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No. 6 for the Dodgers ...
2003-02-05 10:08
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

If there is one player most identified with the Dodgers from the 1970s, that player is Steve Garvey.

But by the measure of OPS, not once was Garvey the best hitter on his team - not even during Garvey's National League MVP year of 1974:

1974 Garvey .811 -- Jimmy Wynn, .884
1975 Garvey .827 -- Ron Cey, .845
1976 Garvey .813 -- Ron Cey, .848
1977 Garvey .833 -- Reggie Smith, 1.003
1978 Garvey .852 -- Reggie Smith, .942
1979 Garvey .848 -- Ron Cey, .888
1980 Garvey .808 -- Dusty Baker, .842
1981 Garvey .733 -- Ron Cey, .846
1982 Garvey .719 -- Pedro Guerrero, .914

Heck, even Eric Karros led the Dodgers in OPS once, in 1998.

Though some would point to the Dodgers' failure to resign Garvey after the 1982 season as one of the lowpoints of the pre-Fox era in Los Angeles, by 1982 Garvey trailed Guerrero, Baker, Ken Landreaux, Cey and even Rick Monday in OPS among Dodgers who played 100 or more games that year - making the No. 6 on his uniform ever so appropriate.

Keep in mind, also, that Garvey played an easier defensive position than the rest of these players. Garvey's production, after years of consistency, was declining sharply - much like Karros in recent years.

The much maligned Greg Brock, Garvey's replacement in 1983, hit only .224 but walked 83 times with 20 home runs, giving him an OPS of .739 that was also sixth on the team. Not nearly what one would hope for in replacing a legend, but not as bad as it seemed at the time.

For his part, Garvey went to San Diego in 1983 and for the first time in his career, led his team in OPS, producing a .803 mark. Of course, other than a young Tony Gwynn, the Padres didn't have the talent that the Dodgers had during those years.

Unfortunately for Garvey, 1983 was the year he finally got hurt, playing in only 100 games. This was more or less his last gasp as a productive player. Garvey then finished his career with OPS marks of .680, .748, .692 and .507.

Steve Garvey has always been a borderline candidate for the Hall of Fame, and each year it looks more and more like he won't make it. This is not meant to kick him while he's down. It's more to point out that if we looked at things then the way we are tending to now, not even Garvey's senatorial image would have ensured him being viewed as the most vital cog on the Dodgers.

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