Off Base


Popular Revolt Leading to Regime Change

February 4, 2011, 8:02 p.m. It worked in Tunisia. All it took was a relatively-organized citizen uprising, featuring the liberal use of social networking, and 29 days. And a regime went beddy-bye.

"Be gone, regime! You are toast," cried Tunis.

Egypt stands ten days into a rebellion of its own, and with momentum building against him, a president clings to power. For now.

We know one thing for sure – well-orchestrated campaigns to unseat tyrants are on the rise, and can be effective. Algeria, Bahrain and Libya have protests scheduled now, with perhaps Jordan, Syria, Sudan and Yemen to follow.

So surely Chavez Ravine is to be next, no? There, a despised autocrat sits atop a once-proud land – Dodgerland – refusing to yield to calls for his ouster. Just as the American president, in the face of current events and a cynical public, has threatened to withhold financial support, the baseball commissioner has determined his riches off-limits to the embattled despot.

The Commish, again, like the President, while perhaps not playing hero in the matter, seeks at the very least to come out "on the right side of history."

I imagine the events unfolding something like this: Key dramatic music, roll title. UPRISING AT THE SUNSET GATE!

[And while we're on the topic of the Sunset Gate, don't think a return to the pre-McCourt glory days of parking wherever the hell we feel like, within whatever non-preferred lot we damn well please, and for ten bucks, isn't smack dab at the top of our list of demands.]

With rabble-rousing blogs Memories of Kevin Malone, Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness and Sons of Steve Garvey leading the get-out-the-word effort, thousands appear at the Sunset Gate; pitchforks, rolling pins, and the occasional foam we're-number-one doodad poised. You know, to give Frank the collective finger.

It's bright and early, a week from Tuesday, February 15, which is Russell Martin's birthday, don’t cha know, and the day before Dodger pitchers and catchers report.

Stadium security personnel are primed and ready, but with clear instructions to avoid violence at all costs. The chants begin: "Frank must go! Frank must go!! Frank must go!!!"

"Hey, we hear you, Dodger fans," is the response from the kindly old security chief. "We really do. But you're not coming through these gates. Not over my dead body."

Lead Protestor: "Get Frank down here, then. We mean business and Frank must know! Frank must know! Frank must know!!

Security guard: "Happy to oblige, really I am, but Frank's not even here. Haven't seen him in months. Try him at home. I'm sure he'll be hospitable. Go with my blessing. Knock yourselves out."

Lead Protestor: "We can get him at home? Cool. Thanks, dude."

With that, the throng about-faces down Elysian Park Avenue, triumphant, and the cry goes out: "To Frank's house, to Frank's house, to Frank's house!!!

A right turn on Sunset and off they go, picking up numbers as they head west, "Frank must go! Frank must go!! Frank must go!!!"

After four miles of marching, around Western, the thought occurs to someone, "shit, we forgot to ask which house. The McCourts have several."

Lead Protestor: "My bad, sorry. You can flog me later because I deserve it. But look, Frank and Jamie bought their houses in twos, right? Side by side compounds. So really, when you think about it, it's only two stops. Holmby Hills first, since it's on the way, and if we don't catch him there, we're off to Malibu. It'll take us a week, but what the hell. It's for a good cause, right? Everybody now, "Frank must go, Frank must go, Frank must go!"

With the long walk ahead, talk turns to new leadership. While I've made no bones about my preference for Dennis Gilbert, I must admit, the notion of Steve Garvey over-throwing anything, much less the current regime, does sound tempting.

Since McCourt has already fired a cache or two of vice presidents, it's agreed that a provisional government of baseball men must be convened. No, not Fred Claire. I said baseball men. But clearly, an anyone-but-McCourt sentiment is the consensus.

Now, to the list of proposed reforms. Demand number one, and by far most importantly, the Dodgers must have a new and legitimate left fielder asap. None of this wait-till-July-and-if-we're-still-in-contention-maybe crap. We don't care what it costs. A left fielder is to be acquired by March.15. A month's notice is plenty of time.

Either Marcus Thames or Jay Gibbons may stay as a pinch-hitter only, but not both.

Next, catcher. With a genuine outfielder in place preseason, we'll hold off on our catcher demands until June. But consider yourself warned.

Third, "Can't Stop Believin" and all San Francisco-inspired titles are to be removed from the Dodger Stadium play-list henceforth. Lip-synching wannabe actor jackass guy is to be banned from the zip code. And while we're at it, Tony Bennett too.

Fourth, Eric Collins is to be replaced by a broadcaster who actually lives in Los Angeles and follows the team year-round, who'll agree in advance never to utter the phrase "this is gonna get down."

Next, Sandy Koufax gets his statue at Chavez Ravine in 2011. Ditto Don Drysdale. No more excuses.

Better concessions and actual customer service on the Reserve level. Troughs in Top Deck, Reserve and Loge level men's rooms, and in the pavilions, are to be replaced with real porcelain equipment, designed post-1960. Service with a smile throughout the Stadium is a required.

Starbucks stands all around the property.

If the Dodgers need an ace at the trading deadline, the Dodgers gets an ace at the trading deadline.

If the team needs a key position filled next winter, the team gets a key position filled next winter, and competes for the best available talent.

Full-fledged commitment to minor league development, scouting and international baseball. Logan White gets a huge raise and a multi-year contract. Don Mattingly doesn't, at least, not until he's earned it.

Full-fledged effort to bring the 2016 All-Star Game to Los Angeles.

Actual days off for Rafael Furcal, and whatever unlucky candidate gets the starting catcher job, to be peppered throughout the schedule, with the expressed understanding that it's not a ballplayer's responsibility to ask for a day off, when it's obvious to everyone on the planet except the manager that he can use one.

Next, six weeks with Steve Finley's trainer for James Loney, starting immediately. Watch as the newly-buffed first baseman logs a .300, 20 and 100 in 2011.

Contract extension offered to the new face of the franchise, Clayton Kershaw, before he asks for one.

If Jonathan Broxton shows up in camp a pound heavier than last year's model of Ronnie Belliard, he is to be sent to rehab immediately.

No hair stylists allowed on the payroll. Nothing but SuperCuts or Fantastic Sams for club executives, with kiosks to be opened on the Reserve level.

With hundreds of thousands of Los Angelinos now in tow, the protesters reach McCourt Mansion Numero Uno (known in-house as "the one on the left") in time for afternoon Dodger Talk. A KABC remote unit is already in place.

In a size zero one-piece after having just finished her lap swimming, out comes Jamie McCourt, beaming with excitement. "Frank has left the building," she says.

"He has left all L.A. buildings, in fact, and has been granted asylum in Argentina. He was said to be 'fed up' with his so-called stewardship of the club, and I have been directed to send him a check for his fair share, at my convenience.

Ding, dong, the witch is dead! The Dodgers are yours, Los Angeles!! This is your Day of Departure!!!"

Now, is the scenario so hard to fathom? It's agreed, then. Everybody, meet me at the Sunset Gate. Or I'll start the revolution without you.


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The Steroid Zone






If Dennis Gilbert Builds it, They Will Come

January 17, 2011, 2:17 p.m. Indeed. Twenty-two hundred strong, in fact, which is something more than capacity. Baseball people, friends of Dennis Gilbert, and a few (myself included) who'd like to be friends of Dennis Gilbert.

In an evening of laughter, a note of sorrow, with a frequent use of the word "family," Gilbert held the eighth annual Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation "In the Spirit of the Game" awards dinner Saturday night at the Century Plaza Hotel.

I was honored to be a part of it, I must say, and though the Main Squeeze warned me not to stare, I found that to be a challenge.

The very first person I saw upon entering was Frank McCourt, standing in a small circle with Charley Steiner and four younger men; McCourt's sons perhaps. It's great to have a wife who gets this stuff, and all I had to do was nod in the direction of the circle to get a knowing smile, before moving on.

I saw Frank Robinson escalator his way downstairs and figured, that's the place to be.

Sorry for all the name-dropping, by the way, and as an L.A. native I'm not star-struck as a matter of course, but this was pretty cool, and it would be silly for me to suggest otherwise. Within minutes, I'd rubbed shoulders with Vin Scully, Peter O'Malley, Tommy Lasorda, Maury Wills, Ron Cey, Bobby Valentine, Robin Yount, Tim Hudson and Matt Williams (not that seeing the former-Giants third baseman was particularly meaningful).

Dennis Gilbert was on the red carpet with Bud Selig when we walked by, Larry King was milling about, as were writers Ken Rosenthal, Jon Heyman, and Tracy Ringolsby, cowboy hat and all. We sat at a table with Marcel Lachemann, and three scouts from the Colorado Rockies organization.

Kristen and Dan Pierce were our gracious hosts, and what a neat couple they are. Dan and I are working on Serious Heat: From South Central to the Show together, and Dan sprang for an ad in the event program, logo and all.

In case you don't know, Serious Heat is the true-life book and film story of Negro Leagues pitcher and Pittsburgh Pirates scout, Chet Brewer, who coached an incredible squad of future big leaguers in 1960s Los Angeles. More about that as we move forward, but for now let's just say we're gaining momentum, and with the night being all about scouts, I felt a part of in some small way.

Larry King started the program with some thoughtful words about how the Arizona shootings had touched the baseball family, and the Dodger family more closely. A moment of silence followed. Anticipating King's suggestion, the crowd grew silent quickly, and all you could hear was the clanging of silverware on plates by the table-clearing hotel staff. Then almost complete silence.

Allan H. "Bud" Selig Executive Leadership Award recipient Joe Garagiola, Sr. was first up, and after his introduction by the Commissioner, was about as funny as you'd expect.

Bob Uecker was in fine form soon after, as was his presenter, Jerry Reinsdorf. The White Sox owner was hysterical, actually, feigning disappointment at not being able to present his friend of 25 years, Tom Seaver, with an award, as he'd expected, because Gilbert couldn't find a taker to introduce Uecker. "Who's Bob Uecker," said Reinsdorf.

The usual-but-still-funny comments from and about Uecker included his getting an intentional walk from Sandy Koufax that one time, leading the league in passed balls, and making the final out in what for him was a big game – for the mythical Grapefruit League championship – with the opposing team in the dugout already in street clothes.

About the only thing missing was a typical line or two from Uecker's old appearances on "The Tonight Show." Johnny would lob in the gopher ball question, "how many home runs did you hit in your career, Bob," for Uecker to come back with "Oh, I banged out 14 of em." There's a classic "passed ball school" routine as well. Perhaps you can find it in "Carson Classics," or on YouTube.

Seaver was pretty funny too. After a rambling intro by James Caan, Seaver thanked the actor, following up with "we have 311 wins between us." There was a comment about hating the Pittsburgh helmet, and after seeming to forget the name of the scout who signed him to his first Mets contract, Seaver pretended to forget the name of his wife, Nancy.

Next, in what he admitted was "blatant advertising" for his wine company, Seaver plugged his current gig, pointed to his donated bottles on the table tops, and urged the audience to put the supplied coupons to good use.

I thought about grabbing a bottle as a souvenir, but as a non-drinker thought again and took the Nick Swisher bobblehead instead. Why a 2008 Swisher White Sox bobblehead was part of the centerpiece at a Rockies table, I have no idea.

Though fumbling over his current and former employers names, Lasorda introduced Bobby Valentine beautifully, and like some, but not all of the presenters, spoke extemporaneously. Valentine spoke passionately about baseball and about the work of the mostly-unsung baseball scouts, but I was struck by what had to be the intentional mention of his 1600 wins as a manager, "so far."

Of the guys who played it straight, Player Lifetime Achievement Award winner Brooks Robinson stole the show. After a moving introduction with video from Roy Firestone, Brooks had my closest attention. I literally sat taller in my chair while leaning forward to listen to him, and he delivered exactly as you'd expect him to: sincerely, with pefection, and with nothing but class.

Speaking of class, the Orioles took out a full-page ad in the event program, featuring this famous photo from the 1966 World Series, and accompanied by the headline, "Go ahead, Brooks. Celebrate."

Additional recipients are these: Bill, Marcel and Rene Lachemann – the Ray Boone Family Award, presented by Bob Boone and sons; Robin Yount – A Scout's Dream, presented by Yount's first manager, Del Crandall; Tom Sherak – Dave Winfield Humanitarian Award, presented by Winfield; Jim Fregosi and Paul Snyder – George Genovese Lifetime Achievement Award in Scouting, presented by Tracy Ringolsby and Roland Hemond; and Ken Brady, Pat Dougherty, Lou Fitzgerald, Bud Harrison, Gail Henley, Grover "Deacon" Jones, and Fred Uhlman, Sr. – Legends in Scouting Award, presented by Gary Hughes.

While Larry King and Bob Uecker were billed as Masters of Ceremonies, Matt Vasgersian, in an unannounced role, actually carried the yeoman's share of the load. And he was great. Charming, in his element, and beaming throughout; the perfect L.A. audition for his next gig, as Vin Scully's one-day replacement.

All in all, just a great night with friends, for a great cause, and thoroughly devoid of controversy, T.J. Simers notwithstanding.

A wonderful evening, which concluded with my singing "Wonderful Tonight" to the Main Squeeze at the conclusion. That she was, and is, on a regular basis.

Major props and high-fives to Dennis Gilbert. We'll be back next year.

And remember, glove conquers all…



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