YKI’s Sunday morning tradition (prior to Dogs games) is to wake up, walk the dog and relax in the backyard with fresh-squeezed orange juice, fresh-brewed coffee. . .and the L.A. Times – print edition.
Always enjoyable – and the last bastion of real sportswriting out here on the West Coast – the Times’ top columnists are featured; the incisive, biting & oft-misunderstood T.J. Simers, all-world futbol journalist Grahame L. Jones, the cloyingly sentimental (and award-winning) Bill Plaschke as well as Hall of Famer Mark Heisler & veteran, workmanlike baseball writer Bill Shaikin.
Today’s paper was particularly enjoyable as:
a) Heisler, as usual, untangles the cluttered English language long enough to artfully lay out concise prose with an objective loyalist’s insight, writing about his own missteps in predicting the Celtics’ demise, and my personal favorite, labeling Bill Simmons “an essayist as opposed to a journalist,” a tag that YKI can accept, as opposed to those that label Simmons a ‘sportswriter,’ which he clearly is not.
b) Shaikin reporting on the Dodgers possible pursuit of Roy Oswalt, culminating (in his opinion) in a World Series appearance. Will it happen? The proverbial ‘jury is still out,’ as the McCourt divorce, Manny’s deferred salary, and the $104-million payroll projections for 2012, none of which would appear to allow for absorption of Oswalt’s jumbo salary.
c) Grahame L. Jones continuing his spectacular lead-in to the World Cup, this time listing the top ten coaches in World Cup history, but more importantly exposing the Netherlands’ string of failures on the big stage. Whether or not Americas really become converts to the World’s game is one thing, but Times readers have no choice but to become converts to Jones’s work as each column exploits his mastery of words.
d) Plaschke being Plaschke, though not in his weekly tear-jerking sense; this time writing about the enjoyment (and relevance?) of the Kiss Cam. That said, kudos today specifically for taking a jab at Simers, as it is often a one-sided in-house rivalry at the Times between the two sportwriting behemoths: “Real fans, real moments and real, heartfelt, tearful, forever gratitude to the Lakers for never focusing the Kiss Cam on my spot on the third row of the end-zone press table. I sit next to T.J. Simers.”
e) Simers out-Plaschke-ing Plaschke, proving again what an evocative journalist can really do, shedding light on Bill Walton’s recent health crises, his health failing to the point of suicide contemplation, and heroically optimistic path back to the land of Bill-mania.
*This has been a YKI Public Service Announcement for the Preservation of Newspapers, so log off, grab a copy of the Times and enjoy your Sunday.*
Dylan Hernandez sat down with a surly and attitudinal Andre Ethier, apparently doing his best Jeff Kent impression. Hernandez started with a simple & routine question, as in how he projects to build upon last year’s breakthrough season: “How do you expect me to answer a question that I don’t have the answer to?” Ethier said without a trace of a smile.
On a more positive note, workhorse Hernandez explounds upon Hong-Chih Kuo‘s continuous rebounds from surgery after surgery. Kuo is a dynamite pitcher – a flame-throwing lefty that can strike batters out, but every pitch could be his last. He’s a joy to watch out of the bullpen and the Dodgers season will be much less Rockie (haaa) if Kuo can provide that stability out of the bullpen.
On the South – way, way south – side of Los Angeles, the Angels’ Jeff Mathis justifies his doubled salary was a result of his airtight defense, as opposed to the .583 he hit in the Division Series last year. . .
The L.A. Live played host to a magical event on Saturday night; An Evening with Sandy Koufax and Joe Torre at the Nokia Theatre, moderated by T.J. Simers of the L.A. Times. I attended with The Count (my pops), who was misty-eyed at the thought of even seeing Koufax (a notorious ‘recluse’) speak freely & publicly.
Turns out that the acerbic & endearingly annoying Simers was a perfect facilitator for this event, just as he was last year during the John Wooden/Vin Scully event. Immediately making himself the butt of jokes – while poking fun at the two legends – he enabled Koufax to feel comfortable, as the gregarious Torre played along, contributing anecdotes and color to Koufax’s somewhat brief initial ripostes. One thing clear from the beginning is that Sandy was going to tell the truth, and would answer questions adamantly, if not a bit tersely as well.
I was very surprised to hear that neither of Koufax’s two major injuries occurred while pitching, meaning that the era of starters throwing 300+ innings was more beneficial for players as I’ve been saying. . again, buttressing my long-running stance on ‘pitch counts’ ruining a generation of pitchers; i mean honestly, why is pitching the only physical activity that maintains the philosophy of ‘less’ is better for you? The fact is, though, with Sandy – one of his injuries occurred when he was hit by pitch as a batter and an artery exploded; the other when he was sliding back into second base and landed on his elbow awkwardly.
Another inspirational moment occurred when Clayton Kershaw was pulled on stage – the lefty having been previously compared to Sandy Koufax by none other than Torre – and stood side-by-side with Koufax, at one point comparing hand size. Koufax – legendary for his huge hands – dwarfed Kershaw’s hands, but admitted that the kid is a damn good pitcher and is obviously making due with his more average-sized hands.
Additional highlights included:
*Vin Scully video tribute to Koufax, including his ‘final out’ call of the perfect game vs. the Cubs, and some good-natured ribbing of Torre from Vin.
*Torre discussing his childhood and abuse, and being a ‘portly’ kid that was motivated by his brother’s haranguing to get in shape and fulfill his potential.
*Koufax dismissing any thoughts about him being ‘soft’ and saying that a quality start “ended with me shaking hands with the catcher.”
*Tommy Lasorda video tribute to being the man cut so Sandy could take his place on the roster.
Great, great evening – I look forward to next year’s event (hint, hint – TJ) – hopefully featuring Tommy Lasorda in person.
Russell Martin returns to camp “like a linebacker,” weighing 235 pounds, bulking up in the offseason by following – you ready for this, MItchell Report acolytes? – Eric Gagne’s training regimen, in attempt to hit for more power. Hopefully this is more Mike Piazza than Andruw Jones.
Don’t fret, Halos fans, YKI WILL be covering the Angels this year as well, as are the hordes of Japanese media swarming over Hideki Matsui‘s cross-coast move to Anaheim.
As if UCLA hoops fans haven’t had it difficult enough this year with realization of the utter failure of last year’s recruiting class and the mediocre play in the less-than-mediocre Pac-10, stud frosh Reeves Nelson is now debilitated with yet another eye injury.
Ho Hum. Kobe’s back. Another game winning 3-pointer, leading the Lakers to a one-point win over the Grizzlies.
A little Waves action from Vincent Bonsignore at the Daily News for uncovering Pepperdine star Keion Bell, who dazzled at Kobe Bryant’s ballcamp last year with this dunk over five people (go to the 40 second mark and enjoy):
And lastly, for my L.A. heads, this is the album of the day (though technically two separate albums, released four years apart):
Much like Gilbert Arenas, Murs began as a wildhorse; an L.A. native, massively talented & energetic, with charisma & personality almost overshadowing his ability. After a few brushes with superstardom, the work in the studio/gym led to a collaboration that enabled success (9th Wonder for Murs, Eddie Jordan for Gilbert) with a more adult outlook, though hints of immaturity (blog tirades/frat rap about sex) were still evident. For Arenas, a few questionable decisions led to potential jailtime & a league suspension, while Murs is clean. . .for now. Peep the albums before he pulls heat.
Proving once again that he’s the most uniquely insightful sports reporter in the country (and certainly at his own paper), T.J. Simers provides commentary and perspective on Eric Gagne’s attempt to return to the Dodgers.
Topics addressed include Gagne’s admitted HGH use:
“You were using HGH, weren’t you?”
“I did,” he says. “I hate to talk about it. It just doesn’t do anyone any good. But I thought it would help me get better when I hurt my knee. I just don’t want that to sound as an excuse.
as well as his return to Dodger Stadium. . .as a fan:
In the third inning, Gagne was shown sitting in the stands, the ovation growing louder by the second. It hit him hard. He took both hands and blew a kiss to the crowd.
“I’m a baseball fan,” Gagne said. “I love the game and love L.A. so much. There’s nothing like the atmosphere of a playoff game in Dodger Stadium.”
Simers also had Gagne discuss what he will tell his children about his legacy:
“I’ve been asking myself the same question, but I’ll tell them straight up like I do everything else. I’ll make them understand action and reactions to those actions, and making a decision and living with the consequences.
In short, Gagne’s “career has come full circle,” and here he is once again trying to earn a roster spot:
“I can’t tell you how excited I am right now. I’m home again. I just have to make the team.”
Congrats to the L.A. Daily News for breaking the news that Athletic Director Mike Garrett hired Lane Kiffin to be the next head football coach of the USC Trojans. (sidenote: the Athletic Department may or may not have given the story to DN because of T.J. Simers’s current rift with Garrett.)
This is a very savvy move on the part of USC; bringing home a young, fiery, competitive coach who is VERY familiar with the system – as well as the players – having been the offensive coordinator in 2005-06, and coaching alongside Pete Carroll the previous four seasons (entire coaching career below). The benefit of retaining a coach that knows the program, the mentality and the personnel can not be overstated.
Furthermore, with Signing Day only three weeks out, the Trojans wasted no time in answering optimistic Bruin supporters who anticipated that Rick Neuheisel would finally have UCLA as the front-runner for local athletes.
Kiffin, of course, brings his baggage, most of it neatly exposed in a (literal) Powerpoint presentation, by his former employer: The history with Al Davis & the Raiders was a debacle (though it’s fair to put the blame mostly on Davis, eg the Dark Night/Darth Vader/Mr. Burns, Death Personified), but the intrigue really appears with Kiffin’s tenure at Tennessee.
In his first month at the SEC program, Kiffin managed to outright piss off every fan in the SEC, while simultaneously firing up his own fanbase.
A decent season and an apparent good recruiting class turned Kiffin into a darling in The Volunteer State, with big expectations for 2010. And as the timing was great for the Trojans, it may have a deleterious effect on the Volunteers. Three weeks left until the big day and he leaves? Wow. He’s probably taking Ed Orgeron and his dad, Monte, with him – further depleting UT at the most inopportune time.
That said, Kiffin’s cajones have belied his age, and he has a great knack at entering his new job in a PR maelstrom. The Bill Plaschke HateWagon is already out in full-force, and I’m sure many college football loyalists (even those outside the SEC) are ready to pounce on LK at the first sign of controversy or scandal.
Aside from that, there is still the Will-Reggie-Bush-Lead-the-Trojans-to-an-SMU-caliber-Death-Penalty issue hanging over the program; right now, Kiffin is calling this position his dream job – but shall the Garrett-imposed sanctions not be enough to appease the NCAA, it may end up very Pollyannish.
LANE KIFFIN COACHING EXPERIENCE (34 Years of Age, 13 years coaching experience)
|1997-98||Fresno State||Graduate assistant|
|1999||Colorado State||Graduate assistant/offensive line|
|2000||Jacksonville (NFL)||Assistant/defensive quality control|
|2004||USC||Passing game coord./wide receivers|
|2005-06||USC||Off. coord./wide receivers/recruiting|
|2007-08||Oakland (NFL)||Head coach (4-12, 1-3)|
|2009||Tennessee||Head coach (7-6)|
Thank you Los Angeles Times, for the sweet Kiffin graphic.
T.J. Simers yet agaim drops a bombshell about the McCourts, in a sit-down with Jamie in which the former Mrs. McCourt was rather forthcoming and (seemingly) honest.
Jamie seems genuinely hurt by the Frank McCourt mud-slinging, and claims to “take the high road” in not airing the couple’s dirty laundry. She denies the alleged affair, is protective of the kids (four sons, whom perhaps she may be craftily ‘using’ to gain public leverage), and also very elaborative on her role within the organization, claiming Frank actually told her to “Go be the face of the Dodgers, go be the external brand [in the community].”
More of the Jamie insights extracted from T.J. include:
On the Children: “Boys tend to want to defend their mother, but they’re caught between a rock and hard place,” she says. “They don’t want to see anything said about either parent. It’s an unpleasant situation and it would not have been my choice to ever have anything put out there. . .To read everything that’s been said is devastating, and my kids are pretty upset about it,” she says. “I want my kids to look back and say she took the high road. It’s hard, but that’s what I’m going to try and do.”
On the Afair with Dodgers Direct of Protocol Jeff Fuller: “Absolutely not,” she says. “I have never been with another man until the marriage broke up. Ever. Ever.”
On her role in the continuous increase in Ticket Prices: “That was a big fight with me and Frank. I haven’t wanted to raise ticket prices for several years. It was a big debate. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know this isn’t the time to raise ticket prices.”
On her seemingly outrageous ‘support’ demands, including $400k/month: “Let’s remember it’s how we lived and not how I lived,” she says, later a lawyer explaining it’s the woman most often placed in the position of documenting what it will take to live rather than the man having to be so specific. “It’s something that had to be done at the time. I can only listen to my lawyers who do this every day for a living.”
Most importantly, T.J. uncovers this gem: The Times learned the Dodgers hired a corporate strategist four years ago to evaluate the whole organization, including the relationship between Frank and Jamie.
The corporate strategists conclusion? “It was clear that Jamie believed that the success of the relationship is the key to all doors. She believes that the partnership is at risk because Frank ‘doesn’t get it.’
“[Frank] doesn’t value her talents, listens to her only on his terms and shows little respect/acknowledgment for her in public. Jamie says that she can be a bigger asset to them if Frank could get by his need to dominate the public stage and better understand her business value.”
In short, it appears that Jamie’s credibility is enhanced by this robust and in-depth piece of journalism. We don’t know both sides yet, but kudos to T.J. for once again allowing us to see the underdog perspective.