Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Meeting held to discuss baserunning
By Tony Jackson
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers held a team meeting before Wednesday night's series finale with the Atlanta Braves, and there was one topic on the agenda.
Tired of seeing mistakes on the basepaths, some of them obvious to the naked eye and some of them less so, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly decided to address the matter with his club. The team began the day with a shockingly low stolen-base success rate of 52.1 percent (12 of 23) -- leadoff man and speed demon Dee Gordon was 9-for-13 -- but Mattingly said that wasn't really the issue.
"Honestly, it has been a source of concern," Mattingly said. "Last year, we felt like we really ran the bases well. This year, we feel like we have made too mistakes. We have gotten away with it a lot, but we don't feel like we're going to get away with it if it continues. It's going to cost us some games. It's an area where we have to improve."
Mattingly said the issue has been a season-long one and isn't limited to any one particular area of the running game.
"It has been general," he said. "There are a lot of different issues we feel like need to be improved upon. It isn't one thing. It has been brewing, honestly. It isn't just the last couple of days. This has been brewing all season. ... We have made a lot of bad decisions. We have to get better. It's a part of the game we need to pay attention to."
Neither Mattingly nor Davey Lopes, the Dodgers first-base coach who handles the running game, would single out any individual players for criticism. But Gordon and center fielder Matt Kemp are the team's top baserunning threats. Kemp, who stole 40 bases last year, has just one in three attempts this year, and he also committed three baserunning mistakes in the first two games of the series with the Braves.
Lopes pointed out that mistakes are a necessary evil of any player's game.
"If Jesus Christ came down, he would be about the only guy who wouldn't make mistakes," Lopes said. "Everybody else, we're going to make mistakes."
Asked specifically about Gordon, Lopes said the second-year shortstop is still a work in progress and that he still needs time to figure out how to utilize his electrifying speed.
"This kid could be one of the best in the game, but it just takes a little bit of time," Lopes said. "Everybody expects him, every time he gets on base, to steal second or third, but that isn't going to happen at this level. The more he plays, the better he will become and the more he will learn from his mistakes. He will minimize his mistakes the more he plays. It's something good ballplayers do, minimize their mistakes as they get older."
Asked if Gordon needs to do a better job of picking his spots to steal, Lopes seemed to answer in the affirmative.
"He has to become a student of basestealing and baserunning," Lopes said. "It's just like with a hitter. There is an art to hitting and an art to baserunning, and it's a learning process. In time, I have to believe he will be one of the best."