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Greg Gagne is a slightly above-average major league shortstop.
At 34 he is the oldest every-day player at that position in the
National League. On offense he's nothing special--his batting
average, home runs and RBIs have decreased in each of the last
three seasons. And now, after playing 13 seasons in the AL (12
on teams that played their home games on artificial turf), he is
moving to a new league and to a club that plays on natural grass.

None of that matters to the Dodgers. After what they've had at
shortstop the last four years, Gagne seems like Pee Wee Reese.
Gagne, who signed a one-year, $2.6 million free-agent deal with
L.A. in December, is the best defensive shortstop the Dodgers
have had since they moved to California in 1958. He's the
biggest reason that they are the team to beat in the NL West.
Gagne is the most significant off-season acquisition made by any
team in the division, partly because of his sure-handed defense
and enthusiastic attitude and partly because he replaces Jose
Offerman, who sometimes played with the maturity of Pee-wee

"We're ecstatic about signing Gagne," says Dodgers pitcher Tom
Candiotti. "The team needed a break from Jose as much as he
needed a break from L.A. There are a bunch of ground-ball
pitchers on this team. When you're shaky up the middle, that
puts tremendous pressure on a pitcher in close games."

The Dodgers probably paid Gagne too much money, and they
probably signed him too quickly. Had they waited, they might
have gotten Shawon Dunston, who signed with the Giants for $1.5
million. But the Dodgers couldn't afford to wait. Last season
Offerman made a major-league-high 35 errors (no other shortstop
had more than 20), and over the last four years he has booted
125 chances. In that time span Gagne made only 58 errors. (In
the last four years, Dodgers shortstops have made 146 errors;
Philadelphia shortstops were second-worst, with 121.)

"It wasn't just the errors," says Candiotti. "I don't ever
remember Jose diving for a ball. I was talking to [Indians and
former Dodgers pitcher] Orel Hershiser, and I told him, 'I keep
hearing how much harder you're throwing this year, but every
time I watch you, you look like you're throwing just the same.'
He said, 'I am, but look at our shortstop!'" (The Indians have a
three-time Gold Glove winner in Omar Vizquel.)

Offerman, who was traded to the Royals for lefthander Billy
Brewer in December, wasn't just a burden defensively--he was
moody and petulant, which drove manager Tommy Lasorda crazy.
When Offerman made an error, he got booed and went into his
shell. The shortstop is usually the most dependable defensive
player on a team; Offerman was the least dependable. "He had
attitude problems; he pouted," says Candiotti. "It was a problem
that just had to be rectified. Gagne won't be afraid to make an

Team defense was all the Dodgers needed to improve over the
winter to secure the West and challenge the mighty Braves for
the NL pennant. The Dodgers rotation is loaded, with Ramon
Martinez, Hideo Nomo, Ismael Valdes, Candiotti and Pedro
Astacio. Korean righthander Chan Ho Park, who was clocked at 99
mph on the Padres' radar gun last year (the Padres only clocked
Atlanta's Mark Wohlers as high), will move into the rotation if
Astacio struggles. The bullpen has a solid closer (Todd Worrell)
and some depth.

Offensively the trade for Mariners third baseman Mike Blowers
gives the Dodgers a fourth player who drove in at least 88 runs
last year. Centerfielder

Brett Butler sparked L.A. when he was reacquired from the Mets
down the stretch last year. Second baseman Delino DeShields who
nearly played himself out of town batting .251 in the first
three months of the 1995 season, looked rejuvenated in the final
two months, when he hit .309. Mike Piazza ... well, no other
catcher in history has hit .318 or better in each of his first
three years in the majors. Fortunately for the Dodgers, they
will not have to depend on hits from leftfielder Todd
Hollandsworth or platoon-mate Billy Ashley; last year Ashley
struck out 88 times in 215 at bats--the most punch-outs in
history for anyone who had so few at bats.

And L.A. won't need much punch from Gagne. All that's required
is that he make the routine plays, not kick important grounders
in the late innings and not mope after a bad game. In other
words, if Gagne doesn't act like Offerman, the Dodgers could win
the West easily.

--Tim Kurkjian

COLOR PHOTO: TIM DEFRISCO COVER PHOTO [Varies by region] Dodger Dynamo Mike Piazza powers L.A.'s title hopes COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER With a strengthened infield behind him, Nomo should be even tougher in '96. [Hideo Nomo in game]


1995 Team Statistics (NL Rank in parentheses)

Batting Average .264 (7)
Home Runs 140 (7)
ERA 3.67 (2)
Fielding Pct. .976 (14)

No Lefthanded Complement

The Dodgers have played 429 games since Tommy Lasorda last sent
a lefthanded starting pitcher to the mound (Bobby Ojeda on Sept.
24, 1992). That's 24 games shy of the modern major league record
for consecutive starts by righthanders (also held by the
Dodgers). Seven lefthanders started at least one game for the
Dodgers' Triple A club in Albuquerque last season, but among
them, only John O'Donoghue, Dave Pyc and Gary Rath remain in the
organization. Other potential streak breakers include Joey
Eischen, who started in winter ball this year, and John
Cummings, a starter in the minors who made 35 relief appearances
for L.A. last season.

Most Consecutive Games Started by Righthanded Pitchers
(Since 1900)

Dodgers 453 Oct. 2, 1902, to April 14, 1906
Dodgers 429 Sept. 25, 1992, to present
Indians 376 July 14, 1931, to Sept. 24, 1933
Athletics 346 May 14, 1991, to June 7, 1993
Cubs 344 Aug. 29, 1931, to April 29, 1934


At a cost of only two minor leaguers, the Dodgers believe
they've acquired a fixture at third base, their first in 14
years. New third sacker Mike Blowers drove in 96 runs for the
Mariners last season; the Dodgers haven't had a third baseman
drive in more than 78 runs since Pedro Guerrero had 103 RBIs in
1983. Blowers is also explosive: He had three games of six or
more RBIs in 1995. The last major leaguer to accomplish that was
Dave Parker of the Reds in 1987. Blowers had trouble against
many righthanders (he was .234 versus righties last year, .318
versus lefties), and after playing last season in the Kingdome,
a great hitter's park, he will be batting in a great pitcher's
park. The 30-year-old ex-Mariner is not good defensively, but
he's an improvement over his L.A. predecessor, 38-year-old Tim



CF Brett Butler .300, 1, 38, 32
2B Delino DeShields .256, 8, 37, 39
C Mike Piazza .346, 32, 93, 1
1B Eric Karros .298, 32, 105, 4
RF Raul Mondesi .285, 26, 88, 27
3B Mike Blowers[*] .257, 23, 96, 2
LF Todd Hollandsworth(R) .233, 5, 13, 2
SS Greg Gagne[*] .256, 6, 49, 3


IF Chad Fonville .278, 0, 16, 20
OF Billy Ashley .237, 8, 27, 0
IF Dave Hansen .287, 1, 14, 0


RH Ramon Martinez 17-7, 3.66
RH Hideo Nomo 13-6, 2.54
RH Ismael Valdes 13-11, 3.05
RH Tom Candiotti 7-14, 3.50
RH Pedro Astacio 7-8, 4.24


RH Todd Worrell 32, 2.02
RH Antonio Osuna 0, 4.43
LH Mark Guthrie 0, 3.66
LH Billy Brewer[*] 0, 5.56

[*] New acquisition (R) Rookie