Tracy campaigns for Izturis
Skipper calls his shortstop 'best in the game'
LOS ANGELES -- As Dodgers manager Jim Tracy likes to say, shortstop Cesar Izturis "gets it."He "gets" the way a professional athlete is supposed to act on and off the field, and he "gets" what it takes to be a Major Leaguer. Izturis has that sixth sense only the great ones have, though the skipper is not sure where he got that because, as a player, Tracy didn't have it. As for those dribblers up the middle, or that sharp liner in the hole between shortstop and third base, Tracy is quick to remind that Izturis gets those, too. Got it? "Who is better than him?" Tracy said. "He's the best shortstop in the game. He does all the routine stuff, and all the remarkable stuff. He has a sixth sense about him. He's developed as a hitter to the point where he has become a force offensively on either side of the plate." This season, Izturis is hitting .310 with one home run, 20 RBIs, and four stolen bases. He is among the league leaders in hits and multi-hit games. He won the Gold Glove last season and is on his way to a repeat performance this season. "I told him that when he builds that nice big house one day, with a fireplace and the mantelpiece, to make sure it is big enough because that Gold Glove he has is not going to be the last one," Tracy said. "He's going to need a place to put them all. I'm sure of it." Admittedly, Izturis is a year older, and a year wiser, but says little else has changed. When he was a rookie, he never viewed himself that way. Now that he has more than four big league seasons on his resume, he doesn't see himself as a veteran either. He simply sees himself as Cesar, and Cesar is a baseball player. No more, no less. "I have more confidence than ever before is the only difference," Izturis said. "Offensively and defensively, I feel great. Experience helps. I play everyday, and I am learning everyday how to win in this game." Wining is something Izturis can get used to. Last season, he hit .288 for the National League West champions, all the while becoming more of a force from the left side of the plate. This season, the Dodgers are 33-29 and in second place in the division behind San Diego, which gives Izturis reason to be optimistic. "I take pride in everything I do on the field," Izturis said. "I am out there working hard and practicing to get better. What you see now is because of hard work, but I know I can get better. We all can." Humble, but gregarious, when he's feeling comfortable, Izturis would much rather talk about his team's performance than his personal accolades. It's not that he does not care about his numbers or how he ranks among the shortstops in the Major Leagues, it's just that it is not his top priority now. He chats more about winning the division, winning in the playoffs, and winning a World Series, but if pressed, he'll talk about himself, but only briefly. Perhaps that quality is part of the reason he initially did not place in the top five vote getters among National League shortstops for the All-Star team. Yes, he does play in Los Angeles, one of the largest markets in sports, and he is the face of countless billboards across the city, but Izturis is not going out of his way to campaign for a spot at the Mid-Summer Classic. Keep in mind that he's mostly quiet in public, and also exhibits a child-like quality, a naiveté to the politics involved in the game. Maybe that's part of the reason Tracy and the Dodgers faithful cherish him so much. "He's one of the finest people I have ever been around," Tracy said. "There is no ego, and he brings a selfless approach to the ballpark everyday. He understands what his capabilities are, and the framework that he has to work within." Likely not helping Izturis' All-Star bid is the fact that most of his games start after 10 p.m. PT on the baseball-hungry East Coast. But the shortstop is not one to complain. That's just not his style. It never has been. The Dodgers have launched a "Vote for Izturis" campaign, and are reaching out to the shortstop's countrymen and women in Venezuela for votes, but that wasn't Izturis' idea. He does, however, appreciate the support, the growing support. "I see that more people are recognizing me," Izturis said. "When I go to bat, more people are clapping for me, and I see the jerseys the kids wear. That makes me smile. I feel that love. That makes me feel good, but I cannot lose myself in that. I have to play a game every night." "If I don't make it, I'll take the days off and rest," Izturis continued. "I've always dreamed of playing in the All-Star Game, every player does. It's a goal. If I don't make it, I will be fine. I only talk about it when [reporters] bring it up." By contrast, the topic thrives on the tip of Tracy's tongue. Any mention of the All-Star Game and the manager explains what an injustice it would be if Izturis does not play in Detroit this July. "He's an All-Star caliber player, and he's going to be dong it that way for years to come," Tracy said. "He cares. He wants to be an even better player this year than he was last year. He gets it. He is the consummate Major League player on a winning team. He is a championship caliber player." Got it.
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.