All right, tell me what you would do in a situation like this.
I’m standing in the Dodger clubhouse Saturday -- making sure Andy Ashby is between Kevin Brown’s locker and where I’m standing so if Brown throws something he takes Ashby out and I get credit for improving the team -- when Shawn Green comes blubbering to me.
“You’ve got to crush me in the paper,” Green says. “Please.”
Now, ordinarily when I get a request from an athlete it’s usually to do something that is anatomically impossible to accomplish, so out of habit I just shook my head to say no. Right away I could see Green was really disappointed.
“You have to crush me,” he pleaded. “You did it last year at the end of May; how about doing it a little earlier this season to get me going?”
We’re talking about the nicest athlete in town, a guy who donates $250,000 every year to the Dodgers’ Dream Foundation, and he wants me to give him the Samaki Walker treatment. So I ask, what would you do?
WELL, I told the Big Whiffer I’d do my best.
I’LL TELL you how badly things have gotten for the Big Whiffer. He has a huge batting tee in the locker next to him, so when things get really bleak he can take it out and at least have a fighting chance of making contact. From what I understand, he has struck out only three times all year against the tee.
He also has five boxes of Eric Gagne bobblehead dolls sitting in the next locker to give away because people have gotten tired waiting for him to throw his batting gloves into the stands after hitting a home run.
“Things are going so badly,” Green joked, “we’ve got a No. 2 hitter [Paul Lo Duca] who can’t even hit a softball.”
Worse than that. At least Lo Duca agreed to step in against former University of Arizona softball pitcher Jennie Finch a few days ago -- striking out on three pitches -- while Green, the Dodgers’ so-called power hitter, went into hiding.
“If Lo Duca couldn’t hit a softball and he strikes out 30 times a year, what were my chances when you know I strike out 30 times a month?” Green said.
I WENT to Dodger Micro-Manager Jim Tracy and asked what could be done to get the Big Whiffer, who has already struck out 29 times, to hit the ball.
“What is your definition of hitting the ball?” Tracy said, and I’ve played golf with Tracy and seen him miss while trying to hit a golf ball, so I wasn’t surprised to get this question from him.
Home runs, I said. How can you get Green to hit more homers?
“Are you asking me what I can do to get him to hit a home run in every other at-bat?” Tracy said. “I’m not that smart.”
Now I understand why Green has come to me. When Green hits homers, the Dodgers win. He carried the team in 2001 with 49 homers. He hit 42 last year, with some help.
In fact, you can look it up. When Green and I sat together last May, he had more strikeouts than hits and only three homers. I crushed him in the paper, and a few days later the Big Whiffer responded with four home runs and a double in the same game to set a record for total bases.
I told him Saturday he has struck out six more times than Fred McGriff and reminded him that he had asked me to crush him. Three hours later, he doubled and then hit a 410-foot homer, only his second since April 10.
“If this all works out,” Green said, “I’ll have to go to the Dodgers and tell them you should be paid like a contractor, you know, someone who comes in and does a job to fix things up.”
I’d like to see the look on boss Bob Daly’s face when Green knocks on his door and suggests it’s time to pay me for all the help I’ve given the Dodgers.
RICH RUIZ e-mailed to say the discussion surrounding the Lakers’ failure to grant a dying youngster’s wish to talk with Kobe Bryant reminded him of the kindness USC men’s basketball Coach Henry Bibby showed his mother.
“My mother was diagnosed with cancer, and as you could imagine it was a blow to the family. My mom is a big USC fan, so I called USC to see if there was any way to get Coach Bibby to write a letter to her. I left a message on his answering machine. Less than three hours later, he called and then called my mom to let her know the Trojan family would keep her in their prayers.
“As if that wasn’t enough, two days later my mom received a handwritten letter from Coach Bibby expressing his warm wishes. It may be years before SC wins a national title or builds an arena, but in my eyes Coach Bibby has already proven himself a winner.”
AN UPDATE on the column about 14-year-old Jose, who died before talking to Kobe. The Lakers say Kobe called Jose’s mother, Anita, last Sunday evening.
I NOTICED in The Times that Laker GM Mitch Kupchak wrote a letter on behalf of Eugenia Chow, the team’s director of community relations. I owe an apology to Kupchak. I was under the impression he doesn’t do anything for the Lakers.
STEVE GARVEY stopped by the Dodger clubhouse before the game. He had no comment when someone pointed to Jolbert Cabrera’s locker and the No. 6 hanging above it. When’s the last time Garvey declined the chance to talk?
TODAY’S LAST word comes in e-mail from Tom Fielding:
“I just read that Pennsylvania’s Dawn Marshall won the ‘Best Grocery Store Bagger in America’ award. I hope your future son-in-law is a better loser than ‘Mr. Grumpy’ and hasn’t destroyed anything. How is he taking the news?”
Lying on my couch.
T.J. Simers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.