on the current Dodgers announcing (not scully)

I think that Nomar Garciaparra is  as a first-year Dodgers color man on SportsNet LA. He was tentative and understated early in the season, but is evolving into an important element of the broadcast. Still a distant third in sheer volume of commentary, he takes cues from Charlie Steiner and is a capable banterer during typical on-air discussion. He also lends expertise as a contemporary (as opposed to an Old-Timer) of players, and is conscious of the viewer’s affinity for the Game, thus his ability to explain without condescending. Bravo.

Now about Orel Hershiser. I want to like Hershiser. In fact, I love and will forever cherish what Hershiser brings to my life as a Dodger fan. 1988. The Bulldog.
But listening to him in the analyst role for his team, he’s even more didactic than his days doing Little League World Series and later baseball for ESPN. He’s not only condescending, but he makes it clear that he’s teaching you while you’re just. . .trying. . .to watch the game. Orel is cerebral, this is a fact; he’s not intentionally condescending, which warrants tolerance points; but he’s a strain to listen to for nine innings over three cities when the Dodgers travel East without Vin Scully.
I’m aware of the Steiner debate and not willing to argue that right now; people despise him because he’s a bit loony or, like me, they love him because he’s Uncle Charlie – but he needs ONE additional voice in the both, not both of these former Dodgers. And unfortunately, Orel has to go.
 
Another point on Nomar: he’s the voice of this team and demographically, this city. He’s a local boy (Whittier/St. John Bosco HS) with an indelible franchise moment (game winner in the back-to-back-to-back-to-back game). He hosted Carne Asada Sunday at Dodger Stadium. His articulate, enunciated vernacular represents the stylings of an informed Angeleno. Pay attention while they’re on the road – he’s an unsung gem of broadcasting.
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Ranking the Baseball Card Sets of the 1980’s

Special shout to @nightowlcards (http://nightowlcards.blogspot.com/) for indirectly inspiring this post.

Ranking the Baseball Card Sets of the 1980’s

Based 99% on aesthetics and 1% on arbitrary & subjective judgement, I present my descending order of ‘nicest’ baseball card sets of the 1980’s.

#32 – 1981 Donruss.  an absolute bush league attempt at a baseball card. Everything from the proto-dot matrix font to the generic stock border looks amateur. Extra points for stamping the year on the front of the card; as a kid I didn’t notice that and in retrospect it’s very cool.

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#31 – 1983 Donruss.  aahhh, Donruss. Every time I see this set I think ‘printed at home.’ Again, just a continuation of the ’82s which were a continuation of the ’81s, and here we are. Didn’t really do much, and if the ’84s continued down this path, I’m positive Donruss would not have made it to ’85.
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#30 – 1982 Donruss. Donruss basically created a bolder version of the ’81s. Added a little flair with the bat, and came with some nice fonts. Still overall very generic.
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#29 – 1981 Fleer.  another freshman effort with very little frills. Generic font on the name, position and most appallingly, the team name. Very minimal, perhaps to prevent further embarrassment.
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#28 – 1981 Topps. the cap in the corner really makes the cards look generic, and is essentially the same design as Fleer. The card stock was thicker and the design was a tad bit more assertive but realistically 1981 was the worst overall year for cards, at least aesthetically, in the decade.
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#27 – 1988 Score. this is just hilarious. Score, through no fault of their own, debuted their collection during what was quite possibly the worst single season for rookie cards in modern history. Sure, there’s Glavine, and the Traded set was nice, but the multi-colored card backgrounds were just too bright, too distracting. Combine that with a mediocre run of players, and Score kind of established themselves as a good break when you’re done opening real packs.
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#26 – 1982 Fleer. again, a pretty poor effort from Fleer. They really approached this business ‘no-frills’ and it shows. I remember more than a handful of the cards being blurry.
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#25 – 1988 Donruss. This Jeffries card was the most sought-after common card I can remember. And the set is kind of ugly, to boot. It’s trying to do too much with the random pattern on the border, and the font gets lost in the shuffle, as does the logo (how is that possible). Also, some really lousy Diamond Kings in this issue (take that, Johnny Ray!).
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#24 – 1989 Score. the cards aren’t hideous, but they still feel like second class citizens. Kudos to Score for the unique layout, but it just seems too ‘new-fangled’ for the industry. Harumph.
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#23 – 1989 Donruss. Donruss goes fully off the rails again. I love the color purple, but not on my cards. This was tough to differentiate from the Classic board game sets that came out a few years early, but at least these could legally utilize team logos. Really, just an ‘updated’ version of what they were doing when their cards were generic computer printouts in the early decade.

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#22 – 1986 Donruss. Man, this Canseco card is awesome. Does any card from any era capture a singular persona with one photograph as this Canseco rookie? The design is pretty ‘futuristic’ with the dizzying horizontal lines backdropping a 100% horizontal/diagonal layout. A little trippy, but it was something new. Content of the set aside (this was a powerhouse at the time), it’s a set that did not age well.
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#21 – 1986 Fleer. basically ’85 Fleer but they balanced it out; the bubble is now at the bottom. A bit more optimistic than the ’85 set, but still fairly dour. Fleer’s photographers had either the best access or the best eye, because they captured the most candid of shots of any card company. This set is slightly nicer than average.
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#20 – 1988 Topps. probably the most baseball card-y of all baseball cards. They nailed everything from the moment it came out of the wax pack. Colorful yet unpredictably colored team names; a horizontally diagonal stripe; the strong, thick-lined border; a scripted font for the position. Through all that, managed to set the standard for the Truly Generic. It’s not a bad-looking set, it’s just that it comes off like a Ford – it’ll get you to where you need to go but there’s nothing special about it. At all.

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#19 -1987 Donruss. Donruss returns to Earth with a comic-inspired border that detracts from what would otherwise be a really clean design. Again, clean team logo and sharp use of black, but the player name/color coordination effort is a bit too much, as is the stripe-lined animation.
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#18 – 1985 Topps. The Disneyland of card sets. Happy, colorful, fun, everybody’s having a good time look at us!!! Clean look, and one of the first mass, mass, MASS produced sets that foreshadowed what would be the ultimate downfall of the hobby.
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#17 – 1989 Topps. Topps salvaged generic and gave it a twist. A wavey player name line enforced a script team name, and that’s it – yet somehow the card looks professional. Came out clean and understated and a good way to head into the 90’s.
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#16 – 1983 Topps.  I like this set more than I should, probably because of what it meant – the constant Gwynn & Boggs rookie card debate, as who is really the better hitter.  The inset picture is a really neat feature, but the overall design is a bit too line-y. Good cards, though, and fun to open.
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#15 – 1986 Topps. I had a ton of fun with this set, and opened about a half dozen boxes with my best friend Jared at his Mom’s house after the turn of the New Year. Seemed like a really accessible set with the huge letters on top and the dual border color, but is pretty bland in retrospect. Kudos for some humorous photos, though.
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#14 – 1984 Fleer. Fleer strikes again, yet with a completely different design. Bold stripes line the top and bottom, and the color team logo and sharp pictures ensure a strong set. The fact that their Update edition set the hobby on its ear didn’t hurt. Hall of Famers in a set-only limited print run? Yes, please!
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#13 – 1985 Donruss.  Oh Donruss, don’t hurt ‘em! Black borders, so ahead of their time and sooooooo obnoxiously nicked, specked, ticked, and otherwise flawed, permanently putting the kibosh on any chances at keeping your Puckett rookie in PSA10 condition. Bold move with the team logos, but a great layout makes this an upper echelon design – except for the red ‘stairs’ on the border, which take it down to average.
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#12 – 1989 Fleer. again, Fleer takes a chance, this time with pinstripes. On grey, of all colors. But it works, yet again. It helped that there were some notable cards (ahem, Billy), but a well put together set that would rank higher if it had more elite players.
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#11 – 1989 Bowman. Really cheap cardboard. I mean, this set felt like those cereal box cards my dad handed down to me from the early 60’s. I think it was Kellogg’s or Post. Either way, I despised these cards at the time but probably didn’t ‘get’ what they were trying to do. Though the formula changed dramatically, when Bowman took over the 90’s with their elite design (backed by a very limited print run), it was backed by these, which are essentially recreations of the late 40’s and 50’s Bowman shortrun. Very understated, with solely the signature and Bowman logo, and some decent if not predictable photography. Clean, thin red line leads out to the border, inversely representing the baseball field.
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#10 – 1984 Topps. I loved this set more as I was younger, but it’s still a good look. A little dated, but definitely with the ‘retro is cool’ cachet. A strong focus on mustachioed players was a Topps hallmark, and the inset photo made sure to enable a pack run of 8, 9 or even 10 players in a row with ‘staches. Cool stuff, and probably everybody’s first Mattingly rookie.
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#9 – 1987 Topps. this actually is a beautiful set, only I’m desensitized because I’ve seen more 1987 Topps baseball cards than any other card set on the planet. I think I opened a box of ’87 Topps every year from 1986 (Christmas release) through 1999. Then when I ‘got back into’ pack ripping in the 2000s, I bought another five boxes. It’s so nice, just like the wood in your kitchen. And just as played out. But really, it is a good looking card if you take it for face value.
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#8 – 1988 Fleer. The total antithesis of their ’85 issue, as this one screams big happy balloons. It’s the first clean white backdrop we’ve seen in the decade, and the pops of blue and red are not only election/Olympics-friendly, but they add a good touch. Some first-rate photography and collaborative photos (Puckett and Matt Nokes?) make this a pleasant, higher-rated set.
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#7 – 1985 Fleer. Fleer strikes again. For me, this set captured the 1980’s better than any; it was foreboding, and the photos contained a bleakness that spoke volumes about the various controversies in the middle of the decade. The design itself is a bit top-heavy, but the unedited, sweaty pictures that are featured on several cards provided a window into the dark soul of the game.
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#6 – 1982 Topps.  the first really cool set in the 80’s. The cards look modern (for the era), with the Tron-esque track navigating the side and bottom of the card. The fonts are strong, and the added faux-signature was both a callback to classic Topps and always a fan favorite. Again, thick stock and some nice photography.
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#5 – 1987 Fleer. This set shouldn’t work. The blue is obnoxious (hey, at least they run a reverse downward gradient prior to smacking your them with a final horizontal bold streak) and the card is basic. But it’s awesome. I don’t know if this is the set that captured the spirit of the go-go 80’s, or was prescient toward the pastels and bright colors of the early 90’s, but it stands out. And it’s nice. The Bonds rookie is an iconic card and somehow, someway, the blue resonates without being dated.
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#4 – 1980 Topps. Pretty gorgeous, from the ribbon position/team design to the late 70’s cinematic color wash. The pictures were fairly low quality at times, but they did well capturing greatness – and one of the last true awesome rookie cards.

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#3 – 1983 Fleer. I looooooooooove this set. I didn’t at the time, and I even overlooked it during my pack-opening renaissance in the 00’s. Yet within the last half decade, I’ve come to appreciate the first colored border (beige, how striking) of the decade, and a legitimate team logo on the card. Fleer also stepped up their photography with some higher-quality portraits, and the colorwash they utilized makes the cards timeless. Very underrated set and one of my favorites.
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#2 – 1984 Donruss.  Saved the company, revolutionized the hobby. Was it the quadruple wave on the front? Was it the borderless photos? Was it the barrage of close-up portraits? Or was it simply Donnie Baseball, the right man at the right time in the right place for this card company to capitalize on being the first limited-print (due to perceived financial constraints) run in modern collecting history? All of the above, probably. Great set, great aesthetics and opening a pack today still gives me chills.
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#1 – 1989 Upper Deck. You knew it was coming. So did I. The Griffey rookie took the baton from Donnie Donruss and armed with outstanding photography (Walter Iooss), post-modernism (Gary Pettis), a legendary error card (Dale Murphy RevNeg) and a sweet crop of players, this set blew everybody out of the water. And foil wrappers. And a baseline running down the side of the card. And $1/pack charge. These were the first cards that made the hobby a real business of Now. Unfortunately, it also was the impetus for making it a real business of yesterday as well. ’89 Upper Deck, you were fine, you were fun, and you made the hobby and subsequently ruined the hobby. Thanks for the memories.

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MLB Favorites – My Lifetime

In a recent email thread with my two closest baseball guru friends, we sent missives back-and-forth noting our favorite baseball players in recent memory. More specifically, in our lifetimes – for this project, that spans the 80’s, 90’s, oughts and 10’s. I’m curious to see your favorites – here are MY players. Not the best, just my dogs by position:

Catcher: Mike Piazza. Never seen a catcher hit like that. Period. I hate to admit it, but Buster Posey COULD be on this list except for his extremely dry personality. Excellent player though. Ironically used to love Jason Kendall until he became the literal singles-est hitting player in baseball. Charles Johnson was a ton of fun but his zero bat grated on me when he was a Dodger. Great arm though. Also Benito Santiago was fun, both with the arm and late career at-bat.
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First Base: Don Mattingly. Gamer. Mustache that wasn’t wack. Awesome baseball cards. Looked great in a uniform. Sweet swing. Manager of my favorite team. Sold. Frank Thomas was just dope. Great, intimidating hitter. I liked Jeff Bagwell at the time, but less and less historically. Go figure. Fred McGriff was lean, dope follow-through, unassuming and just awesome. How do you not love watching Mark McGwire hit dingers, especially that 500+ blast off Randy of all people. Jesus. Mo VaughnCecil Fielder. Prince Fielder is on here too because he shows up every day, loves the game and hits boomers.
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Second Base: Craig Biggio, Roberto Alomar, Carlos Baerga, Jeff Kent.
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Third Base: there are sooooooo many ‘pretty good’ guys at this position; Wade Boggs, Matt Williams, Travis Fryman, Ken Caminiti, obviously Chipper Jones is a hall of famer, Jeff Cirillo nobody really excited here. Even UCLA-alum Troy Glaus was a masher but eh. Adrian Beltre is probably the only one that makes a list of ‘favorites.’
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Shortstop: you’d think this position would be fun. A-Rod pretty much ruined that. And Tejada. And even Nomar. But Derek Jeter is amazing and carries it himself; Barry Larkin is on here for his play but not his persona. Cal Ripken obviously belongs BUT he was fairly boring, sorry Cal. Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel were fun, but I’m not a defense-first kind of guy, especially in the era in which we grew up. Rafael Furcal was a LOAD of fun for me, so he’s probably #2 behind Jeter, and Hanley Ramirez is fast approaching. Another 30 bombs – and a title? – this year and he leapfrogs Derek.
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Outfield: Kirby Puckett in center, Barry Bonds in left, Rickey Henderson in right is my dream outfield. Probably my top three favorite players of my lifetime (?) as well. It’s really hard to leave Ken Griffey Jr. out of my starting lineup but otherwise I’d use Rickey as DH and bat him leadoff, move Kirby over to his late-career RF and we’d have the best/most exciting team I could dream of. Otherwise, Tony Gwynn is on the club. Bo JacksonManny Ramirez was SO exciting and dominant for a period that he’s my big bat. Vladimir Guerrero is on the team, really fun to watch in all facets. Ichiro Suzuki was so poetic/artistic at the bat (and arm!!!!), he’s in. Tim Raines makes the club for sure as well. Darryl Strawberry pre-coke, Eric Davis without a doubt (30/80 club!!!!) I also believe Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are good enough to warrant what may fairly be labeled ‘premature’ inclusion here.
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Starting Pitchers: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux are guys I’d pay to watch pitch from now through eternity. In fact, I don’t think you can beat my club with those guys throwing every three days in my three man rotation (!!!!). Seriously though I have to include Nolan Ryan, Clayton Kershaw, Fernando, Hershiser, Kevin Brown, David Cone (who I like more post-retirement), David Wells (!!!), Felix Hernandez, Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and pre-coke Doc Gooden. I really enjoy watching Adam Wainwright pitch but he kills the Dodgers so I’ll wait to include him formally, and though it might be premature, Jose Fernandez has some of the best ‘stuff’ I’ve seen since my three aces that I’m going to throw him in there.
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Closers: This list starts with Dennis Eckersley, continues to Eric Gagne and closes out appropriately with Mo Rivera.
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And of course, announcing any and all games would be the incomparable Vin Scully.
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UCLA Football: Jim Mora Stat.

THE BRUINS ARE NOW 16-0 UNDER JIM MORA WHEN LEADING AT HALFTIME.*

Honestly, great game and a nice coda to what was truly the strongest season of UCLA football I’ve seen. Better than McNown/Toledo, better than the Olson, the other Olson, Paus, Cowan or other ‘eras.’ Suffice it to say it hasn’t been the greatest run since ’98 but there were some moments.

Thing is, this is no ‘moment.’ Mora really did stamp this program and elevate it back to where it was at least during my time as a student. The enthusiasm, toughness, connectivity with his players – it’s all very endearing and inspirational, and the players love to play for him. More importantly, they’re awesome. AND fun to watch.

I saying yesterday that whether the Bruins are on offense or defense, I don’t want to get up to leave because there is so much excitement with that vast talent base. Speed, strength, attitude – are these really the Gutty Little Bruins? No, they’re not. And if Hundley comes back we’re literally a top five team next year with two(!) Heisman contenders.

It’s a ton of fun, and it’s because of Mora. Peterson didn’t want the job, Sumlin didn’t need it, Al Golden, for chrissakes, turned it down. So our fourth choice, an NFL retread and the son of an NFL caricature (playoffs?!?!) ended up being the best man for the job. And damn I love watching his teams play. I’m SO very excited for next year, and actually have genuine confidence that the Bruins are building something for the first time under my ‘watch.’

Hell yeah. Go Bruins.

*(From Gary Klein’s article in LAT today (print), though for some reason I can only find Hiserman’s recap online (which also includes that same stat in a real-time ‘blog’ when prior to conclusion of game


2014 MLB Hall of Fame Ballot Straw Poll

Below you will find the link to the2014 Hall of Fame ballot names from Baseball-Reference.com, along with a full range of statistical measures for all players on the ballot. ‘Years on Ballot,’ % of Ballots named in 2013, Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor (HOFm – the system is flawed, 100 is ‘likely’ in this metric) and Bill James Hall of Fame Standard (HOFs, in which 50 is the ‘average’ Hall of Famer, a score that exceeds that is considered superior than Hall of Fame average). This is definitely one of the more ‘crowded’ ballots I can remember, so I’ll make my piece snappy.

My opinions have not changed dramatically from last year’s lackluster HoF class. This new crop is pretty incredible, though. Here’s my “ballot” for 2014:
with apologies to Jack Morris on his final attempt, the crop of:
Greg Maddux

Frank Thomas

Tom Glavine
are first year shoo-ins for me. I’m sure Glavine will have the most pushback, but 300+ wins and reinventing himself as a late-career pitcher help greatly.

My next wave of entrants are holdovers that were slighted for one reason or another:
Craig Biggio
Mike Piazza
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Tim Raines
Raines has been a lightning rod for a few years and I imagine he won’t get in for a while. That said, he’s one of the prototype leadoff hitters in the modern era and was completely overlooked in Montreal. The 80’s were a tough era for elites, and his measurables stack up well.

I think Jeff Kent and Mike Mussina eventually get in, but not this year. People hate Kent, but his numbers are top five ever as a second baseman. He’s in. Mussina is frustrating because he was never an Ace or even a Cy pitcher, but he racked up wins and had longevity in an era defined by arm injuries.

Curt Schilling is a total cusp guy for me, probably more than most, because of his postseason success as well as the few big years. I ultimately vote ‘no’ – because he’s an asshole? – because the stats just aren’t quite Hall-worthy.

Hideo Nomo will probably be enshrined eventually as a special contributor type, as he really ushered in the era of Asian crossover.

This crop deserves it’s own mention, because NONE of them receive my ‘vote’ in 2014 and they were all really good first basemen:
Jeff Bagwell
Don Mattingly
Fred McGriff
Mark McGwire

I could see myself likely ‘vote’ for McGwire in the future, but Bagwell – despite his similarities to the Big Hurt – just doesn’t have that brand recognition that I’d like. I’m probably shorting him and reserve my right to ‘vote’ him in down the road, but not now. My guess is he DOES ride with the first wave and get in this year, however. Mattingly somehow gets in on the Veterans Committee one day. His reputation as ‘everybody’s favorite player’ is just too strong, and when history shines back on him with the moustache in the pinstripes, he’ll be enshrined.

I refuse to listen to cases for:
Lee Smith

Alan Trammell
Edgar Martinez
because none of them were ever the best player at their position, much less Hall-worthy.

Regardless, good ballot and i’d love to hear your opinions.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/hof_2014.shtml

Somebody talk me off the (Laker) Ledge

Okay, I was on a phone call this morning developing my Laker take for the ’13-’14 season and I need one of you true Laker heads to talk me off the ledge. Here goes.

While I am certain that D’Antoni was the worst possible choice for the makeup of last season’s roster and the collection of Laker bodies looks abhorrent this season when viewing the roster, I believe that the combination of the two (D’Antoni + scrubs) can lead to a 50+ win season and a low-tier playoff series.

Obviously this will not happen with defense, and frankly there are no Laker superstars sans Kobe, but take a look:
Nick Young – points in a hurry
Jordan Farmar – kid can play uptempo, will be starting point guard by mid-season
Steve Nash – the proto-D’Antoni player, make him 6th man and hold him to 25 minutes a game, he’ll drop 12/6 a night.
Steve Blake – showed last year that he can play a good tempo, maybe the only guy that performed under D’Antoni.
Xaviery Henry/Wesley Johnson/Darius Johnson-Odom/Ryan Kelly/Elias Harris – one or two of these athletic, young players can turn into a Boris Diaw/Toney Douglas/Wilson Chandler type, just chipping in double digits in points per night.
Chris Kaman – old, creaky, but still a top 15 center. Just get a double double each night.

This is where it gets nuts.
Pau Gasol I love you but thank the man for the rings & his service, and TRADE him for more athletes in exchange for allowing him to chase a couple rings.

Kobe Bryant comes back slowly (for him) in November/December, turns into Jordan45 from January – March and then KobeII from April – playoffs. That means he’s holding steady at 20+/5/4 for his return, and that’s playing it conservative. I truly believe that Kobe will never be less than great – he won’t allow it, he’d leave if he became meager. Most importantly, he buys into the system which means OTHER guys fall in line, and because he’ll essentially be the Coach on the Floor, he’ll finally get to achieve that oft-referred ‘extension of D’Antoni’ that he grew up in Italy dreaming of. . .

Again, I realize it’s a gonzo theory, but could it happen? Somebody talk me off the Laker Ledge here.

Dodger Homerun Question

In light of Juan Uribe‘s homerun last night (I would have LOVED to hear the Vin call, that’s another discussion), where does that rank in modern-era Dodger homeruns?

Obviously Kirk Gibson is number one.
For me, Steve Finley grand slam final day of season 2004 to give the Dodgers the NL West crown is memorable, as is the Four Straight Homeruns capped off by Nomar Garciaparra’s blast to win it in extra innings. Those were both regular season, though.

‘s off of Doc Gooden was actually the catapult for the ’88 playoffs in the Mets series, so that would have to be number two. . .

but are there any others in recent history that I’m omitting?