The names of several former Dodger players popped up in the news this past week pretty much out of the blue (no pun intended) and in, of all places, Phoenix, Arizona.
The entire chain of events actually began on October 17, 2012 when former Dodger left fielder/second baseman Eric Young was unceremoniously fired by the Diamondbacks after serving only two seasons as the team’s first base coach. EY’s replacement was named this past Thursday and it came pretty much as a shock – at least to long-time Dodger fans or anyone who has even an ounce of knowledge about the game.
The replacement? Former Dodgers second baseman Steve Sax, who is perhaps better remembered for his ‘Steve Sax Syndrome’ than his abilities as a major league second baseman (although he did go on to have a very good career with the Yankees after leaving the Dodgers – go figure). Sax has absolutely no coaching experience whatsoever on any level of professional baseball – zero, zip, zilch, nada.
The Shock? The D-backs absolutely kicked former Dodger center fielder and 7-year minor league manager Brett Butler to the curb by appointing Sax to the position instead of Butler.
While Steve Sax was running for political office in the California State Assembly and making cameo television appearances on The Simpsons, Square Pegs, Who’s the Boss, Hollywood Squares and Sabrina The Teenage Witch, Brett Butler was managing professional baseball for each of the Diamondbacks’ minor league affiliate teams at the Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A levels.
While Steve Sax was authoring a motivation book entitled Shift and making motivational speaking appearances, Brett Butler was motivating guys like Stephen Drew, Chris Young, Mark Reynolds and Justin Upton (among many others) into becoming all-star caliber professional baseball players – all of this after becoming a cancer survivor and authoring his own inspirational autobiography entitled Field of Hope - leading him to becoming a very spiritual and very religious man.
I’m sure that you can see my slant on all of this and I am not ashamed to say it – Brett Butler got screwed by Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers, a man who until recently I had tremendous respect for.
“When it came down to it, it was a tough decision, a hard decision, because we think the world of Brett Butler,” said Towers about his decision to go with the completely untested Sax over the far more talented and experienced Butler. “But ultimately we felt like Saxy was the best guy for our staff right now.”
If you’re going to pick Steve Sax over Brett Butler, why not at least have the guts to say what is most likely the real reason – Butler’s past health issues. Brett Butler is 55 years old and had throat cancer in 1996 (from which he completely recovered), a viral infection in 2006, and a mild stroke in 2007; while Steve Sax is 52-years old, a health and physical fitness fanatic and a black belt in karate. But here again, who is better qualified between the two to be a first base coach for a major league baseball team? This was a no-brainer, which Kevin Towers seems to be suffering from here.
And while I wish no ill-will on Steve Sax, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Brett Butler told Kevin Towers and the Diamondback organization to pound sand and hit the door and go to work for an organization that appreciates and recognizes his exceptional coaching (and managing) skills – say… like… maybe the Dodgers.
Shame on you, Kevin Towers – you blew this one and you and the D-backs are going to get exactly what you deserve out of this one.
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- Former Steve Sax Dodger teammate Pedro Guerrero was once quoted as saying: “First I pray to God that nobody hits the ball to me. Then I pray to God that no one hits the ball to Steve Sax.”
- Because of his throwing issues, fans sitting in the stands behind the first base dugout wore batting helmets for protection.
- Tommy Lasorda once said of Sax “Steve Sax was one of my favorites, but he gave me a few grey hairs.”
- Lasorda recalls the time he went to the horse races with Sax. Neither knew much about racing so Lasorda instructed Sax to eavesdrop on a group of men who had been winning and to follow their every word. “I told Saxy to follow them, and listen very carefully what they talked about,” Lasorda said. “Well, when he came back he had three roast beef sandwiches, and told me about a guy who needed to sell a car with 90,000 miles and didn’t know how to do it, so Sax bought the car.”
- Lasorda added “One day we’re playing in San Francisco. I had been harping on Sax to stop hitting the ball in the air because he was a line drive hitter, and to use all parts of the field. So before the game we are standing behind the cage during BP, and Sax comes up to me and says, ‘Hey Skipper, I think I’ve got your hitting theory down pat.’ That’s great Saxy, I told him. ‘Eighty percent of the time I try to hit the ball up the middle, twenty percent of the time I try to hit the ball to left and the other twenty percent I try to hit it right.’”