Saturday, March 12, 2011

#112 - Davey Lopes

This is Davey Lopes' first solo card. In '73 he had a rookie one. In my ignorance I had always thought Davey was a Hispanic kid from one of the islands or the Americas. Actually he was an urban kid from Providence who grew up in tough circumstances and is of Cape Verdian - a small country off the west coast of Africa - descent. In '73 he was a savior for LA, becoming their first full-time second baseman since Ted Sizemore got traded and solidifying the middle defense with Bill Russell. The improved defense was a big deal for LA because that year most of their pitchers were low ball specialists which meant lots of grounders. That year Davey would be named second baseman on Topps' Rookie All-Star Team. In this photo, I am pretty sure those are Astros in the background, but this sure ain't the Astrodome, so I guess it's a spring training shot.

Davey Lopes was drafted by the Giants in '67 - to which he said no thanks - and the Dodgers in '68. He had attended college at both Iowa Wesleyan and Washburn following their athletic director as he traveled between schools. His name was Mike Sarkesian and he had coached against Lopes in Providence and took an interest, eventually persuading him to go to school. Lopes had nine siblings and no dad so it wasn't in the cards without the outside push. After he signed with the Dodgers Davey elected to continue school, hence his two short minor league seasons in '68 and '69. That second year he graduated with a degree in education. That freedom allowed his elevation to Triple A ball in '70 where he resided the next three summers with a whole bunch of other future major leaguers. Prior to '71 he was an outfielder but during that season he started playing second base. He got a late look in LA in '72 there and then in '73 was kept on the roster to back up Lee Lacy, who had an excellent spring training and was handed the second base job. But Lacy started slowly and then got hurt, allowing Davey to step in. He recognized an opportunity when he saw it and he never looked back, becoming the regular second baseman through '81. Davey would put up good offensive numbers, play a superior second base, and show exceptionally good base-running abilities. Some of his stolen base ratios were pretty amazing: in '78 he stole 45 bases and got caught four times. In '75 he set a record by stealing 38 straight without being caught. He led the NL twice in steals, including in '76 when he missed a bunch of time to injury. Given the above, Davey was normally a top of the order guy and he would report some pretty good offensive numbers away from his stolen base work. He averaged about 90 runs a year in his full seasons, topping out at 109 in '79. And he had some pop in his bat, that same year hitting 28 homers. He also did a pretty good job getting on base, putting up a .349 OBA, and adding about ten points to it when healthy. With the Dodgers he would play in four All-Star games, earn a Gold Glove, and get to the post-season four times, winning the Series in '81. But that year Davey got off to a super slow start and missed a month to injury on top of losing all the strike time. He posted by far his worst regular season numbers.

In '82 the Dodgers had Steve Sax coming up and they broke up the storied infield by trading Lopes to Oakland. While his '82 wasn't anything special - though he did add over 30 points to his average - he had a nice offensive year in '83. The next season Davey would get shifted to the outfield by the arrival at second base of - of all people - Joe Morgan. Late in the season he was sent to the Cubs and re-joined Ron Cey. In '85, at age 40, he stole 47 bases (and was caught four times) in about half a season while hitting .284. Then in '86 he was hitting at a .300 clip when he was traded to the Astros. He stayed in Houston as a reserve through '87. He finished with a .263 average, .349 OBA, 155 homers, and 557 stolen bases. In the post-season, Lopes hit .238 with six homers, 22 RBIs, and 19 stolen bases in 50 games.

After playing, Lopes moved into coaching right away for Texas, Baltimore, San Diego, and the Nationals through 2006. From 2000 to '02 he managed the Brewers for whom he was 144-195. From 2008 to 2010 he was the Phillies' first base coach and during that time the team had the league's highest stolen base ratio. This year he will be coaching first for LA.

That first star bullet is pretty cool. From '70 to '72 Davey put up really good Triple A numbers but he was overshadowed by guys like Valentine, Garvey, and Paciorek. I had read elsewhere that he taught so he got some usage out of his degree. He has certainly taught a bunch of current players. Davey was quite an old rookie in '73 at 27.

Lopes is the third NL'er in a row. Let's try to keep this all NL:

1. Lopes and Joe Morgan '84 A's;
2. Morgan and Clay Carroll '72 to '75 Reds.


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