Yesterday, I was scrolling through Twitter and noticed something about Justin Turner’s account—his profile picture was of him and his wife, and his headline pic was of them and their foundation. In his bio part, it just says @court_with_a_k and a bride emoji. Nothing about the Dodgers. Nothing about being a World Champion, or even a baseball player. Just links to his wife and his foundation.
Of course, JT does not owe the Dodgers or any of us an explanation in his bio. But it still hurts to see any acknowledgement of the team that he has been with, and meant so much to, over the last six years, absent from mention. Turner will always be a Dodger, regardless of whether he retires or plays several seasons with a different team.
This got me thinking about what former players for the Dodgers hurt the most to see with other teams. On November 23rd, Dennis tweeted that on that day in 1988, then free agent Steve Sax signed a three-year deal to play for the New York Yankees. 12-year-old me was devastated at the time, as he was my first favorite player, and I hated the Yankees. It was always weird to see Orel Hershiser in another team’s uniform, especially when he played for the San Francisco Giants.
I asked Twitter what player it was for them, and got some varied answers.
As we all know, Sandy Koufax retired at the age of 30, and as Chuck says, in his prime, leading the team to World Series wins and throwing no-hitters left and right. And then he had to announce that he was done with baseball, because his arm betrayed him. Koufax will always be one of those players, despite his incredible career, you will still always wonder what might have been.
Steve Garvey played for the Dodgers for 14 years before signing with the San Diego Padres. He was an All-Star for eight of those seasons and played in every single game for five of them. A two-time All-Star MVP, two-time NLCS MVP, and a World Series Champion while with the Dodgers. Justin Turner just passed him for most hits all time in Dodgers postseason history this October. A player like that is definitely tough to see go to another team.
Martinez was signed by the Dodgers on June 18, 1988. His older brother Ramón was already in the Dodgers organization. He started in the bullpen but then went on to be a Hall of Fame starter, first for the Montreal Expos where the Dodgers traded him in 1994 for Delino DeShields, and then later helped lead the Boston Red Sox to their first World Championship in 86 years. He won three Cy Young awards over his career, five ERA titles, six WHIP titles and had a lifetime 2.93 ERA. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015.
Piazza famously was drafted in the 62nd round of the 1988 draft as a favor to Tommy Lasorda, his Godfather. He went on to become a fan favorite. He was NL Rookie of the Year in 1993, and an All-Star each of the six seasons he played in Los Angeles. In 1997, he was the first catcher to record 200 hits in a single season. He and the Dodgers couldn’t come to a long term deal, and in 1998 he was traded to the Florida Marlins, who eight days later traded him to the New York Mets where he finished his Hall of Fame career.
Piazza also had unkind words for Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully, who he erroneously thought blasted him in an interview. Piazza remarked that he would much rather go into the Hall of Fame with a hat with no logo than in a Dodger hat. (I wonder if it bothers him that his Baseball Reference page has his picture in his Dodgers uniform?) Sour grapes for the team that gave him his chance, indeed.
Matt Kemp has so given Dodger fans so many memories. His first time around with the team did not end the way most fans wished that it might have, and his reunion with the team brought many fans joy, especially how he started the 2018 season, making his third All-Star team selection. Kemp is a player that has fans thinking what might have been, had he been less injured and happier in Dodger Blue.
Many other players were mentioned. Adrián Beltré was suggested often. Shawn Green, Paul Lo Duca, AJ Ellis, and Rich Hill all were players that Dodgers fans hated to see leave the team. But the most answered player by far was Yasiel Puig.
Puig started his career with the Dodgers with a bang and it never really stopped until he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds after the 2018 season. From his speeding ticket in AA Nashville to his quick ascension to the bigs and his getting on teammates nerves, Puig did it all. And he did it with great gusto and love of the game, except when he didn’t. A contradiction in giving it all and lolligagging, and sometimes both in the same game. There won’t be too many players with his childlike love of the game and incredible enthusiasm and ways to make the stadium shake with his powerful bat.
It’s a blessing and a curse to be a fan of a team that can trade away or let generational talent walk, because they still have so much of it. It stands to reason that in five years, one or more or Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager and/or Walker Buehler might be playing for another team. But we will always have the incredible moments that they each have given us. Who was your favorite player that didn’t end their career with the Dodgers? Let us know!