From a fan's standpoint, Dodgers games are dramatically better this year, and not just from the win-loss perspective. Security is tighter, the gangy vibe of the last few years on the mend. Families are back, and the entire atmosphere, from field level to the top deck, is vastly improved. In particular, the security team's pregame patrols of the parking lot have weeded out the knuckleheads who used to tank up before entering the stadium. "Prior to this year, it seemed like we were working an Oakland Raiders game every night," one security guard says.
Dodger Stadium still isn't exactly a day care center. But it has become a good, safe, family-friendly place to watch a game again. Score one for the suits.
Vin Scully had me at hello. His East Coast surrogate not so much.
Disenchantment with Dodgers road announcer Eric Collins seems to be building.
I sure wouldn't want to be the poor, young play-by-play guy operating in the shadow of the Great One. But Collins, who fills in for Scully on road games east of Colorado, is often just painful and seems to need more seasoning. Fortunately, baseball announcers, like managers, don't peak till about 70. So, Collins may have a good, long career ahead. Till then, back to the minors, you.
Meanwhile, imagine the Dodgers getting to the World Series and Scully being benched for that little toy soldier Joe Buck. As I've suggested before, the time has come to let the fans pick the World Series announcing team.
Prince Fielder just stepped to the plate. Caltech reported a 5.7. The official scorekeeper had it as a 5.4.
I fired Bud Selig three months ago, but the commissioner (and former Brewers owner) keeps coming to work. All we can do now is take out a restraining order, as in:
"Forthwith, Mr. Budweiser Selig shall not venture within 300 yards of any major league ballpark. He shall not issue any public statements that make you want to scratch your head and ask, 'Huh, what'd he just say?' He shall not let the game get away from him. He shall not let any All-Star games end in ties."
Here's a list of possible successors who could help baseball clean up its act:
* Cal Ripken Jr.: With his respect and charisma, baseball's best hope.
* Bob Costas: A formidable baseball mind with a passion for the game.
* Andy MacPhail: Baseball bloodlines like no one else.
* Theo Epstein: If you can make winners of the Red Sox, you can do anything.
* Gen. David Petraeus: Sport is war. And, after all, at one time Douglas MacArthur was a finalist to replace Happy Chandler.
* Peter O'Malley: Is there a name more synonymous with the glory days of baseball?
Eric Hansen's grounds crew is on the field. Apparently Prince Fielder just ate second base.
Who are you wearing? Manny Ramirez jerseys are the top sellers so far this season, followed in order by Andre Ethier, Russell Martin, Kemp and James Loney. Casey Blake jerseys just went on sale and reportedly are off to a fast start.
By the way, are the Dodgers in danger of overdoing Manny hysteria? Tonight they are giving away 20,000 signed posters, courtesy of KLOS-FM (95.5), honoring the Manny Slam. And, to answer the question, it's impossible to overdue Manny hysteria. In L.A. right now, he is just slightly more popular than sex.
One of the best Cinderella stories around is that of Dodgers pregame fixture Pete Bonfils, who was discovered by an Angels scout and signed to a minor league contract while pitching batting practice in 1971.
"The moment it happened, I was 20 feet off the ground," he says of being awarded a contract on the spot.
He went on to play 11 seasons of minor league ball, before returning as Dodgers' BP pitcher in 1982. He has been there ever since, throwing 150 or so pitches before home games. He says Ramirez is the best pure hitter he has thrown to, and Billy Ashley and Mike Piazza the two most powerful. "The difference was that one had the power at 6:30 and the other at 7:10 when it counted," Bonfils recalls.
When he's done, usually around 5:40, he ices the shoulder and heads back to his Arcadia home. By day, he's an account exec for Young's Market Co. By night, he's grooving home run pitches for Kemp and company. He's also a vital part of the organization's institutional memory.
"Joe [Torre] reminds me of Sandy Koufax," he says, as the Dodgers manager moves behind the cage before Monday's game. "They both had that aura about them."
As Scully himself would say, Bonfils is a very wealthy man.
Update: Prince Fielder just belched. Caltech had it as a 7.2; the official scorekeeper has fled.