Dee Gordon Dee Gordon

Dee Gordon: A Star Is Born

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Got to admit that until a couple of hours ago I had never heard of Dee Gordon and that is my bad. Now he is my new baseball hero. You’ve just got to love a guy who pulls off a Little League move in a Major League game.

Props to Gordon for playing a spring training game as if it is meaningful, as if he really wants to win, as if he is playing for a full-time job. What did Gordon do? In an exhibition game against the Kansas City Royals Friday, Gordon walked. Pretty non-descript play. But as the Royals lolly-gagged around the infield, the catcher threw the ball back to the pitcher, and the pitcher scuffed the dirt on the mound, and as all eyes focused on the next Dodger stepping up to the plate, Gordon turned his walk into a run.

Not a run as in scoring, but in terms of turning on the jets. He walked to first and kept right on running to second. Stolen base. Yeah. Everyone else was asleep at the switch, thinking about where they were going to dine after the game maybe, or how they just had to take the car into the shop for a tune up. Gordon’s mind was on the game, paying attention. And he embarrassed the heck out of the Royals while immediately putting himself into scoring position.

This is not supposed to happen in the majors, where the professionals are sharp, aware, and careful. Right. This just demonstrates how disruptive a swift, predatory base-runner can be, how a guy can shake things up on the basepaths, adding a fresh dimension to the offense. Once upon a time players like Ty Cobb, Jackie Robinson, Maury Wills, Lou Brock, Rod Carew and others did this all of the time. In that sense Gordon is a throwback player.

Turns out I definitely should have known more about young Mr. Gordon. I missed out on his 2011 exploits when he made his first appearances for Los Angeles and he also has a compelling personal story.

Off the field first. Gordon is the son of former Major League pitcher Tom Gordon. “Flash” had a pretty darned solid career with eight teams over 21 years, both as a starter and a reliever. He was a three-time All-Star, won a World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008, and finished with 138 wins, 156 saves and a 3.96 earned run average. His last stop was just in 2009 with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

So the kid has good genes. The more complex part of the story is that Dee, whose given name is Devaris, was raised by Gordon and Gordon’s mother after he lost his own mother, Devona Strange. Strange had been Tom Gordon’s high school girlfriend, but she was later murdered by an ex-boyfriend. The younger Gordon was a basketball player first, but blossomed as a baseball player in high school.

Gordon made his Major League debut last summer as a pinch runner, but in his first start he cracked three straight hits. Give him the game ball! Then, in a game July 1, Gordon stole second, third, and home in the same inning. Give him home plate! Right then and there I would have adopted him if I had heard about that performance. Gordon, who turns 24 on April 22, finished his abbreviated rookie season with a .304 average and 24 stolen bases.

LA lists Gordon’s dimensions as 5-foot-11 and 150 pounds. That would make him just about the lightest guy in the majors, barely a welterweight. Another 10 pounds of muscle likely wouldn’t hurt him at all. And probably wouldn’t slow him down any. Whatever, we wouldn’t want to tamper with Gordon’s speed, though it seems to me more than just being fast is at work here. Gordon must possess the innate instinct it takes to wreak havoc on the bases, the combination of speed, baseball IQ, and timing.

It’s been ages since anyone in the majors stole home plate with regularity. I hope Gordon makes it with the Dodgers. He seems to have the potential to create his own sub-category on sports highlight shows doing that. If stealing second off of a walk, and stealing second, third and home in the same inning are just tastes of what is to come, brother,  Dee Gordon will be fun to watch.

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