The catcalls began immediately after Dodger First Baseman Greg Brock booted a routine grounder in the second inning of an exhibition game with Montreal. They were heard again two innings later when he failed to catch a pop-up near the stands. "We want Steve Garvey," yelled one fan. "Where's Garvey?" screamed another.
The Dodgers did not re-sign free-agent Garvey during the off-season, losing the eight-time All-Star to the Padres. They traded six-time All-Star Ron Cey to the Cubs. For some fans the two seem irreplaceable. To L.A. they just seemed to be old.
Ponce de León came to Florida seeking the Fountain of Youth. The Dodgers may have found it. They have virtually retired the NL Rookie of the Year Award, winning the last four with pitchers Rick Sutcliffe, Steve Howe, Fernando Valenzuela and Second Baseman Steve Sax.
L.A.'s candidate for '83 appears to be Brock, who hit .310 with 44 home runs and 138 RBIs last year at Albuquerque. Despite his occasional bobbles, he has taken over at first. Pedro Guerrero (.304, 32 homers and 100 ribbies) has moved from right to third, giving the Dodgers greater range at the hot corner. Taking his place in right is Mike Marshall, the 1981 Minor League Player of the Year. Of his young teammates, veteran Shortstop Bill Russell says, "Some of them don't even know what a slump is."
The Dodger youngsters worked hard in spring training to ensure the success of the youth movement. Four or five times a week Marshall put in extra duty in the outfield, running down flies and fielding grounders. At other times Hitting Coach Manny Mota threw special b.p. for Marshall and Brock.
Catcher Mike Scioscia was also working overtime. He had an outstanding season in 1981, but last year his batting average fell from .276 to .219. He was second in the league in passed balls and base runners succeeded on 71% of their steal attempts. After the Dodgers finished each day's spring stint, Scioscia squatted behind the plate as coaches cranked up a pitching machine to speeds of more than 90 mph. He took up to 150 extra pitches before he could move to other drills, to work on his footwork, release and ball blocking.
If Scioscia can't rebound, Steve Yeager will take over. Whoever catches will work with the most imposing collection of arms west of the Grand Forks missile base. The superb rotation of Valenzuela, Bob Welch, Jerry Reuss and Burt Hooton makes Los Angeles the clear favorite to reclaim the division from Atlanta.
No team in the bigs had three starters who combined for more wins (53) than L.A.'s Fernando Valenzuela (19), Jerry Reuss (18) and Bob Welch (16). They also helped L.A. lead both leagues with a 3.26 ERA, Valenzuela winding up at 2.87, Reuss at 3.11 and Welch at 3.36. But the bullpen had an NL-low 28 saves. And the offense established a team record by stranding 1,223 runners.