Dodgers’ Top 5 second basemen: Gurnick's take

April 7th, 2020

LOS ANGELES -- No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only … if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is our ranking of the top five second basemen in Dodgers history. Next week: Third basemen.

1. Jackie Robinson, 1947-56
Key fact: Only player whose uniform number is retired game-wide

A true hero, legend, trailblazer and leader. And that’s before we even get into the numbers.

Yes, he broke in as a first baseman and rarely played second base the final four seasons of his 10-year career. But Robinson was a second baseman in four of his six All-Star seasons, including his MVP year of 1949. He led the league in WAR three times as a second baseman and led the league in defensive WAR as a second baseman in 1951. He also led the league in fielding at second base three times and while playing the position won a batting title, on-base percentage title and a stolen-base title.

Robinson was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, even though he finished second in voting that year to Bob Feller. As one of the Boys of Summer, Robinson saw the Dodgers win six pennants in his 10 seasons.

2. Davey Lopes, 1972-81
Key fact: Lopes set an MLB record (since broken) of 38 consecutive stolen bases in 1975.

A converted outfielder, Lopes spent eight-plus seasons at second base in the Dodgers’ record-setting infield with Steve Garvey, Bill Russell and Ron Cey. He was a four-time All-Star, won a Gold Glove and had two stolen-base titles as a leadoff hitter with sneaky power. His seven Opening Day starts is the most for a Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman.

Lopes appeared in four World Series, including a key role in the 1981 championship. Even though injuries cost him his starting job to rookie Steve Sax late in the season, Lopes stole 10 bases that postseason. In Game 4 of the World Series, he was 2-for-5, stole two bases, scored two runs and had two RBIs, including the game-winning RBI in an 8-7 victory over the Yankees. He was traded to Oakland that offseason.

3. Jim Gilliam, 1953-66
Key fact: He’s the only Dodgers player not in the Hall of Fame whose uniform number (19) is retired

The versatile Gilliam was a utility man long before the role became popular, but he played second base the most and it’s where he won a Rookie of the Year Award and earned one of his two All-Star berths.

Gilliam gave the Dodgers a leadoff hitter, allowing them to move Jackie Robinson into the middle of the lineup and over to third base, a position that would be kinder to Robinson’s balky knee. Although popular third baseman Billy Cox became the odd-man out, Gilliam immediately was a major contributor on a World Series team.

On a team with Hall of Famers, Gilliam did a lot of little things that translated to winning and was a favorite of manager Walt Alston for his game smarts. He was a footnote to the series-changing catch by Sandy Amoros against the Yankees in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series. Gilliam started that game in left field, but took over second base for Don Zimmer when Amoros was inserted into left field.

4. Steve Sax, 1981-1988
Key fact: Won a Silver Slugger Award in 1986

Sax was a post-strike callup from Double-A in 1981 who hastened the departure of predecessor Davey Lopes and won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 1982, the first of his five All-Star seasons, three with the Dodgers.

Sax was a frenetic offensive player, a spray hitter who was runner-up for the 1986 batting title and a persistent basestealer who overcame a nasty case of the yips with the Dodgers in 1983 and 1984.

5. Jeff Kent, 2005-08
Key fact: In 2005, was the first Dodgers player to start an All-Star Game at 2B since Steve Sax in 1983

Kent was in the twilight years of an underappreciated career when he joined the Dodgers, but he still posted an .847 OPS in his four seasons in the middle of the Los Angeles batting order. He was the oldest Dodger ever to make an All-Star team in 2005 at age 37, surpassed two years later by Takashi Saito, who was 19 days older.

Honorable mention
Charlie Neal was a two-time All-Star and won a Gold Glove; Jim Lefebvre was Rookie of the Year in 1965 and an All-Star in 1966, both World Series teams.