Dodgers' Dee Gordon on fast track to stardom
Given that his dad went by "Flash" during his playing days, it might be appropriate if we collectively started referring to Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon as "Blur."
After all, Gordon is just that on the basepaths, where he has racked up 51 stolen bases in 63 attempts, putting him atop the majors in the category, with eight more swiped bags than the Reds' Billy Hamilton and the Astros' Jose Altuve as of Monday.
Gordon has a permanent green light from Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, a level of trust that is earned, not given. And with license to steal any time he feels he can - which seems like virtually every time he's on without someone ahead of him - Gordon's efforts on the basepaths played a large role in his first All-Star selection, last month.
Someday, Gordon says, he thinks he could become Major League Baseball's first 100-steal player since Cardinals star Vince Coleman in 1987, though he's modest when presented with the comparison. His fielding, too, has improved exponentially since the Dodgers moved him from shortstop to second to make room for Hanley Ramirez.
This all sounds awfully impressive for the 26-year-old star Gordon in his first full big league season, to say nothing of his .295 batting average and MLB-best 10 triples, and at this point his place - both in the Dodgers lineup and the national consciousness - seems to have been solidified by his breakout year.
Harder to believe than Gordon's exponential rise over the last several months is the fact that he might not have taken to baseball at all had it not been for his dad, longtime big league pitcher Tom Gordon, making him an offer after his sophomore year of high school that he simply couldn't refuse.
"My dad promised me a car (if I played baseball)," the former basketball star Gordon recalled to FOX Sports on Monday. "So yeah, it was a pretty easy choice."
Yes, long before he was getting in the heads of pitchers all across the baseball landscape, Gordon, all of 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds soaking wet, had visions of a career in basketball - and there's a thought that he could have done it, too. Before his junior year at Avon Park High School in Sebring, Fla., however, his dad, who was also once a standout at Avon Park, made him the deal that would forever change the course of his son's professional life.
"I didn't really know a lot about the game, even with my dad playing ... but my dad told me that I could (do it), so you try to listen to your dad," Gordon said. "He had a huge influence on me, and he's always told me that I could play, and he just took the time out to make sure I got better."
It's obvious now that his dad's hunch was a good one, and the only shame is that Tom Gordon, who retired in 2009 after 21 years in the league, wasn't able to play long enough to pitch against Dee, who made his big league debut in June 2011, nearly three years to the day after he was drafted in the fourth round out of Seminole Community College, outside of Orlando.
Fortunately, there's another Gordon who may find himself in the majors sooner than later - Dee's 18-year-old brother Nick, who was selected with the fifth overall pick of this year's first-year player draft - and Dee says he can't wait for the chance to compete against his own flesh and blood.
"I just want him to go day by day and get his feet wet in pro ball, first," Gordon said of Nick, a shortstop hitting .287 through 35 games in the Appalachian League this season. "I just tell him how hard the game is. It isn't easy, and he knows that, and he's got to take (his opportunity) and run with it.
"But it'll be cool, man. I can't wait for that day. I'll probably talk trash to him the whole game."
And at this point, big brother has more than earned the right to do so.
"It's just hard work and being willing to pay attention," Gordon said when asked about the secret to his meteoric rise, though he's careful to temper his expectations. The All-Star has been demoted before, and after a thumb injury caused by a headfirst slide cost him several weeks in 2012, he knows how easy it is to be replaced.
"I don't think I'm secure," Gordon added. "I think I've still got some work to do to make sure I keep what I've earned."