Cody Bellinger just finished the best period of games before May 1st in Dodger history if not baseball history. The Dodger franchise has had their share of great Aprils but one that will always stand out for me are the 20 games played by Ron Cey in 1977.
The 1977 Dodgers were the first of consecutive NL Pennant winning teams managed by Tommy Lasorda. In their first month, they went 17-3 and basically ended any division race right there.
Cey had just finished what would be his best two seasons per Baseball-Reference WAR. In 1975, Cey had a 6.7 WAR and he followed that with a 6.1 WAR. He had also made three consecutive All-Star teams prior to the 1977 season.
Several Dodgers had good Aprils in 1977, Steve Yeager and Reggie Smith each had an OPS above 1.1, 1.117 for Yeager and 1.107 for Smith. Steve Garvey had 21 RBI and six home runs.
But Cey was the leader that month, hitting .425/.543/.890 in 94 plate appearances. He hit nine home runs and drove in 29 RBI. He also walked 20 times. Cey’s OPS 1.433 is slightly higher than both Cody Bellinger’s 1.397 and Matt Kemp’s 1.383 OPS in 2012.
What also makes that April standout was how it was such an outlier that season for Cey. For the rest of the season, he hit .214/.315/.385 with 17 doubles, 21 home runs and 81 RBI. His BABIP in April was .423, from May 1st on, it fell to .219.
He did have career highs in home runs with 30 and his 110 RBI was also a career best. And he joined teammates Dusty Baker, Steve Garvey and Reggie Smith as the first foursome to each hit 30 or more home runs in the same season.
Cey played in an era of great third baseman
In baseball history, third base has always been an under-represented position in places like the Baseball Hall of Fame. Cey had two contemporaries in Mike Schmidt and George Brett that were among the best of all-time.
But there were also other very good third baseman like Ron Santo, Brooks Robinson, Graig Nettles, Darrell Evans, Sal Bando and Bill Madlock in the majors at that time. Paul Molitor and Wade Boggs would begin their careers in the latter half of Cey’s career.
Jay Jaffe’s JAWS rating had Cey 23rd on his list of third baseman in terms of measuring their statistics for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Cey is ranked the highest among his three teammates in that legendary infield of Steve Garvey (50th at first base), Davey Lopes (39th at second base) and Bill Russell (73rd at shortstop).
There are only two Los Angeles Dodger position players with over 47 WAR as a Dodger since 1958. Willie Davis had 54.6 and Ron Cey has 47.7. The only other Dodgers in franchise history with a higher position player WAR are all Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snide, Jackie Robinson and Zack Wheat.
Finally, it is always great when any Dodger does something that brings up Ron Cey. Cey is one of the best players in Los Angeles Dodger history and hopefully in the future, a Dodger will do something in April to remind everyone the greatness of Ron Cey.