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Sarah's Take: Eric Karros
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06/18/2002 01:32 am ET 
Sarah's Take: Eric Karros
Sarah Morris writes about her favorite Dodger
By Sarah Morris / Dodgers.Com

"I think every baseball fan is entitled to have a favorite player, and Karros is mine." (Jon SooHoo/Dodgers)

Being an Eric Karros fan has been difficult during his career because many people enjoy criticizing the hard-working Los Angeles Dodger first baseman.

I do not understand the criticism of Karros, and please don't e-mail me to explain it. I do not want to understand the criticism. I think every baseball fan is entitled to have a favorite player, and Karros is mine.

To me, Eric Karros has continued the proud tradition of Dodger first basemen that started with Gil Hodges. In Brooklyn, most people adored the large quiet classy first baseman. Around the league, Hodges was admired for his offensive and defensive abilities. Many people want Hodges inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, but so far, he has been overlooked.

Wes Parker was also a popular first baseman. Because he was before my time, I cannot expand on his accomplishments, but I know he was the last Dodger to have a home run, triple, double, and single in the same game and he won a lot of Gold Glove awards for fielding excellence.

Steve Garvey, an extremely popular Dodger to this day, was a part of the famous long-time infield with Lopes, Russell, and Cey. Garvey is a polished man, and his polish showed on the field. He was known for his ability to dig throws out of the dirt, earning him four gold gloves. In 1974, his first full year at first base, fans wrote his name on the All-Star ballot to elect him to the National League All-Star Team, and he was MVP of the game. Also in that year, he was the National League's Most Valuable Player. Garvey had a knack of coming up with the key hit necessary to win the game. I believe most kids in the 1970s who were Dodger fans said Garvey was their favorite player.

During the 1980s, the Dodgers had difficulty finding a suitable first baseman. Greg Brock had done well in the Dodger minor league system, but he could not make the necessary adjustments to be a good major league hitter. Mike Marshall was a good hitter, but he was often injured. Franklin Stubbs never seemed to be able to earn the full-time job. After the magical 1988 season, the Dodgers traded for the future Hall of Famer, Eddie Murray. Though Murray did well while wearing a Dodger uniform, it was obvious that Murray was a short-term solution to the Dodger first base problem.

In September, 1991, the Dodgers promoted a young first baseman named Eric Karros. Karros first appeared in a major league game as a pinch runner for Mike Sharperson. Karros being used ever as a pinch runner is amazing because he always has been a slow runner. During his September call-up, he had one hit in fourteen at-bats. Many people, including me, believed that Karros would replace the free agent Murray.

During the off-season in 1991, Karros, in hopes of improving his baseball skills, went to Venezuela to play winter ball. However, he was cut from the team.

Did Karros sit home waiting for spring training to begin?

No. Karros drove from San Diego to Los Angeles three times a week to workout at Dodger Stadium. This took dedication.

The Dodgers made Kal Daniels, an outfielder with bad knees, into a first baseman. They traded for Todd Benzinger, a journeyman first baseman and an outfielder. Thus, as spring training began, Karros was the third first baseman. The likelihood of Karros making the team was slim.

Karros, a notoriously slow starter, had the spring training of his life, batting over .400. Karros made the team, but he rusted on the bench until May. Karros felt like he would be sent down to Albuquerque any time.

Kal Daniels was injured early in the season. Todd Benzinger was playing first base. Karros was sitting and rarely pinch hitting. Against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Karros was called upon to pinch hit with the game on the line. Karros hit a game-winning three-run homer. The next day he was in the lineup to stay.

The Dodgers had a miserable team in 1992. Karros was the only Dodger who had any power. Whereas no other Dodger had more than five homers, Karros had twenty. His performance earned him the National League's Jackie Roosevelt Robinson Rookie of the Year.

Karros had a good 1993 season but was overshadowed by his buddy Mike Piazza. Before the 1994 season, Karros finished his college degree in economics from UCLA. Karros struggled in the 1994 season.

While baseball players were on strike, Karros worked hard to improve his skills. I cannot name a harder worker than Karros. His dedication to the sport is unmatched.

Unlike most Major Leaguers, Karros does not have much natural ability to make him a good major leaguer, but his hard work has turned him into a good major league first baseman. When he became a Los Angeles Dodger, he had difficulty digging out low throws, but now he is superb at it. Throwing to second base is a difficult play for any first baseman, especially for a right-handed one, but Karros does it as well as any first baseman in the league. Though he is always criticized for his lack of range, I don't see it. Unlike most first basemen, Karros dives to catch line drives and grounders.

In 1995, Karros started a string of three years when he had thirty or more home runs and 100 plus RBI.

Karros could not play for the first three weeks of the 1998 season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery during spring training. When he returned to the lineup, he limped. This proved to me how dedicated he was to baseball. Playing in obvious pain, Karros never complained and changed his swing because he could not generate power with poor painful knees.

In 1999, Eric Karros had his best year when he batted .304 with 34 home runs and 112 RBI. In 2000, he started the year off well, but he struggled after the All-Star break. During the season, he became the greatest home run hitter in the history of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Preparing for the 2001 season at home, Karros injured his back. Thinking that the injury was minor, Karros failed to tell the Dodger medical staff until he could not get out of the van at Vero Beach. This was a mistake. The injury caused Karros to have his poorest season. He never made excuses for his poor performance, so many people didn't understand he was playing in pain. Thus, they began questioning if Karros was over the hill.

During this past off-season, Karros did much soul searching. Because he feels like he should be the best player that he can, he tried an untraditional therapy program aimed to strengthen his pelvic region. Spending two weeks in Vancouver and missing Thanksgiving with his family, Karros worked with Alex McKechnie.

The untraditional therapy has done wonders for Karros. Though he has only six home runs this year, his batting average was .300 entering Saturday's game. When the Dodgers have men on base with two outs, they want Karros at-bat because he has a .500 average in that situation.

I have always admired how Karros conducts himself in the media. He has been a constant subject of trade rumors, but he has handled himself with class and dignity. During his career, Karros has been outspoken in the media on some controversial issues, but he rarely puts his foot in his mouth.

Karros has never been to an All-Star game in his career. To me, Karros deserved to go in 1995 and 2000, but the managers didn't select the quiet first baseman who does his job without much fanfare. I hope this year he will get his opportunity.

Karros has been a loyal and productive Dodger. To me, he deserves more respect than he gets. Maybe, this year he will get more.

Sarah Morris is the editor of Dodger Place. She lives in Anderson, Texas.





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