Eric Karros doesn't intend to dwell on his National League Rookie of the Year award.
Karros, barely considered a keeper by the Los Angeles Dodgers heading into spring training, eventually won the first base job and went on to have an outstanding year, hitting .257 with 20 homers and 88 RBI.He says all that's nice, but one season isn't a career.
"It keeps you going, knowing guys come and go in this game. The trick is not getting there but staying, having some longevity. I've only played one year, and my goal is to play a number of years.
"What I did last year doesn't matter now; it's what I do in 1993," Karros said Tuesday in a conference call from Japan, where he is touring with a major league all-star team.
Karros was named first on 22 of the 24 ballots and received 116 points overall from the Baseball Writers Association of America. Montreal outfielder Moises Alou was second with 30 points, followed by Pittsburgh knuckleballer Tim Wakefield with two first-place votes and 29 points.
"I wasn't surprised, but I'm definitely happy," he said. "It's been something that's been talked about the last few months, and it's finally done. It reflects the season I had, but I'd exchange it for our club to have been in a pennant race."
The Dodgers were awful in 1992, finishing 63-99 in the NL West. Injuries to Darryl Strawberry and Eric Davis gave Karros a chance to hit fourth.
Manager Tommy Lasorda, in his office at Dodger Stadium, was on the line during the conference call from Japan and said, "If there's anybody who deserves something good happening to him, it's this young man. I saw him come from the start of spring training and what he has accomplished."
Karros was hanging on with the organization by a thread when he reported last spring.
He had been far less than impressive in his September 1991 debut with the Dodgers, then had a miserable winter in Venezuela.
"I was 1-for-14 after they called me up in September, then I hit a buck and change (.113) in Venezuela," he recalled.
Caracas manager Phil Regan quickly dumped Karros.
"His stock really dropped with the guys that saw him," Lasorda said. "But when we took him to spring training, we knew the things we had to work with him on, and we spent a lot of time with him. He spent a lot of hours and he overcame his deficiencies."
Lasorda said Karros almost was shipped back to the Dodgers' Triple-A farm team in Albuquerque, N.M. "But we decided to keep him because he worked so hard in spring training that he deserved to come with us," Lasorda said.
Karros went 20 for 54 with 11 RBI in the spring, but even after sticking with the Dodgers, he felt that a ticket back to the minors was still hanging over his head.
"About the middle of May, I thought I had a pretty good chance of staying up," he said. "The turning point came when I hit a three-run homer off (Pittsburgh's) Stan Belinda (May 23).
"I think from that day on, I started every day, and that made it easier for me, knowing Tommy was going to have me in there day in and day out," Karros said.
Alou, the son of Montreal manager Felipe Alou, hit .282 with nine homers and 56 RBI. Wakefield was 8-1 with a 2.15 ERA and won two playoff games against Atlanta.