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Dodgers Dugout: Don’t hold your breath waiting for baseball to return

Dodgers teammates A.J. Pollock, Mookie Betts and Justin Turner talk in the dugout.
Dodgers teammates (from left) A.J. Pollock, Mookie Betts and Justin Turner.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and if you are counting the days until baseball returns, I hope you have a scientific calculator, or at least an abacus.

Some bad news on “When can we watch the Dodgers again?” front.

There’s a hold up to players returning to the field: Management and the union are far apart on things such as salary, health and safety.

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Other than that, things look great.

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The Times’ Bill Shaikin took a look at the matter. No, I could try to be clever and just rewrite what he wrote, but there’s no one better at explaining the business of baseball, so I am going to cut and paste an excerpt from his story, then come back with some thoughts.

“After major league players made clear they had no interest in participating in a revenue-sharing plan for an abbreviated 2020 season, owners Tuesday proposed that players instead accept a sliding scale of pay cuts.

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“While all players would be expected to take less than a prorated salary, the players with the highest salaries would lose the greatest percentage of pay. With players already having agreed they would receive no pay for canceled games, the proposal set up a potential scenario for some of the game’s greatest stars to play about 50% of the season for about 25% of their previously guaranteed salaries.

“With the window closing on an agreement to play even half a season, the official statements from the two parties did not exude compromise.

“From the Major League Baseball Players Assn.: “The proposal involves massive pay cuts and the union is extremely disappointed. We’re also far apart on health and safety protocols.”

“From MLB: ‘We made a proposal to the union that is completely consistent with the economic realities facing our sport. We look forward to a responsive proposal from the MLBPA.’

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“Under the proposal, players making minimum salary would play the half-season schedule for about 46% of their 2020 salary, according to details first reported by ESPN. The highest-paid players would play for about 22% of their 2020 salary.

“However, players could be subject to an additional decrease, according to a document reviewed by The Times. If an expanded postseason is not approved by players or the postseason television revenues do not increase in line with the owners’ projections, the highest-paid players would play for about 16% of their 2020 salary.

“Interesting strategy of making the best most marketable players potentially look like the bad guys,” Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Brett Anderson said on Twitter.

Max Scherzer, a member of the executive board of the players’ union, posted on social media Wednesday night that the players had “no reason to engage” in negotiations over pay cuts because the owners had provided “no justification” for them. Scherzer also said the league’s strategy could not stand “if all documentation were to become public information.”

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So, back to your host here. Here’s the problem with all of this: We are living in the middle of the pandemic that has cost the jobs of millions of people. Some people are struggling to make ends meet. Some don’t know if they will have a job to return to when the country fully opens up. Some businesses have closed permanently. Millions are hurting financially. And here comes baseball, which comes across as usual as millionaires arguing with billionaires over who gets more money.

Of course, I realize this dispute is more than that. Not every player makes millions. Teams are taking a financial hit with no games being played, and probably no fans when they are played. But I would hazard a guess that most baseball fans don’t care about that. They just want to cheer for their team. And as they wait for their ticket money refund check to come in, and wonder if they can scrape together enough money to put their kids in the jersey of their favorite player, they don’t want to hear owners and players crying.

Is that fair? Not entirely. But it’s human. And players and owners, I hope, realize this and do a better job of explaining what is going on, and of having some empathy for the fans who have struggled this year, been told to wait patiently for refunds and remained steadfast. Because judging by my emails, if the two sides can’t come together and get back on the field, a lot of fans are going to say “See ya!” and never come back.

Ask Ron Cey

Throughout the next few weeks, Dodgers Dugout will expand its “Ask...” feature to include former Dodgers. Next up, Dodger legend Ron Cey.

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Cey was one of the most underrated players in all of baseball in the 1970s and early 80s. A third baseman, he was a direct contemporary of the two best third basemen of all time, Mike Schmidt and George Brett, and as a result, he got lost in the shuffle. He had good power, drew a lot of walks and was an integral part of four Dodger World Series team, being named a World Series MVP in 1981. Nicknamed “Penguin” because of his distinctive gait, he remains one of the favorite Dodgers of all time.

Cey will answer selected questions from readers of Dodgers Dugout, so send me your questions for him by clicking here or by emailing houston.mitchell@latimes.com. His answers will appear in a future newsletter.

Ask Al Ferrara

And while we’re at it, Dodgers Dugout will also go back to the 1960s and add Al Ferrara to the list of contributors.

Ferrara was an outfielder for the Dodgers from 1963-68 and was a starter in 1967, hitting .277/.345/.467 with 16 doubles, 16 homers and 50 RBIs. Nicknamed “Bull,” he was best friends with Johnny Podres and also had a fledgling acting career while with the team, appearing in “Gilligan’s Island” and “Batman.” He was taken by the San Diego Padres in the 1969 expansion draft and last appeared with the Cincinnati Reds in 1971.

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Ferrara will answer selected questions from readers of Dodgers Dugout, so send me your questions for him by clicking here or by emailing houston.mitchell@latimes.com. His answers will appear in a future newsletter.

Ask Ross Porter

Former Dodgers broadcaster Ross Porter is back for another season of “Ask Ross Porter.” We have a new email address this season for it. Ross will have access to this email address and will get your questions without me having to forward them. So, if you have a message (like thanking him for his years as a broadcaster) and not a question, feel free to let him know. Send your question or comment to rossporterdodgers@gmail.com.

Gary Karr of Washington, DC asks: Ross, thanks so much for even reading questions from fans of baseball and your broadcasting. Can you give us some names of former Dodgers who have had interesting non-baseball second careers?

Ross: I’ll give you a few, Gary, but leave out many and expect to hear from those and their friends.

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Moe Berg, CIA spy

Joe Black, VP Greyhound

Jim Bunning, U.S. Senator, Kentucky

Chuck Connors, Actor, “The Rifleman”

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Rod Dedeaux, Founder, DART Enterprises

Don Demeter, Pastor, Oklahoma City

Carl Erskine, Bank President, Anderson, Ind.

Chuck Essegian, Los Angeles attorney

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Jack Fimple, Yosemite National Park Ranger

Shawn Green, Founded Technology Platform

Dr. Mike Marshall (pitcher), PH.D in Exercise Physiology

Mike Piazza, Italian soccer owner

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Pee Wee Reese, Louisville Slugger baseball bats

Rick Rhoden, Pro Golfer, won eight tournaments

Jackie Robinson, VP, Chock Full o’Nuts

Ted Sizemore, Rawlings baseball gloves

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John Werhas, Pastor

Dick Warner of Arlington, Texas asks: Has a professional pitcher ever struck out 27 batters in a nine-inning game?

Ross: Never in the major leagues, but once in the minors. On May 13, 1952, a 19-year-old right-hander, Ron Necciai, went to the mound for the Bristol, Va., Twins, a Pittsburgh Pirate-affiliated Appalachian League farm team, to face the Welch Miners. Necciai was battling a bleeding ulcer that had him throwing up blood before the game. He pitched a no-hitter although four Welch hitters reached base on a walk, an error, a hit batsman and a passed ball on strike three. Only two batters put the ball in play--a groundout and an error. The National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues called the 27 strikeout achievement “the greatest individual performance in the history of baseball.” In his next start, Ron struck out 24. Pittsburgh called him up late that season. He threw 55 innings in six weeks and went 1-6 with a 7.08 ERA. The legendary Branch Rickey once said, “There have been only two young pitchers I was certain were destined for greatness simply because they had the meanest fastball a batter can face. One of those boys was Dizzy Dean. The other is Ron Necciai. And Necciai is harder to hit.”

Ron never pitched in the majors again. He was troubled by stomach ulcers and a torn rotator cuff which prompted a doctor to tell him, “We don’t know how to fix it. Son, go home and buy a gas station. You’re never going to pitch again.” Necciai was 22. He went on to have a successful career in the sporting goods industry. Necciai will be 88 years old next month.

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Gary Claudius of Eastvale, Calif. asks: Hi, Ross, I’m curious as to what the criteria was when traveling on the Dodger charter. Who got to sit in the first class cabin? Thank you for your weekly Q & A.

Ross: Manager, general manager, broadcasters, public relations rep, traveling secretary, and wives of those who were on that trip. 16 seats available. No media allowed on the plane.

Joel Simonds of Huntington Beach asks: Ross, you should not have been let go, but you handled it with class and dignity. I loved your statistical input, you were about analytics far before the rest of us. How long did you broadcast UNLV basketball games? What was one of your memories about coach Jerry Tarkanian?

Ross: It was a thrill to announce the exciting Runnin’ Rebels action from 1978 to 1992. In 1987, 1990, 1991 and 1992, UNLV had a combined record of 132 and 10 (93%). The Dodgers generously allowed me to call three Final Fours. Indiana nudged the Rebels in the ’87 semis, 97-93, despite 80 points by Freddie Banks and Armon Gilliam. In 1990, UNLV achieved what is still the largest rout in a title encounter, whipping Duke, 103-73, for its first national championship. The next season, those schools had a semifinal rematch at Indianapolis. The Rebels came in with a record of 34-0. UNLV had a shoot around (an informal practice session) in a high school gymnasium just before noon on game day. After 45 minutes, Tark blew a whistle and summoned his players to mid-court. His first comment to them was, " You are going to lose tonight. You beat Duke easily last year and you don’t have respect for them. Go get on the bus.” Jerry was right. The Blue Devils won, 79-77.

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I-5 Series

The first two games of the simulated I-5 Series are in the books. Readers chose the rosters for both teams, one made up of the best players born or raised in Southern California, one of the best from Northern California. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts chose the starting lineups in Games 1 and 2, with me managing the team against Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle, using the apbago.com game engine to play the games. To watch:

Game 1: Click here.

Game 2: Click here.

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And finally

The Dodgers salute military hero William Paul Tarczy. Watch it here.

Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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