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Eric Karros: Sparring Partner
2003-02-07 09:27
by Jon Weisman

I woke up this morning realizing that overnight I had dreamed that Eric Karros had hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the 17th inning at Wrigley Field to give the Cubs a victory over the Dodgers.

I had been thinking about writing about Karros 2003, and decided this would be the day. Then I got the Times and saw that Ross Newhan had beaten me to the punch. Man, I hate getting scooped.

But moving forward ...

First of all, what does this dream represent? Feelings of anxiety, certainly. Fear of betrayal? Fear of having misjudged? Too much preoccupation with the Dodgers? Latent wish-fulfillment based on the idea that I would want all ex-Dodgers, no matter who they were, to succeed?

It is true that, long, long ago, I was a Karros fan. Seems hard to believe now - Grandma Sue, who teases me about my antipathy for Karros every time we go to a game - would not dream it possible.

But in May 1992, as the Dodgers' fortunes and my own simultaneously spiraled downward, Karros hit a pinch-hit, three-run, bottom-of-the-ninth home run to beat the Pirates. Karros gave me a big lift that night - I even thought about writing him a letter to thank him. I didn't follow through, but clearly, consciously if not unconsciously as well, that homer has stuck with me.

Though I am much happier now, anxieties remain. And for better or worse, Eric Karros will not be part of the solution. As a Cub, there isn't much he can do to make me feel better about myself, the world, life in general.

But will he be part of the problem? Will Eric Karros come back to haunt me, in my waking hours in addition to my dreams.

Here are some of the basic possibilities:

--Buoyed by the easier hitting conditions of Wrigley Field, Karros' numbers could go up. Burdened by the tougher hitting conditions of Dodger Stadium, the numbers of Karros' replacement, Fred McGriff, could go down. Though McGriff might still be the better player for the Dodgers, superficial fans will scream "I told you the Karros trade was dumb."

--Karros plays poorly against the rest of the league, but torches the Dodgers here and at Wrigley.

--Karros can't beat out Hee Seop Choi for a starting role and languishes on the bench.

I am hoping the Dodgers made the right decision in getting rid of Karros for their sake, but I admit that I also have the same hope for my sake. I really don't want my opinion of this move to be wrong.

It's not like I'm in the minority among those who analyze the game about Karros' potential effectiveness. But for whatever reason, I feel I have a great deal invested in having drawn this particular conclusion. I've been on Eric Karros' back the way UCLA basketball fans have been on Steve Lavin's. For years, we've been fed up with the Karros/Lavin weaknesses - and even fed up with their occasional successes, because those successes would enable the weaknesses to continue.

Well, now Lavin is going, and Karros is gone. The punching bags are being removed. What will take their place? Will a new punching bag emerge? And, if Karros somehow manages to reverse his downward spiral and have a great year, will that punching bag be me?

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