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Two Cases of How <i> Not</i> to Go at It

The Dodgers have a problem on their hands, and the problem is his hands.

His name is Jose Offerman, his occupation is infielder and his destination is Shortstop of Tomorrow. What the Dodgers must debate is whether they can afford to have him play today.

“Come see the game tomorrow and I’ll let you know,” was Saturday’s brusque answer from Tom Lasorda, who was in no mood for the question.

We are sorry if we appear to be picking on a player when actually we are pulling for that player.

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Much as we are sorry that a player such as Kal Daniels says the things he says to somebody who is not a player. Daniels will never need to make a head-first slide to have a dirty mouth.

Nobody wanted Daniels to get thrown out of Saturday’s game. All anybody wanted to know was why he did.

And nobody wanted Offerman to drop another baseball. All anybody wanted to know was what happened if he did.

Most of all, we are sorry that our daily reports cannot begin: “The Dodgers lost, but tried very hard and good luck again today!”

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For all we care, Jose Offerman can start 100 or 130 or 160 games at shortstop next season.

And, should the Dodgers risk sending him back out there for the last seven games of this season, then we defer to their judgment.

The kid is good. He gets to grounders Lenny Harris can’t. He is Alfredo Griffin’s understudy and the star can’t go on. We understand that. The kid is good and has a chance to be great.

All we wonder is:

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Should he be playing now?

It does not strike us as such an unreasonable question. Offerman committed two errors Friday, and it as easily could have been three. Saturday, he dropped an easy throw and cost the Dodgers a run that could have cost them a game.

The Dodgers don’t want to kill the kid’s confidence. They are not inclined to yank him off-stage with a vaudeville hook, the way the Oakland Athletics once publicly humiliated Mike Andrews.

But this is no time to spare somebody’s feelings. Everybody in the grandstand, press box and clubhouse knows that much, including Darryl Strawberry, who after Friday’s game said of Offerman: “There is a lot of pressure on him, being the shortstop of the future, and maybe he isn’t ready to be in the middle of the field right now.”

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Strawberry is not a pessimist. He is a realist who wants to win a pennant.

In two urgent games, Offerman has flung a ball into the dugout, had a hard hopper bounce off his chest, butter-fingered a ball behind second base and juggled a chest-high throw from the catcher.

Runs, precious runs, keep scoring while the Atlanta Braves keep winning.

In the spirit of going to bat for a teammate, some of the Dodgers took pains Friday to persuade the official scorer to change his mind and rescind Offerman’s third error. Daniels made what he believed to be a relevant observation, that no sportswriter could have caught that ball.

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Well, here comes another relevant observation:

At this point in the season, the Dodgers need to put their best possible team on the field.

This team includes Daniels, who can say whatever he wants after a game, but ought to keep his filthy mouth shut during a game.

What we do not know is whether the Dodgers’ best team should include Offerman.

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We know how much faith General Manager Fred Claire has in this young prodigy, and we know that Lasorda’s gut feeling will tell him whether to pencil the kid onto his lineup card.

From a distance, it seems Offerman is endangering the Dodgers’ chances. However, if neither Lenny Harris nor Mike Sharperson has enough range to suit Lasorda, then it might necessitate using Offerman for the remaining games against the Giants and Padres.

Offerman says the more games he plays, the better off he will be. Trouble is, Jose, we are running out of games.

When he swung in the seventh inning Saturday, the frustrated Offerman tried to hit the first pitch as far as he hit that home run he hit in his first major league at-bat. He swung and missed, but later singled. It was nice to see the kid out there trying so hard.

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Not everybody was out there trying. The Dodgers could have used a homer or two, but one of their best power hitters, Daniels, thought it was far more important to tell an umpire what he thought of him.

Later, Daniels used similar language to those who wanted to hear his side of things, his own special way of saying no. When asked a second time, Daniels replied: “What don’t you understand, the ‘N’ or the ‘O?”’

No, what we don’t understand, Kal, is why we care more about who plays for the Dodgers than you do.


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