits, a run scored and a walk), they cheered with what sounded like genuine emotion.
And yet, these same fans, who are so in love with their Gold Glove shortstop that they hustled their asses out to a baseball game on a Wednesday night (imagine!) to take home a bobblehead likeness of the man that actually more resembles Manny Mota than Little Cesar, have refrained in mass quantities from casting their ballots for him in the All-Star voting. As it stands right now, Cesar Izturis, widely acknowledged as arguably the best active shortstop in the game, outside of perhaps Derek Jeter, is not even in the top five in votes counted.
So who is? Let’s see: a hobbled ex-Red Sox who sat out two months of 2004 on the D.L. before coming back and making no appreciable difference in the Cubs’ failure to make the postseason, and who has played exactly 14 games for them this year so far before going back on the D.L.; a scrappy ex-Angel with little speed, but with all the right attitude and talent that makes him impossible to dislike or to discount; a laser-throwing Brave with a .229 batting average, a .281 OBP and a criminal record for multiple DUIs; a likable Met with speed on the base pads and 63 hits so far in 2005; and, if all continues to go well, the probable National League Rookie of the Year winner for the cellar-dwelling Colorado Rockies.
Okay, Reyes and Eckstein have made good cases for themselves on the field, and their fans have responded accordingly, and Barmes has a lot of good buzz which, again, is being added to through the enthusiasm of those willing to pick up a ballot and punch out a chad in his honor. And Furcal, a good player (not, I think, a great player) is probably in there largely because he’s a name familiar to “fans” other than those of the Tomahawk-chopping variety (thanks, TBS).
But what the hell is this business of Nomar Garciaparra leading the voting? Are heartbroken Red Sox fans still pining for him to the degree that they’ll check off a vote next to his name simply because of that enduring love? Of course, because he’s not in the American League anymore, they can vote for him and Edgar Renteria with a clear conscience. But why the hell would a Cubs fan vote for him? What has he done for them lately besides illustrate in horrific detail exactly what they don’t want to have happen to their own precious groins? What has he ever done for them as a Cub? And yet there he is, high atop the standings in the current voting, not because he’s the best shortstop in the National League in 2005, but simply because he’s No-o-o-maaaaaaah.
Cesar Izturis, all he’s doing is standing in 4th place in the National League in batting average as a .339 switch-hitter (.358/.839 from the left, .340/.808 from the right) with a hit total (77) that ties him with Brady Clark of the Brewers for best not only in the National League, but in the entire league! Yet your average bobblehead-clutching Dodger fan doesn’t seem to care to show Izturis the kind of respect that could make him the first Dodger to be voted into the All-Star starting lineup since Mike Piazza in 1997 (that honor is likely to go to Jeff Kent). If you are reading this and you are a Dodger fan, please consider visiting the Los Angeles Dodgers Web site, or MLB.com, and taking the time to cast a vote toward righting this egregious and distressing oversight. And if you’re not a Dodger fan but can look at the reality of Izturis’ performance and recognize what he’s doing on this team this year, maybe you could find it in your heart to cast a vote for him too. The guy is a gamer, a brilliant shortstop, and he’s elevated his hitting to a height which few thought he would ever ascend while watching him just a couple of years ago. He matches Milton Bradley’s fire, Jeff Kent’s cool consistency and Eric Gagne’s lust for competition with a quiet intensity all his own, the hallmark of a truly terrific baseball player. Dodger fan, kindly put down your beach ball, shut off your cell phone, get up off your bobblehead, pay attention to the game and, while you’re at it, show Little Cesar some love and respect. Send him to Detroit in July.