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The Sports Report: Andre Ethier talks about the sign-stealing scandal

Andre Ethier
Andre Ethier
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Columnist Dylan Hernandez talked to former Dodger Andre Ethier about the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. Here’s an excerpt:

Before talking about the possibility he was cheated out of the championship he sought for more than a decade, before explaining why the Houston Astros should retain their World Series trophy, Andre Ethier wanted to make a point.

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“Let’s back up for a second,” Ethier said.

He wanted to identify what he perceived as the real culprit of the Astros sign-stealing scandal.

“This,” he said, “is all a byproduct of analytics.”

Game 7 of the 2017 World Series was the last game Ethier ever played. He drove in the Dodgers’ only run in a 5-1 defeat.

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The 37-year-old makes his home in Phoenix, where he coaches the oldest of his four children in flag football, basketball and baseball. Retirement has granted him a perspective that made him more concerned about big-picture problems in Major league Baseball than whether he might have been a victim of a sign-stealing scheme.S

Ethier, who spoke by phone while on a family vacation in Utah, prefaced his thoughts by acknowledging his distaste for baseball’s analytics movement.

“How much should you allow front offices to really be able to keep manipulating and changing the game?,” he said. “There’s only so much they can get out of this analytical data that a human baseball player can actually go out and execute. What does it lead to next? Well, these guys in these front offices have to keep justifying themselves by bringing something else to the table.”...

Ethier was sidelined most of the 2017 season with a back injury. He played well enough in September to earn a spot on the Dodgers’ 25-man playoff roster. The team went on to reach its first World Series since 1988.

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“I knew after that series that this was going to sting really bad, even without knowing if they were doing anything,” he said. “I felt like we, as a team, played as great as a team can play during that playoffs, and especially in that series. I mean, we were clicking on all cylinders and it just seemed like we could never get ahead.”

Ethier recalled how he felt after the Dodgers won in Game 6 to extend the series to seven games.

“Going back to my house, all the friends and family around, were like, ‘We’re going to win the World Series,’” Ethier said.

He envisioned the euphoria he would share with the fans who supported him his entire career.

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But that was as close as he got.

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UCLA BASKETBALL

Jules Bernard scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half as the UCLA Bruins staked an early lead and outlasted Utah 69-58 on Thursday night.

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Tyger Campbell had 13 points and steadied the Bruins when the Utes made a couple runs. Chris Smith, David Singleton and Jaime Jaquez each had nine for the Bruins, who have won eight of 10.

Alfonso Plummer scored 16 points, Timmy Allen had 11 points while Branden Carlson scored 10 before fouling out in just 13 minutes of action for the Utes, who dropped to 10-2 at home.

The Bruins (16-11, 9-5 Pac-12) led by as many 20 after Campbell made a jumper with 11:28 left in the game.

The Utes (14-12, 5-9 Pac-12) began pressing full court and trimmed the lead to single digits in the final two minutes but couldn’t make enough long-range shots — Utah was three for 12 from three-point range — to truly threaten.

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USC BASKETBALL

McKinley Wright IV had 15 points, including a floater in the lane in the final minutes, to help No. 18 Colorado hold off USC 70-66 on Thursday night.

Wright added six rebounds and seven assists, and Tyler Bey had 14 points and 11 rebounds for Colorado (21-6, 10-4 Pac-12 Conference). The Buffaloes lead the conference by a game after Oregon fell 77-72 at Arizona State on Thursday night.

Colorado has never won the Pac-12 regular-season title but took the 2012 conference tournament in coach Tad Boyle’s second season.

Onyeka Okongwu had 21 points, Jonah Mathews added 17, and Nick Rakocevic had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Trojans. They lost for the fourth time in six games.

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KINGS

A pack of reporters moved from corner to corner of the Kings’ locker room Thursday morning, navigating a room full of new faces and empty stalls, documenting the glaring changes of a franchise in transition.

Alec Martinez’s nameplate atop his former locker was replaced by a generic Kings logo. Newly acquired Tim Schaller was assigned Tyler Toffoli’s old space, but instead hung his gear in a spare stall along the opposite wall. Former first-round draft pick Gabriel Vilardi also plopped down in a spot of his own, preparing for his long-awaited NHL debut on a day most Kings veterans coped with the loss of long-time teammates.

There was excitement and pain, optimism and affliction. It felt like ground zero of the Kings’ rebuild, the day the team’s storied past finally collided with its fast-approaching future.

“You know deep down what they’re thinking and how they feel,” coach Todd McLellan said hours before his team’s 5-4 win over the Florida Panthers. “The bond that group creates when you win championships – not one, but two – is so strong that when they walk out the door it’s not easy.”

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Vilardi, the 11th overall pick in 2017 who had his professional debut delayed by a serious back injury that flared up last season, spoke next, anxious to begin his NHL career.

“Pretty nervous,” he said. “But I’ll settle down once I get on the ice.”

Did he ever. Less than 10 seconds into his opening shift Thursday night, Vilardi fired a knuckling shot past Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky for his first career goal. His first assist came a period later, a no-look backhanded feed that Martin Frk buried from the slot.

LAKERS-CLIPPERS

It made perfect sense when, just days after Kobe Bryant’s death, the NBA decided to postpone a game on Jan. 28 between the Lakers and Clippers at Staples Center.

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The teams — and the city — were still grieving.

“This is a very difficult time for all of us,” the Lakers said in a statement.

More than three weeks have passed with no announcement of a makeup date as the league deals with an uncooperative calendar.

Neither the Lakers nor the Clippers have an obvious, mutual opening over the remaining regular season. To make matters worse, they must share Staples Center with the Kings and frequent special events such as concerts.

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A league spokesman said Thursday that no date has been finalized. Neither team would comment.

Much of the complexity stems from NBA precedent. Teams used to play three nights in a row on occasion, but the late David Stern discouraged that practice when he took over as commissioner in 1984.

There have been exceptions in recent seasons, with both the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards playing back-to-back-to-back games after weather postponements.

Some openings on the Lakers’ and Clippers’ schedules would inflict a three-game stretch on one or both teams. Others would require a daytime tipoff on a weekday to allow the Kings play that night.

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USC FOOTBALL

USC football took little time finding a replacement for its 2021 season opener.

The Trojans will open against San Jose State at the Coliseum on Sept. 4, 2021.

The Spartans replace UC Davis. USC canceled that game to avoid playing the first FCS opponent in school history.

“We recognize the long-standing tradition that USC has only played FBS schools and we heard passionately from our fans about how important that is to them,” said USC athletic director Mike Bohn. “So when this opportunity to schedule San Jose State arose, we listened and made it happen.”

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SPARKS

The Sparks signed four-time WNBA champion and three-time Olympic gold medalist Seimone Augustus on Thursday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The eight-time All-Star guard won titles with the Minnesota Lynx in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017, the latter championship coming at the expense of the Sparks.

Augustus, who was the No. 1 overall selection by Minnesota in the 2006 draft out of Louisiana State, ranks 11th on the WNBA’s all-time scoring list with 5,881 points.

“Seimone Augustus is a player I’ve admired from a distance throughout her illustrious career,” Sparks coach Derek Fisher said in a statement released by the team. “She’s a leader, fierce competitor and a winner. We’re excited to work with her and have her join our group as we continue to build towards the vision we have for our 2020 season.”

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HORSE RACING

Santa Anita had a seventh horse die while training or racing Thursday when Unveiled suffered a fracture to his right front while galloping during morning training. The season started Dec. 26.

The incident occurred while the horse was galloping, considered a low-risk training exercise. The 4-year-old colt was trained by John Shirreffs, who according to the California Horse Racing Board, has not had a fatality since it started compiling trainer statistics a year and a half ago. The CHRB said the fatal injury was in the shoulder while Santa Anita said it was in the humerus, the long bone in the leg.

Last year, Santa Anita had 15 deaths to this point. The Stronach Group has instituted safety measures, considered the strictest in the country, in the hopes of reducing the number of fatalities. However, the horse population at Santa Anita has been significantly reduced leading to fewer race cards, fewer races and fewer starters this year.

Unveiled was a well-bred 4-year-old having been purchased for $575,000 in Aug., 2017 by Ashview Farm. He had yet to make an official start. He had no workouts listed in the last 60 days.

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TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific.

Memphis at Lakers, 7:30 p.m., Spectrum Sportsnet, 710 ESPN

Colorado at Ducks, 7 p.m., PRIME, AM 830

UCLA (women) at Washington State, 7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks

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USC (women) at Washington, 7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks

BORN ON THIS DATE

1925: Basketball coach Jack Ramsay (d. 2014)

1958: Baseball player Alan Trammell

1968: Football player Terry Allen

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DIED ON THIS DATE

1974: Hockey player Tim Horton, 44

AND FINALLY

Dodgers reveal updated renderings of center field renovations. Look at them here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, 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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