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This Could End Up Hitting Them Hard in the Wallet

This might be the most difficult challenge I have ever confronted, asking an old man to be young again.

I work with an old man, of course, in Dwyre -- so I know how fast some people can just lose it, which brings me to the Angels’ Steve Finley.

I thought he was finished a year ago when the Dodgers got him and told him so, and he replied by getting on base with a walk or hit in his next 21 starts, going on to bat .360 in his first 24 games.

I told him there was no way at this stage of his career he’d hit home runs. That game he went out, hit a homer, hit a double off the wall and was waiting for me at the clubhouse door afterward.

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(A few years back I told the folks at USC they had a terrible football team ... you can see how this works.)

I told Old Man Finley he didn’t have the oomph to hit 10 home runs down the stretch. He hit 13, including a grand slam to clinch a playoff berth for the Dodgers.

Then Finley had another birthday and joined the Los Angeles Angels, and I would imagine now he requires afternoon naps -- if he’s anything like Dwyre.

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I’VE BEEN with the Angels the last two games, which explains their success, of course. But Old Man Finley is batting .231, which is worse than Hee-Seop Choi and leads me to believe I was one year too early but right on target: Finley is finished.

“No, I’m not,” he insisted, “but thanks, I needed some ire.”

I would’ve thought he needed more batting practice, but that’s me.

“I’ll tell you what,” Finley said. “I’ll donate $100 for every hit that I get for the rest of the season to that hospital of yours.”

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Like that was going to shut me up.

For a moment, though, I got excited at the prospect of telling the kids at Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA that some old man wearing a red uniform wanted to give them a nice gift, but then I began to worry that they might take Old Man Finley for Santa Claus, and how would it go if he continued to go belly up.

“That’s not going to happen,” Finley said.

I scoffed, of course, and told him, “I’ll donate $500 to Mattel’s the night you go four for four. And put me down for $100 every time you hit a home run down the stretch -- like that’s going to happen.”

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Finley picked up a bat. I wasn’t worried. He hasn’t hit anything all season.

“Good, go ahead and let me have it,” Finley said.

“I haven’t been hot yet this year, but it’s time.”

A year ago Adrian Beltre put up MVP-like numbers for the Dodgers, but it was a dash of Finley here and there that put the Dodgers over the top. Vladimir Guerrero remains in an Angels’ class by himself, but it’d be a whole lot easier to hold off the A’s if Finley had one of those hitting streaks that he’s so famous for putting together. Back-to-back hits, for that matter, would be a long streak.

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I mentioned Finley to Manager Mike Scioscia, and Finley’s promise to donate $100 for every hit to shut up the Page 2 guy, and Scioscia immediately said, “I’ll match whatever Finley donates to the hospital.”

Scioscia caught himself. “Wait a minute. He might get really hot, and that could be expensive. But if he does, we’re going to win and everyone benefits -- so yes, put me down for the same thing. And for the sake of the hospital, let’s hope he does get hot.”

It’s good news no matter what happens, because in addition to Scioscia’s generosity, I think I know now who we can have play Santa.

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SCIOSCIA WAS talking up Finley, and I was arguing with him. Scioscia said Finley was much more productive than people might’ve thought earlier this season before getting waylaid by a shoulder injury.

Finley hurt the shoulder in the second game, told no one and began making adjustments to compensate for the injury. It messed him up -- he describes his swing now like a tangled ball of wire that needs to be unwound.

Whatever, I said, what are you going to do in tonight’s game?

Finley’s reply: singling to center in his first at-bat -- $200 to the hospital.

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He grounded out in his second trip, though, popped out to second with the bases loaded and fouled out to the catcher to finish one for four. Short of sitting in the dugout and talking to him before each at-bat, it looks as if I’m going to have to spend more time with the Angels than I thought.

I just hope the Dodgers understand.

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READER ANDY SCHUCK e-mailed to ask whether “David Jones found his checkbook and wrote that $100 check to the Children’s Hospital (for his World Poker Tournament loss months ago)? Or, is the Deacon still on the run?”

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I haven’t been able to tackle him as of yet.

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I’M JUST curious. How do you think Jeremy Roenick and I will get along if the Kings complete a trade for the lout?

Ordinarily, I’d take his advice: “We’re going to try to make it better [the game of hockey] for everybody, period, end of subject. And if you don’t realize that, then don’t come. We don’t want you at the rink, we don’t want you in the stadium, we don’t want you to watch hockey.”

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But I think I’ve now found a reason to go to a hockey game. Kevin Brown on skates intrigues me.

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TODAY’S LAST word comes in e-mail from Matthew Walsh and Matthew Saydah:

“I read in your column someone noticed the ‘I HATE T.J. SIMERS’ shirts. We’re writing to formally acknowledge our creation and execution of that particular gesture. But, it won’t stop here: your car, your newly shined shoes, your hairpiece, nothing is safe. The only reasonable explanation for your continued employment is that you possess incriminating photos of Dwyre, but even that won’t save your job. P.S. We’re both 17 and mildly upset at being mistaken for 10 year olds.”

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The important thing is -- you are acting your ages.

T.J. Simers can be reached at

t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.


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