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Sarah's Take: Mark Grudzielanek

11-23-00

Mark Grudzielanek was a main contributor to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  He made a good transition from shortstop to second base though he committed many errors at second base.  Offensively he had a good year.  In early July he had a bad case of the flu, and it snapped his strength and affected his performance for the rest of the season.  Although the media does not recognize it, Grudzielanek is a leader of the Dodgers, and shows enthusiasm in what he does on the field.

Grudzielanek has been known as a temperamental player, but as a Dodger he used his emotions to his and the teamís advantage.  While with the Montreal Expos Felipe Alou gave him many rests for mental health.  The Expos also were mad at Grudzielanek for being quite outspoken about their financial treatment of him and their other players.  On July 31, 1998, they traded Grudzielanek to the Dodgers. During an arbitration process after the 1998 season, Kevin Malone angered Grudzielanek by the things the Dodgers said about him, but Grudzielanek realized it was true.  To correct his defensive shortcomings, he went to Bucky Dentís Baseball Academy at his own expense.  That greatly improved his defense.  In June 1999 frustrated by his and the teamís performances, he punched a concrete wall and broke his hand. Although his actions angered the Dodgers and their fans, after a trip on the disabled list, he became the best Dodger hitter.  In 2000 the Dodgers transferred him from shortstop to second base, which did not please him. Nevertheless, he did not publicly complain about the transition and went to Bucky Dentís Baseball Academy again to learn how to play second base.  Grudzielanek is the first Dodger off the bench to congratulate a fellow teammate who just scored or made a fantastic defensive play. When the Dodger fans have questioned if some Dodgers play their best always, they do not have to wonder about him. Everybody knows Grudzielanek tries his best even after a nasty viral infection.

Grudzielanekís strength always has been his offense, and the 2000 season was no exception.  After a slow start batting .230 in April, he had a fantastic May and June batting .333 and .322 respectively.  Then just before the all-star break Grudzielanek caught a nasty vital infection that lasted almost two weeks.  It caused him to lose fifteen pounds and sapped his strength.  He did not feel like he was at full strength for the rest of the season.  Before the all-star break he batted .303, but after the break, he batted .246. From the first to sixth innings he batted .292, but the seventh inning and on he batted .247.  He likes going to the right field, so when a runner was on first base, Grudzielanek could usually advance the runner with a ground ball to second or first base or a hit to right field.  He had good overall statistics with a .279 batting average, seven home runs, and 49 RBI.  Though his .335 on-base percentage is poor, especially at the top of the lineup, it is decent for a free swinger such as Grudzielanek.  While he struck out 81 times, he walked 45 times. He scored 101 runs.  Grudzielanekís offensive contributions do not get media attention, but they are vital.

As expected, Grudzielanek struggled with his defense in his first year as a second baseman.  Before 2000 he played thirteen games at second base in the major leagues.  Davey Johnson, who made the transition from shortstop to second base during his career, believed Grudzielanek would make a better second baseman than he was a shortstop.  Moving him after his best defensive year must have affected his confidence.  Though he adjusted to second base well, clearly it was a learning process.  Grudzielanek had to get used to having the runner go behind him instead of the runner heading toward him.  Every day clearly he was more comfortable there and made improvements.  He had to work with many different shortstops with limited range.  At second base he displayed good range helping the shortstop and first baseman.  His seventeen errors were the second highest in the National League for second basemen.

Mark Grudzielanek has done well as a Dodger.  Some people want the Dodgers to sign Alex Rodriguez and trade Grudzielanek.  The Dodgers cannot afford to trade Grudzielanekís offense and spirit. Many Dodger fans underrate his contributions to the team.

© Sarah D. Morris

 

 

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