Thursday, July 3, 2008 | 2 a.m.
51s Alums Elsewhere
Here is a sampling of former Las Vegas 51s who are playing in the major leagues with teams other than the Dodgers:
- Doug Brocail, RHP, Houston Astros
- Buddy Carlyle, RHP, Atlanta Braves
- Bryan Corey, RHP, San Diego Padres
- Eric Gagne, RHP, Boston Red Sox
- Joel Hanrahan, RHP, Washington Nationals
- Edwin Jackson, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
- Derrek Lee, 1B, Chicago Cubs
- Gary Matthews, OF, Los Angeles Angels
- Guillermo Mota, RHP, New York Mets
- Dioner Navarro, C, Tampa Bay Rays
- Shane Victorino, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Beyond the Sun
After Eric Stults tossed a four-hit shutout against the Chicago White Sox last week, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre announced he was taking the unorthodox step of going to a six-man rotation to keep Stults in the starting cycle.
A day after Stults’ gem, Torre juggled his lineup and moved Dodgers All-Star catcher Russell Martin to third base and gave third baseman Andy LaRoche his second major league start at second base in an attempt to inject some offense into the Dodgers’ lineup. Delwyn Young got a rare start in right field against Chicago’s left-handed starter.
The common theme? All four players — Stults, Martin, LaRoche and Young — made stops in Las Vegas on their way to the major leagues. And the Las Vegas-Dodgers connection doesn’t stop there: Sixteen players on the Dodgers’ 24-man roster as of Wednesday played in Las Vegas either this season or in 2006 or 2007, including regulars Chad Billingsley, James Loney and Matt Kemp.
And the list doesn’t stop with the Dodgers. A report compiled last winter by 51s media relations director Jim Gemma revealed 55 players in the major leagues last season played in Las Vegas at one time.
Although the abundance of talent that has passed through Cashman Field the past three seasons hasn’t translated into winning records (until this season) or championships for the Las Vegas 51s, the parent Dodgers have benefited. The Dodgers entered Wednesday’s game at Houston trailing Arizona by only 2 1/2 games in the National League West.
While the 51s have been dutiful about supplying players to the parent Dodgers during their eight-year affiliation, the local Triple-A franchise labors in Las Vegas under the somewhat negative label of “minor league,” according to team President Don Logan.
“To me, if there is one big hole in the way we are perceived in this market, it’s that people don’t realize how good these players are — even the ones who don’t go up,” Logan said. “I think the moniker ‘minor league’ is a negative, no question about that.”
Logan said his team’s marketing department is partly responsible for the perception of his team as minor league, but he also lays some of the blame on how the local media cover the team.
“The people telling the people are the ones who have got to do a better job of telling the people,” he said.
It also grates on Logan when he hears politicians and others in the community talk about the need to bring “professional” sports to Las Vegas — as if the 51s players who are one phone call away from the major leagues are something less than professional caliber.
“This is the best level of competition — by far — that Las Vegas has to offer,” he said. “It’s not even close when you compare the talent level out here day in and day out.”
Logan said the quality of players who are coming through Las Vegas on their way to the major leagues brings out the hard-core baseball fan, but probably doesn’t move the needle with the casual fan. That baffles Logan, who has been with the club since 1984.
“Russell Martin probably is going to start the All-Star Game,” said Logan, who obviously hadn’t seen the fans’ voting, which didn’t put a Dodger in the top five at any position. “Loney could, too. Kemp will be an All-Star; LaRoche will be an All-Star if he sticks; Billingsley will be an All-Star; and guys like (Jonathan) Broxton, (Joe) Beimel and (Andre) Ethier — they all were here.
“We’ve got (scores of) former players in Major League Baseball and half the Dodgers roster. There are more in the Dodger starting lineup than all the other sports in Las Vegas (have sent to the pros) combined. That’s not bragging — that’s just a fact.”