The Last Thing the Dodgers Need is a Designated Pinch Runner
While the last thing I want to do is hurt someone's feelings, there's a reason why Terrance Gore managed all of 17 major league at bats from 2014 through 2018. The 1-17 isn't the end of the world, of course (see Eugenio Velez); but it is an indication of something.
Similarly, there's a reason why, when I did an image search for Gore in the publication's database, I had a grand total of one picture to choose from. OK, fine; I was spelling it Terrence instead of Terrance, but you get the idea. Mark me down as skeptical of the Dodgers' idea to use the new final 26-man roster spot for a "burner," which is what Gore is. He's "fleet of foot," as Rick Monday would say.
In an earlier time, Gore, like former-Reds' outfielder Billy Hamilton, would be known as a "speed merchant." Has a little different meaning today, if you get my gist.
Vin Scully said countless times that "speed never slumps" and Los Angeles has employed such men in September before, when rosters would expand to as many as 40 players. Tim Locastro is the most recent example, in 2018. But this isn't September, 2018; it's February 25, 2020, a month and a day from the opener in Los Angeles March 26.
More importantly, while I have no doubt that Gore is a faster runner than most of L.A.'s guys currently, just how many times do you need a runner to score from first on a final-inning double, when someone like Chris Taylor or Kiké Hernandez won't do? Or even Ross Stripling, who Dave Roberts has turned to as pinch runner on several occasions.
More importantly still, how can you justify giving Gore a roster spot over someone like Matt Beaty or Edwin Rios, or even a third catcher? Russell Martin, who's still out there looking for a job, is one example. Martin, by the way, can play the infield and even at 37 is a better defensive catcher than Austin Barnes. Better hitter too.
In fairness, Gore did well in 51 at bats with Kansas City in 2019, hitting .275/.362/.353 (with two doubles and a triple). I don't believe he will be able to duplicate the feat in 2020. And the Dodgers do not want for fine defensive outfielders.
There is a memorable precedent for the use of a designated pinch runner, however. Oakland A's owner, Charlie Finley, of orange baseball and smooches-with-his-wife (while manager Dick Williams smooched with his) on the dugout roof following the 1972 World Series) fame, used a roster spot for sprinter Herb Washington for the entire 1974 season.
Washington proceeded to go 0-29 (and 0-33 lifetime) while stealing 29 bags in 45 attempts on the year (for an atrocious 64.4 %). The Athletics' designated pinch runner made two appearances in the World Series versus the Dodgers that fall.
In Game 2, representing the tying run down 3-2 in the ninth at Dodger Stadium, Washington was sent in to run for Joe Rudi at first base. You can guess what's coming. L.A.'s iron man and Cy Young Award winning reliever that year, Mike Marshall, promptly picked him off. The place erupted in cheers. And laughs.
It was the first World Series game I attended and it was absolutely hilarious. Marshall then struck out Angel Mangual and the Dodgers had their only win in the Fall Classic, losing the Series four games to one in Oakland four days later at the Coliseum. Bill Buckner trying to stretch a triple and that whole thing. We'll talk about that some other time. Or not.
So, no. The Dodgers do not need a gimmicky designated pinch runner on the roster in 2020. Not until September, anyway. Not with the talent already assembled at Camelback Ranch.
And remember, glove conquers all.
Howard Cole has been writing about baseball on the internet since Y2K. Follow him on Twitter.