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Dodger Thoughts


Saturday, January 17, 2004


A Broad Alternative to McCourt

I've got a passing familiarity with Eli Broad. Never been formally introduced, but I have been in the same room with him several times.

Broad has made more money than you and I will ever see (at least I think so - I've already asked who my youngest reader is; maybe I should ask who is my richest) in the financial and (breathe deep) real-estate development sectors, and has been a leader, if not the leader, of the movement to revitalize downtown Los Angeles, highlighted by the completion of Disney Hall.

The first thing I looked for when I saw in the front page of the Times today that Broad had offered to buy the Dodgers for $430 million if Frank McCourt's bid falls through was not whether it would be financed primarily by loans. I know that Broad doesn't need to buy a team on layaway.

Nor did I suspect that Broad had any interest in taking a George Steinbrenner-like role in running the Dodgers.

Rather, I wanted to see if there was any mention of making a baseball stadium part of his downtown plans. My hunch is that he does not. It really is just a hunch, but over the years, to my knowledge, Broad has never joined those who support building a new sports stadium downtown. His participation in trying to bring an NFL team to Los Angeles advocated the existing Coliseum.

Here's what we have.

"A source close to Broad said that although Broad is vice chairman of the nonprofit Grand Avenue Committee, which promotes downtown Los Angeles development, he has no interest in relocating Dodger Stadium there or developing Chavez Ravine property," Ross Newhan wrote in his article.

Take this as far as you want, but I appreciate that accompanying the very first story on Broad's new proposal, they have addressed the most important concerns on McCourt's bid.

McCourt Timeline

Rob McMillin has put together a useful timeline of the Frank McCourt ownership bid. Note the warning, way back on October 10, that there isn't enough cash to support the bid.


Sometimes, you get conditioned to expect people to blame others for their disappointments. To his credit, ex-Dodger Daryle Ward, now with the Pirates on a non-guaranteed contract, is pointing the finger for his poor 2003 at himself.

"It was a big learning experience for me," he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I had a bad attitude and that didn't help. This game is tough and you have to know how to enjoy yourself and be a team guy. I was selfish. The manager and I got into it, things went south and I got disciplined. I think I'm a lot more mature than I was last year."

My follow-up question would have asked why he had a bad attitude. But this is enough. We all move on.

Friday, January 16, 2004



From what I can tell, the Daily News hasn't run a Dodger story in six days.

Best Man?

Pretty women out walking with gorillas down my street
From my window I'm staring while my coffee grows cold
Look over there! (Where?)
There's a lady that I used to know
She's married now, or engaged, or something, so I am told

Is she really going out with him?
Is she really gonna take him home tonight?
Is she really going out with him?
'Cause if my eyes don't deceive me,
There's something going wrong around here

- Joe Jackson

Dodger chairman Bob Daly believes that everyone has has unfairly judged prospective owner Frank McCourt, and that McCourt has the Dodgers' "best interests at heart," according to Ross Newhan in the Times.

If that's true, why is McCourt buying the team?

Let's stipulate that the Dodgers' best interests are these:

  • The foundation for championship seasons this year and beyond
  • An atmosphere that encourages fans to buy tickets this year and beyond

    How does a man purchasing the Dodgers almost entirely with borrowed money help achieve those ends?

    Absent McCourt, the Dodgers are on a path, after years of meandering, toward satisfying those interests. Their minor league system is in the best shape it has been in years and still improving. They have cleared payroll and are able to pursue quality ballplayers. They have most of an 85-win team returning in a mostly weakening division. And they play in a lovely ballpark whose only drawbacks are the traffic hampering access to it, ancient bathrooms and expensive food.

    If the debt-ridden McCourt succeeds in purchasing the team, the first thing he's going to need is cash. Here are his options to get that cash:

  • Reduce the budget for player salaries
  • Increase the prices that customers pay for tickets, food and souvenirs
  • Flip the Chavez Ravine property for profit while pursuing a new stadium downtown
  • Sell his land in Boston
  • Collect revenue from operating a baseball team in the nation's second-largest city.

    If the last of those is true, then we'd have much less worry about. But if the last of those were true today, I don't know if News Corp. would be so anxious to sell the Dodgers.

    Make no mistake - I've somewhat doubted the reports of how much money the Dodgers lose and completely doubted that the right owners can't make a profit from the team. But the key to making money is molding a team and an atmosphere the fans can be enthusiastic about - that makes them as happy to spend money on you as if you were one of their own children at Christmas.

    Though it helps, you do not need a $120 million payroll to create that atmosphere. McCourt could come in, set the payroll at $80 million (and Daly made it even clearer that a payroll cut is coming), hire the right people, and deliver a better team than we've seen at Dodger Stadium in years - keeping them at the Stadium all the while.

    I want to believe. If the sale goes through, I'll swallow hard and start over and try not to pre-judge.

    In the meantime, I look for evidence to indicate that this is a possibility. So far, the very best that I've gotten is Bob Daly saying in the Times that McCourt "is a good guy who will have the club's best interests at heart."

    Any objective observer can see that the Dodgers can do better then a Boston real-estate investor who is subletting the team. How is it possible that McCourt is our best man, and not our gorilla?

    It's Shaq Signing With Sacramento

    On top of everything else, The Bench Coach is disturbed that the Dodgers have become the San Francisco Giants' protege.

    How distasteful is it when the lame-duck semi-owner of your favorite team says the team should be more like its most hated rival?

    It's Ohio State changing its mascot to the Wolverines.
    It's the Red Sox going with pinstripes.
    It's the Dodgers acknowledging that the Giants have become a model franchise.

    Dodgers CEO-of-the-moment Bob Daly tells the LA Times' Ross Newhan that, when the Frank McCourt sale 'Tis completed, the Dodgers will begin to look a whole lot like the evil to the North (see 16th graph).

    Good piece by the Coach, who's off the bench and back in action after a hiatus.


    They Sure Love Him in Beantown

    Rob McMillin, who has turned into my Guillermo Mota on the Frank McCourt story, forwards this article from Steve Bailey of the Boston Globe:

    The McCourt Appeal is designed to help our parking lot attendant realize his dream of owning a major league team - only not here. We've seen enough; it's someone else's turn. Can't L.A., the land of the car, use some parking lots? Send those donations to the Frank McCourt Appeal, c/o The Downtown Column, The Boston Globe, Boston, MA 02107. Give till it hurts.

    Few in this town have talked the talk more and walked the walk less. McCourt is strong on vision. Doing is his problem. Cooperative is not a word often associated with the man. For years he has presented countless slide shows with his vision of the New Boston on the other side of the Fort Point Channel. No other plan was ever grand enough for McCourt. He was going to buy the Red Sox. He was going to build a new Fenway on the waterfront. Instead, 25 years after McCourt bought his South Boston land from a bankrupt Penn Central, what we have down there is acres of parking lots.


    Dedicated to the Game

    Good news from a good guy.

    I don't know how many of you have followed the link on the right side of the page to "A Season in Savannah," my 2002 article on former Stanford star Paul Carey, the Cardinal's all-time home run leader and 1987 College World Series hero, whose major-league playing career was undermined by injuries.

    If you have, you might be interested in the following update from Todd Wills of the Dallas Morning News. Carey spent the 2003 season as the Rangers' AA Frisco (Texas) Roughriders batting coach, and is now considering a move toward a front-office career:

    Carey, the RoughRiders' hitting instructor, recently completed a 10-week mentorship with the organization, learning the day-to-day operations of working in a baseball front office. The mentorship is a prerequisite for a master's degree Carey is working on in sports management.

    Carey, 35, learned the public relations side of the business, met with sponsors, sold tickets and – yes – even dressed up as Santa Claus for a recent team function at Dr Pepper/Seven Up Ballpark. ...

    He won over most of his Double-A hitters last season with his instruction in the batting cages. Now there are those who will swear by him if he decides to try the business side of the game.

    "Paul might be at a crossroad in his life," RoughRiders president Mike McCall said. "He has a taste in the business side now. It will be interesting to see what he does in his career.

    "I know if he decided to go into the business of baseball, he has a home here with us."

    Carey definitely cuts a Paul Bunyan figure, but he attends to the smallest detail. He has a great mind for the game and is a born leader, and I hope he goes far.

    It Must Be Fate

    Well, now, here's a perfect match, Frank!

    Mr. McCourt, our would-be Dodger owner, knows Bud Selig. Mr. Selig knows Mr. McCourt. Seems to like him, in fact.

    Well, guess what - the family Selig is selling the Brewers!

    Is this perfect? It's at least as perfect as Monica* and Chandler - which is to say, perfect enough to do the job.

    And here's something else any prospective owner light on dough would like. According to The Associated Press, "the Brewers were baseball's most profitable team after revenue sharing, netting $16.1 million."

    Frank, this is the one! This is true love, right before your eyes! Don't let it pass you by ...

    *My theory on Courtney's relatively bloated appearance on last night's rather pathetic half-an-episode. I'm guessing it was drugs to encourage pregnancy, not the pregnancy itself.

    Dodgers Sign Giambi, The Other

    Jeremy Giambi is a 5-foot-11, 216-pound truck - who at one point was the leadoff hitter for the Oakland A's.

    That's because Giambi knows how to draw a walk - he averages one every seven plate appearances and has a career on-base percentage of .377. His career EQA is .284. In 2002, he hit 20 home runs in 313 at-bats.

    Giambi's 2003 stats don't look that much better than Daryle Ward's - he batted .197 with five home runs. (Actually, they do look a good deal better - that's how bad Ward was.) And of course, he's no Jason Giambi. But he's still only 29 years old, and with a non-guaranteed contract, Giambi is a good candidate to be a productive bench player - a nice peripheral signing by the Dodgers.

    I'd add that he's a nice left-handed compliment to the Bubba Trammell, but you still have to consider that Trammell may be asked to do too much in 2004.

    Thursday, January 15, 2004



    At this time, that's as much as one can ask for.

    Sixteen days remain before Frank McCourt's exclusive window to buy the Dodgers expires, according to the Times, and there is increasing acknowledgment from inside the game that there are hitches in McCourt's get-along.

    Further, Ross Newhan writes that Bud Selig may not have to force the McCourt square peg through the round ownership hole - that Selig has done what he needed to placate national broadcast partner Fox and its umbrella company, News Corp. (while of course denying that News Corp. needed placating):

    One way or the other, some theorists believe, Selig has set the stage, satisfying News Corp. Chairman Peter Chernin.

    If McCourt is approved, News Corp. finally gets its wish and is out as owner.

    If he isn't approved, or doesn't get to a vote, Selig can assure Chernin he did all he could and took it as far as he could.

    Grain of salt me when, earlier in Newhan's article, Selig talks about fastdiousness in applying baseball's ownership rules. But there is doubt from on high, and doubt matters.

    I suppose one might ponder the holy hell News Corop. and Fox would unleash on the Dodgers if, come February, they're still lame-duck owners. However, keep these two things in mind: the hell would be short-term, not indefinite like a McCourt ownership, and a Dodger Stadium teardown shouldn't be part of it.

    Congratulations to the Times for sticking on this story. I was disappointed Wednesday that the paper had nothing on the ownership situation, but it came back today - and keep in mind, it could have been ignoring this story all along. Again, the big thing missing right now from the Times is a story detailing the consequences of McCourt ownership before it happens. (If it happens!)

    For my part, I'm in catchup mode, too - and of course, very much wanting to get back to talking about the game and not this ownership fooforall.

    Oh Yeah - And There Was This

    Site reader Louis Hamel reminds me to mention this tidbit about Dodger general manager Dan Evans from T.J. Simers:

    EVANS SAID he didn't mislead fans when he repeatedly said the impending ownership change had no impact on his dealings to improve the team.

    "You haven't heard me say that since the end of the winter baseball meetings," he said, implying new marching orders have been issued.

    I asked him if that was what he was implying, and he said, "I just said what I said," which is true when you think about it. And maybe the first time with certainty I could say that about anything he has had to say.

    Said Hamel: "So it's official...our GM has no authority to effectively do his job."

    Wednesday, January 14, 2004


    Lightning Round

    Times-rumored Dodger target Richard Hidalgo does have EQAs of .316 and .309 sandwiching .271 and .252 over the past four seasons (.260 being an average EQA), but somehow, the idea that we would be paying $12 million plus the cost of players in a trade for him, when Vladimir Guerrero would have been the alternative, doesn't sit that well right now.

    I've got some tough time constraints today - I'll probably be back this evening at the latest.


    I've been curious about how old my youngest readers are. So far, I don't think I've heard from anyone who wasn't at least college age. If you think you might be the youngest, e-mail me at

    I hope this doesn't come across in a tawdry fashion in this age of Michael Jackson under arrest. I'm not interested in your identity - just the demographic.


    1) Rich Lederer revisits Game 7 of the 1965 World Series:

    I recognize that Koufax benefited by pitching during the 1960s when runs were more scarce and by starting half of his games in the expanse of Dodger Stadium, one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks of the past 40 years. However, sabermetricians routinely undervalue Koufax's counting stats during his peak years and fail to give proper credit for pitching on two or three days rest, especially at critical junctures in the season such as Game Seven of the 1965 World Series.

    According to Jane Leavy in her masterfully written book, "Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy", the Dodger great pitched on two days rest eight times in his career. He won six times, including three complete game wins with a combined total of 35 strikeouts.

    How valuable is it to get one additional game out of a pitcher like Koufax in a seven-game series? That's a 50% increase over the more normal two starts. If that extra game is what makes the difference between winning and losing the World Championship, how do we quantify that?

    Go to Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT for, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.

    2) Tyler Bleszinski on Athletics Nation uses my discussion of Frank McCourt earlier this week to launch back into the speculation about whether Oakland general manager Billy Beane is headed to Los Angeles:

    McCourt will look around baseball for the best bargain bin shoppers and inevitably, his search will begin and end in Oakland. Billy Beane is the King of Baseball Frugality, the Purveyor of Penny-Pinching. The question is, will Billy want to be a part of this mess? Well, with one of the better farm systems in baseball because Evans refuses to part with any prospects and Beane's daughter residing in Newport Beach, the answer would appear to be yes.

    It's a lingering cloud A's Nation will have to deal with until the McCourt sale is either final or goes down the debt-tube. For baseball's health and stability, lets hope the McCourt sale gets declined faster than Hammer's credit card at Macy's.

    For my part, I don't think Billy Beane seems like the type of guy to get himself involved at this stage of his career with as problematic an owner as McCourt looks to be.

    Tuesday, January 13, 2004


    The Honored Commissioner Speaks

    Under the headline, "Selig honored by Red Sox," baseball commissioner Bud Selig is quoted by discussing the Frank McCourt ownership bid:

    "Frank has made an application; it's gone to the ownership committee. They'll have another meeting in Phoenix on Wednesday. I put it on the agenda, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it will get through those steps (then). These things are generally a pretty slow process. So I can't tell you that it will be acted upon. But certainly the ownership committee ... it's moving in a very normal fashion. He's made a deal with FOX; I'm hopeful that the deal continues to move forward. He's been very cooperative. The clubs and the ownership committee will have a lot of questions; they always do on everything. This one will be treated the same way."

    The way I read this, the only doubt in Selig's mind is not whether the purchase will be approved, but when.

    Selig was honored at the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner for "his long and meritorious service to the game."

    Good Job - Don't Stop

    Bill Plaschke figured it out:

    This problem reaches all the way to the commissioner's office, where Bud Selig has allowed the defacing of a franchise that former commissioners considered a treasure.

    How could Selig allow an owner who has stopped spending money on the team to sell to a guy who can't afford it?

    Frank McCourt can't buy Vladimir Guerrero because he can barely buy the Dodger uniforms.

    And Fox, already loaning him money for the purchase, certainly isn't going to help him.

    How can Selig approve of this?

    The franchise with the major-league guts to break the color barrier is being treated like triple-A team.

    The franchise that popularized baseball on the West Coast is being allowed to go south.

    Forget Pete Rose, how come Selig is gambling with baseball's future in its second-biggest city?

    McCourt will be approved soon as the new Dodger — cough, cough — owner.

    He will come to town for the first sports news conference featuring representatives from all major credit cards.

    He should first be asked, why?

    Why are you buying something you seem incapable of improving?

    Why does it seem as though you want the baseball team less than the property in Chavez Ravine, so you can turn it into apartments and build a new stadium downtown?

    Why would you not allow the money saved on the Kevin Brown deal to be spent on someone just as powerful?

    The next critical step is for the media to confront Bud Selig and the owners for an explanation of how they could possibly approve Frank McCourt's ownership bid. Enough with the off-the-record rationales of "we need to keep our national broadcast partner happy by letting them sell to whomever they please." Get Selig and the owners on the record explaining how they can justify selling the Dodgers to Oliver Twisted.

    Monday, January 12, 2004


    Two Fans Have Had Enough

    From another longtimer, Dan Reines:

    "He's not going to let a little thing like baseball get in the way of his owning a baseball team and the land it sits on."

    Eesh. I couldn't agree more, Jon.

    I know I'm overreacting. I know it. Still, I can't help but feel just as lousy and pissed off today as I did when they moved Piazza, and just as pessimistic as I did that day seven years ago this month when O'Malley put the team up for sale.

    Guerrero. To the Angels.

    Encarnacion. To the Dodgers.

    Right island. Wrong guy.

    You know, it's funny. I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, equidistant from Dodger and Angel stadiums. I was a fan of both teams -- my favorite players were Rod Carew and Reggie Smith. But sometime around the late '80s, early '90s, I renounced my fandom with the Angels. I got tired of rooting for a team that made no apparent effort to win. I got tired of feeling like a rube. So I became a Dodger fan exclusively. And though I got nice and wistful when the Angels won it all, I didn't feel like I owned it. They weren't my team. Whatever.

    I'm feeling the same way about the '04 Dodgers as I did about the '90 Angels. I don't know what to say. I wouldn't say I'm ready to give up on the team, but I'm definitely ready to ask for a trial separation. Unless they surprise the hell out of me between now and opening day, I'm done for a while. With the Dodgers and, probably, with baseball. Hey, I could use the extra time.

    And if, down the line, the Dodgers start coming back, if they start running the team like a team with which I'd want to associate myself, then maybe I'll come back. But the thing is, I'm really not a rube. Or at least, I'm not as much of a rube as the Dodgers -- whoever "the Dodgers" are this week -- seem to believe I am.

    We'll see. Maybe we'll work this out. But I'm not holding my breath.

    I know there's a danger of these Dodger supporters coming across as fair-weather fans, but I don't think that's the case at all. I look at these reactions as

    1) examples of tough love. I think they see a team spiraling out of control, like a family member gone south on drugs, and they don't want to be enablers. They will continue to advocate and hope for solutions, but they don't want to be part of the problem.

    2) as Reines himself later indicated to me, a perception that "I've got better things to do with my time and my money than to spend either on an entertainment option that isn't actually trying to entertain me." In other words, Reines isn't abandoning the team - he feels that the team has abandoned him. "Not bothering to compete is not fun," Reines said. "I'll give a damn about the Dodgers when they demonstrate that they give a damn about the Dodgers."

    One Fan Has Had Enough

    From longtime (I think I can actually say that now) Dodger Thoughts reader Chris Hamilton:

    When I saw the news late [Saturday] night I couldn't sleep. I sat in bed until 5 a.m. depressed. Until [Saturday] there was at least a chance for next year and now that hope is dashed. Unless there is some sort of miracle the Dodgers are going to enter the season with .500 talent.

    The frustrating part is that I expected this to happen all along. I knew that Evans wasn't going to provide a "big RH bat" no matter how many times he promised. I knew that the payroll was going to be well below $100 million no matter how many we were told that it would be a similar amount to last year. Most importantly I knew that the Dodgers are playing for 2006 and not for today.

    It would be nice if the L.A. Times would write a decent editorial on the whole mess, but they seem to be generally apatheitic. Maybe they think that the story is tired. Whatever. Their next fresh insight on the Dodgers will be their first.

    For the last few months I have been waffling over whether or not I would be renewing my season tickets this year. I decided in November that I would let the Dodgers make the decision for me. If the Dodgers were going to make a commitment to 2004 than so would I. Well last night's decision sealed the deal for me. I'll spend that money going to see Dodger games at Petco Park, Edison Field, SBC Park and maybe Coors and the Bob. I'll go to Dodger Stadium when I am given tickets, but I won't be buying any. Maybe this is drastic, but at this point it is necessary for my sanity.

    Hopefully, things will improve enough so that I can feel good about buying season tickets in 2005.

    Two responses:

    1) Forget 2006 - I don't know that the Dodgers are playing or not playing for any year in particular. They won't stop trying to win per se - they'll just be trying to do it the Oakland (or Milwaukee) way.

    2) If you're going to go on a Dodger ticket strike, you should try a Dodger food strike as well, even if you do get free seats from someone.


    I can't believe what I'm reading.

    With major league owners scheduled to vote this month on whether to approve the bid of would-be Dodger buyer Frank McCourt, a source said Sunday that McCourt asked Commissioner Bud Selig whether some owners might vote against him if he spent freely to acquire Guerrero yet presented a financing package heavily dependent on loans. Selig offered no assurances, the source said, and McCourt sent word to General Manager Dan Evans to cease talks with Guerrero.
    - Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times

    Is this for real?

    The Dodgers are saving Brown's salary in 2004 and 2005. When the Brown savings stop at the end of 2005, that's when the Dodgers knock $30 million in Shawn Green and Darren Dreifort off the books.

    And yet we're supposed to believe or accept that, amid a market correction for player salaries, Vladimir Guerrero's is the one that would drive McCourt out of business?

    Did anyone actually think this through? It makes no sense.

    If McCourt can't afford to sign Guerrero with the Dodger payroll already on the Atkins diet, he can't afford to buy the Dodgers. Period.

    This should unequivocally mark the end of McCourt's ownership bid.

    If baseball's owners approve McCourt's purchase of the team, it can only be because they want the Dodgers to be less competitive. They want a weaker team in the nation's second-largest market.

    Just out of curiosity, if the Dodgers had not completed the Kevin Brown trade, would that have kept McCourt's bid from being approved? Because with Brown's salary on the books, how on earth would poor Mr. McCourt have afforded his lown payments?

    Forget about comparisons to Angels owner Arte Moreno. Frank McCourt is not in the baseball business. He's not going to let a little thing like baseball get in the way of his owning a baseball team and the land it sits on.

    Dodger fans are game for any challenge, but having phony challenges thrust upon them for no defensible reason is shameful.

    News Corp. is unloading the Dodgers at the local pawn shop, and Bud Selig is all too happy to oblige. We're all being sold down the river.

    More Food for Thought

    And to think I just told Chris Hamilton to boycott the food. Dodger Thoughts reader Rob McMillin adds this to the mix:

    Aramark helped McCourt to creatively buy the Dodgers by providing loans in exchange for an equity position. That in hand, McCourt turns around and rebids the concessions. This is blackmail at its finest, folks. This is a desperation move by a man who knows he's in trouble. Starting out your career by sticking a knife in your business partner's back is just not a good thing, you know?

    Turn Up the Volume - Nationwide

    At The Futility Infielder, Jay Jaffe sees our pain and raises it:

    While I share Jon's concern that the team may be bought by an owner who won't spend the appropriate money to make the Dodgers competitive, I see a far more ominous cloud over this. Namely, that Selig effectively blackballed McCourt out of pursuing Vlad in exchange for his blessing regarding the Dodger sale - we all know that behind the scenes, Bud can orchestrate the other owners' yea or nay on this.

    I want to see sombody investigate this as further evidence of collusion or at least a foul Seligulan shenanigan. As per our ongoing community-wide discussion on the growing influence the non-mainstream baseball writers, I think we can do our part in building a fire that will make Bud sweat this one.

    Jaffe adds to my belief that the recent revelations involving the Dodgers, McCourt and Guerrero need more national coverage. This isn't a parochial, SoCal issue. It's symptomatic of the best interests of the game itself being subverted. At a minimum, the writers with real followings need to start looking at the ramifications of what's happening.

    Sunday, January 11, 2004


    Fill in the Blank

    Yeah, I'm here.

    I've heard. I heard Saturday night. I read articles on the Internet and IMed my baseball-loving cousin until 11:30 last night, well past my father-of-the-toddler bedtime.

    I'm thinking, right as you read this.

    There's a place in my mind waiting for a productive thought to come. Sort of like there's a place in the Dodger lineup waiting for a productive outfielder to come.

    Last night, as midnight approached, with my wakeup call under six hours away, my head and sleep fought each other. A small part of me savored Stanford's victory over Arizona - a much smaller part than was savoring it hours before. The rest was wondering when the Dodgers became like the Stanford I knew most of my undergraduate years, unable to close out a meaningful victory. (Actually, Stanford's program-defining victory over a then-No. 1 Arizona came only about 10 weeks after the 1988 World Series ended.)

    You don't care about Stanford. But you might understand my need to find something positive to write about.

    Vladimir Guerrero, if the unnamed sources talking to Times are true about him going to the Angels (and I hold out naive hope that they're somehow wrong), is not so much the girl that got away. Many of us who have loved and lost will love again.

    It's that we can't get the girl, period. Once we were The Bachelor; now we've become Average Joe.

    Right now, it could be Dan Evans' bad-date banter or Frank McCourt wanting to go dutch on the check. It doesn't matter. We've got the money, but we ain't got the goods.

    The prom is coming up, and we're going to need a fix-up. We're looking at guys like Paul Konerko or Darin Erstad - overpaid, underproductive hitters. We're looking at Ivan Rodriguez, who helps us at the position that is our second-strongest, even if Paul LoDuca never hits 10 home runs in a season again, while leaving us bereft in half the lineup. (Lo Duca's trade value is being overrated.)

    Is Todd Helton still on the block? Jim Edmonds?

    Hell, we may end up going to the prom stag. Sweet sixteen and never been kissed, indeed.

    I've said it before. I love the game. And, in my somewhat pathological way, I love the Dodgers. I will go to the prom no matter what, and hope there's a lonely companion who's been ignored too long.

    But this is embarrassing. It's disheartening. And most of all, it's disturbing. The ownership transition is not an excuse. If this absence of activity is to be the Dodger offseason (and you know me, I'll give Dan Evans until April 4 to make something happen), then this is the clearest sign you need that the McCourt ownership bid is abhorrent.

    I haven't felt this pessimistic about the Dodgers' future since Kevin Malone. I remind myself about the promise of Edwin Jackson and Greg Miller and James Loney, but it's not helping much. This organization has mad cow disease and someone needs to step in and save it, not spread it.

    I suppose it's not their place, but I wish the people at the Times would do more than report the cloud of McCourt's prospective ownership. I wish they'd step up and fight it.

    Tasteless but True

    Okay, I feel a little better after that. The way you do after a good post-drinking barf.

    Let's face the future. Let's think vigilantly but not wallow.

    We Can All Do Better

    Been lots of discussion and meta-discussion lately about print journalism vs. online journalism: goals, standards, ethics. Bloggers have been taking a hard look at all of it.

    The print folk have, too.

    In today's Los Angeles Times Magazine, staff writer Glenn F. Bunting profiles Frank Deford. Here's the headline:

    Picking Nits with Frank Deford
    In the Hyperbolic World of Sports Journalism, the Sports Illustrated Icon Is Considered a Master Storyteller. And Most of the Time, He Gets It Right.
    Deford influenced my formative sportswriting years considerably, and apparently, Bunting's as well. Decades after "admiring Deford's magazine profiles in [his] sports-crazed youth," Bunting is spurred by the recurring complaints of a Rancho Park golf instructor, whose religion is compiling a rap sheet of Deford's exaggerations and outright errors, to engage the trepidatious task of confronting the master with his miscues.

    I book a flight, feeling slightly apprehensive about the confrontation that lies ahead. I relish the opportunity to match wits with the "world's greatest sportswriter." But I also feel a bit overmatched, like a rookie stepping in to face a Nolan Ryan fastball.

    Some of the golf instructor's relayed complaints are in fact nit-picks: subjective at best. (This reminds me of my all-time favorite newsroom moment, when one of our Daily News copy editors asked aloud, "I know this is gonna sound minor, but is nit-picking hyphenated?") Others are factual errors, but certainly minor enough, the kind that no writer wants to make but that no writer can completely avoid.

    In facing the list of transgressions, Deford is defensive. Sometimes he's melodramatic, accusing Bunting of portraying him as a "serial killer." Other times, Deford struggles to hone up as easily as he could, such as in this example:

    The next excerpt is from an Oct. 7, 1996 Newsweek article about hockey star Mario Lemieux. Deford wrote "posterity will never forget that no athlete—not even the sainted Lou Gehrig—has ever before Lemieux been struck down by a deadly disease at the very moment when he was the best of his sport at the best he would ever be."

    Who else, Deford wants to know, could possibly rank beside Lemieux?

    ... Early in the 1991 season, Los Angeles Laker all-star Earvin "Magic" Johnson announced that he had tested positive for the AIDS virus and was retiring from the NBA.

    "Was he the best at that time?" Deford asks me. "Again, I think you're cutting hairs here."

    Seems fair to say that Deford is the Barber of Denial, considering that, other than Michael Jordan, Johnson was quite arguably the best player in the NBA when the virus struck.

    What's heartening in Bunting's article, however, is that a clear belief underlies Deford's defensiveness: Even the little stuff matters. Deford met with Bunting; he listened. He got frustrated, but he also told Bunting, "I'll be very honest with you. I had no idea that I had been so sweeping in these. I really didn't. I'll be more careful in the future."

    He even kept his sense of humor, Bunting said.

    On Nov. 13, 2002, he wrote that Myles Brand, formerly the head of Indiana University, is "the first college president ever chosen to lead the NCAA." But James Frank, the president of Lincoln University in Missouri, became the NCAA's first president in 1981.

    "I anticipated that one," he says. While taking several minutes to passionately describe the changes in titles of those who sit atop the NCAA, Deford becomes so rattled that he nearly drives the Jaguar onto a median strip as the Jersey Turnpike merges into Interstate 95.

    "Oh Christ!" he shrieks, steering the vehicle back onto the highway. "See, you are ruining me here!"

    He tells me he is unaccustomed to arguing and navigating a car simultaneously. Surely, I suggest, he has had his share of front-seat spats with his wife during 38 years of marriage.

    "Yeah," he retorts, "but she doesn't have evidence!"

    The article was another reminder - and somehow, we seem to need these reminders all the time - that we can all learn. We can all do better.

    They're Real ... And They're Spectacular

    The Angels have announced Vladimir Guerrero will have a physical Monday, with a press conference to follow Tuesday.

    The Angels are in the house. The Dodgers are the boys next door.

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