• Arrogant Friedman, Puppet Roberts Bad Combo

    By T.J. Simers

    Never met Andrew Friedman and never heard of Brandon Gomes before reading the Times.

    Why would you need a GM (Gomes) if you have a know it all (Friedman).

    I went through a lot of cocky Dodger GMs in the Sheriff aka Dodger Boy Kevin Malone era, Dan Evans and Paul DePodesta, but the Friedman arrogance displayed in print Wednesday reached toxic levels.

    I understand now why Dave Roberts is returning to manage and why Gomes has a job; they’ve been propped up as potential fall guys for Friedman if the local media or fan base gets wise to him.

    Times columnist Dylan Hernandez wrote another fantastic column off of Friedman’s press conference. I wasn’t there, but Hernandez’s column read like Friedman was sitting on a throne.

    Who the heck is Friedman to be so haughty, the great collection of talent and money spent in recent years, and they have won one Covid title to show for it all. Why change, says Friedman, he did everything right.

    How about this Hernandez paragraph from his column: “Friedman didn’t highlight anything the front office could have done better. If anything, he went out of his way to defend the group.”

    How can anyone hold the Dodgers accountable for their postseason belly flop if it doesn’t start at the top?

    For example: I’d just like to know more about pulling starting pitcher Tyler Anderson from the fourth game because of the fear expressed by Roberts of what MIGHT happen next if allowed to pitch into the sixth inning.

    Understanding the moment has to be bigger than the analytical numbers.

    A condescending Friedman said he has said it before, so why bother him again? He told the obliging media Roberts has full autonomy over in-game decisions. And yet I think I read somewhere the team had decided before the game to pull Anderson before facing the Padres’ big hitters a third time.

    A manager with complete autonomy in making in-game decisions would have scrapped the pre-game plan and trotted Anderson out for the sixth inning and given him a chance. Either Roberts doesn’t have the in-game instincts to stick with what is working or he’s allowing himself to be bullied by Friedman. I have no idea what Gomes is doing.

    Either way, Roberts should be gone. If he’s playing the stooge for Friedman, his players know it and the Dodgers would be better off with a fresh voice. If he lacks the managerial instincts to win a big game, he’s the wrong guy for the Dodgers.

    “After every single postseason I’ve answered that question,” said Friedman when asked if Roberts’ postseason blunders have contributed to the Dodgers demise. So, I don’t feel like it’s a narrative … if it ever changes, I’ll let you people know.”

    Translated: I know everything, and you people know nothing until I clue you in. That arrogance speaks to his insecurity and why he has Roberts around to take the fall if necessary.

    Plaschke should be challenging Dodger management instead of going into hiding. He’s written plenty of stupid things in his career and bounced back to do more. I know USC and the Dodgers went down on the same day and Plaschke might be shell-shocked, but in his role as No. 1 columnist he should be asking Friedman for less arrogance and more insight to what has bedeviled the Dodgers in postseason play.

    So far all we have gotten from him is a column following the fourth game proclaiming the Dodgers went from best ro worst, and woe is me.

    A soft media corps and fans who just take it allows the Dodgers to get away with incompetence.

    Friedman dismissing a reporter’s question about a missed sign: “I’m not gonna spend any time (talking about) that either,” is an insult to every Dodger fan who sat there glued to their TV screen following every pitch.

    Spend any time? It was a postseason news conference and Friedman has all the time in the world to take questions and offer some insight into what went wrong.

    Hey, give Gomes something to do like getting to the bottom of the missed sign.

  • Never owned a Choking Dog

    By T.J. Simers

    Dwyre and I were talking about dogs.

    I know what you are thinking: Choking Dogs. But we really weren’t talking about the Dodgers.

    We weren’t even discussing Plaschke’s latest meltdown or his juvenile writing style: “The Dodgers blinked first. The Dodgers blinked furiously. The Dodgers blinked recklessly.”

    You write like that for a journalism class, and they are telling you to switch majors and try anything where it doesn’t involve writing.

    Oh, and Plaschke’s next sentence in his Thursday morning account of the Dodgers’ game: “The Dodgers blinked so rapidly, their season has been rendered red and swollen and beyond painful.”

    Eesh gads that writing stinks — one loss and the sky is falling. Please, don’t let this guy write about the Lakers.

    We were talking dogs, but nothing about the Times’ sports section going to the dogs, or my favorite Dodger Dog, Clayton Kershaw, standing tall again as poster boy for the post-season blues.

    No, we were talking about Oinker and Bummer, the first two dogs my wife and I owned before acquiring Shammer.

    There was some concern when we started making babies what they might be named but that’s a blog for another day.

    We added No Bargain to our menagerie, a huge Dalmatian who liked to take a running start before leaping onto your lap. You know, a lot like my wife.

    We were just married, so the furniture was already the best you could find in an Idaho garage sale. So, no harm.

    We lived in Hayden Lake, Idaho, across the street from a logging camp and down the gravel road to where the Aryan Nations headquarters was located, or so we were told after we moved. Never knew the racist skinheads were all around us in our brief stint working for the Coeur d’Alene Press, and that’s the kind of reporter I was — unable to even trip across a story.

    We had a horse living in the field behind us, and I built a three-level doghouse right beyond our potato patch. Living in Yorba Linda isn’t so bad.

    Dwyre, meanwhile, was born in Wisconsin with a chance to date Laverne or Shirley while waiting for the girl across the street to grow up and become his wife for the next 50-some years.

    By the way, I got to know Laverne really well and Squiggy, too, so I never thought it was such a big deal when Dwyre liked to say he might have run off with Laverne. I’m not sure Laverne even knew who he was, not surprised at all that Dwyre named his dog, “Addie,” or “Addy” instead of Laverne.

    It’s just the kind of dog you would expect a Notre Dame grad to own, a little fur ball who just lays there. Or lies there, whichever is proper grammar.

    I’ve been to Madison Square Garden for the dog show two or three times. But I’ve never seen anything to remind me of our dogs. Gravel had one eye, probably a strike against him at Westminster.

    I was on Friday night preps deadline for the Morristown Daily Record in New Jersey, my wife calling to say the cat next store had just taken the eye out of our new dog and what should she do.

    Pick up the eye, I told her, and our baby daughter in the other arm, go to doggy emergency and if it costs less than $100, fix the eye. If not, tell the baby doggy is going to doggy heaven.

    Cost $99 I was told, the $3,000 years later for the removal of the eye and treatment. And let that be a lesson for you if going to a pet store for gravel for the fish tank and coming out with the cute puppy in the window. It’s a lot like getting married, falling for the cute girl but never considering the expenses ahead.

    We had Maui because we went there, a contest to see if Maui would last longer than the time it took to pay off the bill to go there. We had Irish, a contest then to see if we could pay for the Notre Dame daughter’s college experience before losing Irish, and sorry to say Irish lost.

    We had Blah, who reminds me of the writing in the Times these days, Scruffy because we don’t believe in grooming, Holly the cat who was better known as Cat because every time we called Holly’s name, Maui came running. We had Ralphie, after the kid who nearly shot his eye out in A Christmas Story and as much time as we put into naming our dogs, I still can’t tell you why we didn’t think of naming Gravel — Ralphie.

    A robber came into our Memphis house, by the way, and Gravel sat there and just let him steal our TV. I think he just figured crime was everyday life in Memphis.

    We also have Rona as in an annoying little barking creep. Or CorRONA. She’s already had Puppy Strangles, Parva and her jaw fractured by Nixon. Nixon tried to cover it up, of course.

    We have Nixon because the daughter has Kennedy.

    Obviously, I know something about dogs, the Choking Dogs such an interesting breed. They are lovable creatures, so much to like about them only to let you down. It’s like going out and coming home to find them trashing the house and leaving a mess.

    The nice thing, this is Plaschke’s mess to clean up, and as much as he has shoveled, the Times have the very best on it.

  • Life tossed aside by Eric Kay

    By T.J. Simers

    I’m not sure what to write here, and even if I figure it out, I could very well be wrong.

    Eric Kay, the Angels’ PR guy, is going to prison for the next 22 years.

    I knew Eric Kay, worked with him, and no, I was never really close with the guy. But he’s a father of three boys, a husband and stupid, making the kind of mistake where there is no satisfactory retreat.

    He gave drugs to Angels’ pitcher Tyler Skaggs and Skaggs died. Throw away the key.

    For some, it’s that simple.

    I’ve heard what Kay said on tape about Skaggs, and it’s as tough as it can be said about someone who is dead. It might also be expected coming from someone who is tortured by what he’s about to lose and how he allowed himself to go that far off the path.

    He was sitting in a prison cell and didn’t become politically correct or self-aware overnight no matter what the judge expected. Just goes to show you what an unsophisticated criminal Kay really is, now going to pay for that with two years of additional prison time.

    Kay didn’t force Skaggs to take any drugs, but he made them available, and Skaggs died. Everyone here or who was here, are guilty. Skaggs paid for it with his life, and while Kay remains alive, he’s dead to his family, friends and so are any dreams he might have had for the rest of his life.

    It’s a horrible story about throwing away life, Skaggs a Major League pitcher and something so wrong with him he put his life in jeopardy. Kay had a dream job in Anaheim, a chance to be a real role model for his three sons and it wasn’t enough.

    For so many there is no sympathy, no mitigation or a second side to the story. And as angry as Kay sounded apparently on prison tapes, that’s all she wrote.

    But imagine sitting in prison Tuesday night and looking ahead to the next 22 years.

    And I know what some are saying, what about Skaggs?

    I don’t have the answers, whether the drugs were laced with fentanyl, whether Kay could have done something to save Skaggs, whether 20 years was too much prison punishment and then added time for venting in prison about how upset he was with Skaggs, or just how much to blame him for being so bitter.

    There’s nothing simple about a life thrown away, no idea what must be going on in Key’s head, or why it should never have crossed his mind when he started trafficking drugs.

    But I did know Darryl Henley, a Rams’ starting cornerback on the verge of making more than $1 million year, who went away to prison for 41 years without any chance of parole.

    I didn’t get along with Henley, as writer and football player, but I came to know him as accused drug trafficker and later as the guy ordering a hit on a judge and Rams cheerleader.

    Henley got in trouble initially because he allowed family and friends to take advantage of his stardom and money. He didn’t think he was doing anything wrong, and given his awesome ability to communicate, it was clear in his head he could talk his way out of anything.

    But he was wrong, and he began to dig a deeper hole, angry like Kay because he didn’t think he was as guilty as everyone made him out to be. He couldn’t take responsibility for his misjudgment.

    I was with Henley in his home the night before the jury pronounced him guilty and he never saw it coming. The Feds set him up in prison and he took the bait and ordered the hit on the judge and cheerleader. Once again, no sympathy for such a lack of judgment.

    It’s jarring, though, to watch someone toss away their life. He’s been in prison something like 27 years and can’t get out before 2036 when he will be 61.

    I wish I could I write something insightful or meaningful about Kay or how life unexpectedly changed for the Skaggs family. And why did it happen? I am at such a loss how to explain it or how I really feel.

    For a writer, that is so defeating. So frustrating.

  • Dodgers don’t listen to Plaschke; thank God

    By T.J. Simers

    The audacity of the Dodgers, wining 111 games when LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke told them to stop winning.

    It’s as if the Dodgers never read Plaschke or took anything he had to offer seriously.

    They obviously paid no attention to his baseball expertise, a wonder they got to where they are in the standings without listening to Plaschke.

    Back on Aug. 25, Plaschke wrote: “It feels weird issuing this plea to a baseball team bullying its way toward historic ground, but, sorry, somebody has to say it.

    “Hey, steamrolling Dodgers?


    What a stupid notion, a grown-up columnist for a major league city telling the baseball team in town to just chill rather than put on a show.

    You can just imagine the chatter in the Dodgers’ clubhouse, players turning to each other to say, “Plaschke wants us to slow down.”


    “Plaschke. You know the guy writing for the LA Times.”

    “Never read the paper.”

    How do we expect the Dodgers to excel if ignoring the No. 1 know-it-all in town?

    On Oct. 2, Plaschke had more to write about the Dodgers: “This reporter asked Roberts…” I guess that’s the clever way of writing, “I asked Roberts…”

    I asked Roberts, Plaschke wrote, “if he wished he ever longed for more unbridled regular-season joy around Chavez Ravine like in Seattle last week when the Mariners made the playoffs for the first time in 21 years.”

    Plaschke apparently has something about the Dodgers winning all the time. He’d be good with every 21 years.

    “Yeah, I do,” Roberts said to this reporter, and I wouldn’t think much of Roberts if he was repeating this nonsense to others.

    “Unfortunately,” Roberts continued while talking to this reporter, “The world has gone very cynical, which is sad. … Are certain fans, not all, jaded? Absolutely. And [they] don’t realize what it takes, what this team, in particular, has had to overcome, to get to this point.”

    Well, we know they had to overcome the No. 1 voice in the newspaper telling them to stop their momentum and just stop winning. You can imagine how upset the Dodgers must be, letting down Plaschke like that, winning 111 games..

    Roberts went on to tell this reporter, “He wished there was more pure happiness in the moment.

    “The sense of gratitude and joy is many times lost in our society, and certainly in sports, it’s at the forefront,” he said, adding, “I wish they certainly would enjoy the ride and know and appreciate what we do, regardless of ultimately if we’re the last team standing.”

    So, in August Plaschke tells everyone the Dodgers are winning too much, just sucking the joy out of such success, and then in October he quotes the manager as saying people (like this reporter) should enjoy the moment.

    Plaschke continues to make a big deal out of Roberts’ so-called guarantee the Dodgers will win the World Series on some radio show, like it’s a really big deal the manager of the team would say his team will win it all. I would hope he would say that, rather than some wishy-washy “we’ll see.”

    For a columnist to act as if that is something outlandish for a manager to say speaks more to how hard the columnist is looking to make much ado about nothing. But then much ado about nothing has always been a staple of a Plaschke column

    Plaschke’s got more to say, of course in his Oct. 2 blah-blah-blah: “If the Dodgers win the World Series, they could be arguably anointed as the best team in baseball history.

    “If they don’t win the World Series, they could be forever known as one of the biggest disappointments in baseball history.”

    Well, how’s that for a preview of what Plaschke is going to write after the World Series.

    Good thing none of the Dodgers will pay any attention to it.

  • Help wanted: LA Times in need of female columnist …who can write

    By T.J. Simers

    One person’s garbage is another’s treasure, someone said in trying to explain why Helene Elliott is allowed to write a sports column in the LA Times.

    OK, I get that. We used to say that the really crummy columnists would appear in the back of the newspaper with the tire ads. But now newspapers don’t attract that many ads, but still have crummy columnists. And the Times’ sports section is so small the back is almost the front.

    When I wrote I was put on Page 2, no one ever dreaming it could be worthy of Page 1.

    Now it’s bad enough Elliott is crummy, but she’s a hoarder as well. She was writing Wednesday in the Times about the only woman ever to play for an NHL team, keeping it in her column writing memory bank for almost 30 years.

    It was a forgettable story 30 years ago, Canadian Manon Rheaume playing the second period in goal for the Tampa Lightning in an exhibition game. By LA relevancy and NHL standards, she never existed, just like all the NFL guys who play in exhibition games and are cut before making the team.

    But we get Elliott writing about her 30 years later as if it matters, and on the front page of the LA Times sports section.

    Now I know the LA Times has a female sports editor and there has been a push to display more women’s sports in the newspaper, and I know Helene Elliott is a columnist usually writing about things readers don’t care about, but when these two get together, yuck.

    What’s the importance of this story, well, Elliott tells us in a paragraph: ”It’s not that teams and leagues are becoming ‘woke.’ They’ve belatedly realized admitting women into their stale, restricted old boys’ club adds knowledge, perspective and experiences that can invigorate the sport.”

    Hogwash. Stale restricted old boys club? I know Elliott’s columns read like that, but 30 later after Manon Rheaume’s brief appearance in exhibition play, nothing has changed. Women still don’t play in the NHL.

    And there’s no clamor for more women in hockey. Nothing wrong with it, but how ridiculous to make more out of it than a team just hiring a qualified candidate to fill a vacancy.

    Elliott is supposed to be knowledgeable. She’s in the hockey hall of fame, I presume because of her writing but then that goes to show you the quality of writers covering the NHL.

    She’s a boring columnist, who was trying to prove a point in Wednesday’s newspaper. I have no idea what that point was beyond referring to the NHL as a stale restricted old boys club, but if she’s trying to make the case the NHL needs more women, double hogwash.

    If it was just a training camp feature, it was lame and the sports editor should have buried it inside.

    We can agree, disagree or not care, I for one falling in the latter category. Go ahead and load up the front office with women. The Times ran a big picture of Rheaume taken in February on the front of sports Wednesday because she’s nice to look at. Maybe hockey needs cheerleaders.

    Maybe hockey is just trying to impress its fan base, or the media that keeps tabs of such things.

    I suspect most people only care what’s going on the ice, and like the NFL, there are no females playing the game.

    We all like circus stories, a newspaper a great place to tell them, but Elliott’s hockey player performed almost 30 years ago and by most accounts it wasn’t that memorable.

    She’s now in the player development department, and I’m sure she has a lot of riveting player development department stories to tell. Didn’t get any in this Elliott column, but maybe Part 2 is coming tomorrow.

    I hear it all the time how reporters have agendas, and I always say the same thing: Most writers are just trying to meet a deadline and are making no attempt to push an agenda.

    But this was an agenda column, the female sports editor showcasing it, written by the female sports columnist pandering to female readers by presenting a female hockey player who never played in an NHL game. I’m sure, “Let’s get more women stories in the sports section,” is a newspaper mantra. And one not usually to be argued.

    However, this just wasn’t a good, interesting column, ending like it started in going nowhere: “Because she said no to those who doubted her so many years ago, other women have had the opportunity to say yes to significant roles in a game that can’t be for everyone if it doesn’t let everyone have a say in its present and its future.”

    WHAT? That’s 47 words of gibberish.

    Sometimes one person’s garbage is just garbage.

  • Knocking the sense out of the NFL

    By T.J. Simers

    If you are tough, you are admired, and especially in the NFL.

    But you can be tough, and stupid as well.

    The TV announcers piled it on when Chargers’ quarterback Justin Herbert injured his rib cartilage and hung in there tough two weeks ago. They gushed.

    Then he came back to play for the Chargers in the next game knowing he could tough it out. He wouldn’t say if he took a pain-killing injection because tough guys don’t admit such things. The Chargers were so inspired, they got pummeled.

    And it looked to me like Chargers’ head coach Brandon Staley was a wimp, unable to tell his quarterback to take a seat. More than that, he continued to play Herbert after the Chargers went down by 28 points and the game could no longer be won.

    It’s obvious Herbert is calling the Chargers’ shots, and in a macho game, the macho quarterback is going to stay out there and prove his toughness no matter how stupid he might be.

    Head coaches are supposed to make such tough decisions.

    Now I wonder about Miami coach Mike McDaniel and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Two weeks ago, Tua took a hit, came to his feet and stumbled badly, too dizzy to leave the field on his own.

    There was a time when we applauded that, knocking the stuffings out of player, and look at that!

    In the days before CTE and head trauma, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see Tua return to the field after halftime. But we know now via deaths to really cool people like Junior Seau that blows to the head are devastating.

    How many times had we cheered for Seau after watching him trying to behead a ball-carrier by leading with his own helmet? The more explosive, the more we cheered.

    But now we know better, or supposedly we do. We demand that our athletes who take a big lick be cleared by a doctor before returning to the field. We penalize the guys who deliver the big helmet hits, instant replay determining if it was “targeting,” in college football such a conviction resulting in ejection.

    There is no way I expected to see the return of Tua two weeks ago after halftime, taking for granted we are more informed about the head these days.

    But I know how much chicanery goes on behind the NFL scenes. I covered the NFL on a daily basis for more than a decade. It used to be steroids driving the game on the hush-hush, and probably still is.

    But knowing Seau shot himself in the chest so he could preserve his head for medical study, I have become so much more sensitive to head injuries and the pressure not to play.

    Team doctors have always worked as if taking orders from coaches and owners, and of course they are. Someone doesn’t remain a team doctor for any length of time if they aren’t getting the players back on the field at warp speed.

    I think Tua set a modern-day record in this age of CTE, and just as importantly, his team won.

    I remember doing stories on great players like Al Toon, who got knocked silly so often he had to spend his later years working with horses because people were too much for him. I also learned at the time that a player getting a concussion was going to be more susceptible to getting another.

    So, was Miami surprised to find Tua lying on the ground, his fingers twitching as we were told, because he injured his head again? If you have a son, is there any doubt whether he will play football?

    The NFL is immensely popular, but head injuries have the potential to sabotage the sport. The NFL took to selling clothes and appealing to mothers several years ago to keep mom’s input as positive as possible when it came to the family decision for a kid playing the sport or not.

    But as Tua and the Dolphins showed moms everywhere, winning at all costs is what is really important in the NFL. And as almost anyone in the NFL would tell you, tough times never last, but tough people do.

  • Just silly: Ignoring James while shredding Westbrook and Davis

    By T.J. Simers

    It was Media Day in Lakerland and after reading the LA Times you would think the Lakers have the worst team out there.

    They are ready to implode, we were told by columnists Dylan Hernandez and Bill Plaschke, woe is me because we only have Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook to go along with LeBron James.

    How can we have any interest in this season now that it is already lost before the first exhibition game according to our Times’ naysayers.

    I’m not familiar with this kind of writing, recently extolling the excellence of Kershaw and Pujols, while knowing they weren’t always perfect.

    But this is savagery.

    One of the columnists called it Westbrook Hell, and I hope he never has a bad day, week or year trying to think of three things to write in machine gun rapid fire in one of his columns. He forgets how many horrible, trite and ridiculous columns he has written over the years between ambulance calls.

    Plaschke writes: “He’s still a Laker. He’s still combative. He’s still Russ,” and what does all that mean?

    . The Times has written hundreds of stories about Russ still being here, so no new ground. He’s combative and let me tell you, Kobe Bryant was combative and that wasn’t considered a negative by any means. He’s still Russ, and by gawd, what is Plaschke suggesting, Russ change his name?

    Now the Times is hammering a guy for being a Laker who is feisty and refuses to change his first name?

    Then we have Hernandez, destroying Davis and writing just like Plaschke: Hernandez writes: “He’s warm. He’s smart. He’s going to point the finger at himself when he screws up.”

    And then the kicker: “But he doesn’t get it.”

    Hernandez does. He goes to maybe 30 NBA games a year, but he knows more than Davis who agreed—doesn’t play more than 30 games a year the way it seems while always being injured.

    But are we going to blame guys because their bodies betray them? We are if we are on the Times’ payroll, and I can tell you I am not.

    Oh, Hernandez wants you to know Davis is entering his fourth year with the Lakers and still doesn’t get it.

    Clever trap set by Hernandez. Now I have to read on to find out what Davis doesn’t get.

    From what I gather reading between the Hernandez lines is that Hernandez wants him to be a Greek God. And Davis doesn’t get that.

    We don’t ask much from our athletes, just be a God and fire lightning bolts at the other guys for our amusement.

    What do Plaschke and Hernandez do, get together before Media Day and say, “I will slam Davis and you crush Westbrook, and we’ll get to LeBron later?” Do they even know the names of everyone else on the Lakers’ roster?

    Yeah, I know Plaschke has written about how bad LeBron is for the Lakers and how he should be traded, but I give that about as much credibility as his picks for the Super Bowl. He probably got this last one correct, because I can’t say I read Plaschke all that much to know, but how would it look for the homer to pick against his hometown football team playing in its hometown stadium?

    He’s got something against LeBron because he’s not Shaq or Kobe. Didn’t LeBron win a championship two years ago?

    OK, so it’s not going to happen this season, and we know that because Plaschke and Hernandez went belly up on Media Day moaning and groaning about how bad the team is going to be.

    I have no idea how good or bad the Lakers are going to be, and I would guess most folks think the same way.

    Now I do think Rob Pelinka is a buffoon, and I thought that while he was Kobe’s agent.

    I think Jeanie is an airhead and puts her trust in the wrong people.

    I think if Westbrook, James and Davis played something like 21 or so games together last season, I’m willing to see if they can play 60 or 70 some games together and finish with a better record than most teams in the NBA.

    I appreciate the fact our columnists went after Westbrook—easy pickings, and Davis—a nice guy, but let’s see them go toe-to-toe with James, asking James if maybe it would be best for the Lakers to trade him, or speak power-to-truth about Westbrook and Davis.

    Don’t let James off the hook, too frightened to challenge him. I remember when Ron Artest was a scary Laker and he turned out to be just a pussycat. How about getting a relationship with him, instead of being just hit-and-run columnists. Yeah, you’re being called out.

    James is the kingpin here, and I’m not sure what a kingpin is, but he’s the guy. So why ignore him?

    How do you avoid James on Media Day when access is a guarantee? I admit, I didn’t check to see if the Times’ Lakers beat reporter wrote about James because he writes like a publicist and for mental sanity, I am avoiding such dribble.

    I probably should have done that years ago when I started to read Plaschke, and oh boy, now Hernandez is writing like him.

    Pretty soon I’m going to have to read Helene Elliott. OK, so no time soon.


  • Albert the Great

    By T.J. Simers

    I apologize.

    I wrote a nice blog yesterday on Claton Kershaw and Dylan Hernandez, and today I’m not going to take back what I wrote about Hernandez despite the clamor.

    Instead, I am going to go off the deep end and write more kind things, this time about Albert Pujols.

    When Albert came to the Angels, I was told to tread lightly with him, a green light for me, of course, to really go after him. Above all, I was told, don’t talk to him about his age.

    So, first question to Albert: “Just how old are you?”

    He didn’t pick up a bat, which I found very encouraging. I never worried about that with most Angels because they would have swung and missed, but this guy was considered a vaunted slugger.

    Albert’s answer: “As old as you are.”

    Next day I wrote that’s why the Angels stink; they just signed a 61-yearold first baseman.”’

    As I liked to do, I said the same thing to Albert to see how it would fly, and he laughed.

    The Angels’ PR guy at the time was Tim Mead, and the best PR guy in Los Angeles. Well, strike that. No one considers Anaheim a part of Los Angeles, especially the L.A. Times which tries to avoid all things Anaheim, so that would make former USC PR guy Tim Tessalone the best in L.A., and Mead the best in the greater southern California area.

    Anyway, I digress, and you can do that in a blog. Mead warned Albert all about me, the wisecracks and question baiting to come, and so Albert disarmed me.

    I take it the Dodgers’ PR guy never warned Kevin Brown.

    Albert and I talked that day and any day I thought I could be in Anaheim without the fear of being seen. I came to learn a lot about the so-called malcontent as so many other sports writers had warned me. As usual the horde had it wrong, refusing to find out for themselves what was true and what was not.

    He married a woman who already had a special needs child, and I found that interesting. They divorced after 22 years of marriage, and I found that none of my business. It garnered some negative headlines because the divorce became public shortly after she had successful surgery to remove a brain tumor.

    Given that, his former wife released a statement at the beginning of this season: “He has been one of the most disciplined athletes of his sport that I have known and how God has used his life on and off the field has always blown my mind! I am really happy he gets one more year to play the game.”

    So are a lot of others, the baseball fans in Dodger Stadium screaming out their appreciation Friday night after Albert hit two home runs to reach only the heights of Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron as the only baseball players to reach 700 career home runs.

    Wouldn’t you like to see Angry Arte’s face right now, Arte Moreno. the Angels’ owner signing him to a 10-year deal and Albert putting on a show against the Dodgers for the St. Louis Cardinals? Just up the road from Angel Stadium.

    I am so happy for Albert, finding the giant of the game to be even bigger off the field.

    In 2013 I went to spring training in Arizona and began the trip with the Angels, a clear sign I wasn’t feeling well. I would be hospitalized later in the night, but that morning I was so eager to interview Albert. I had to endure two meetings with Manager Mike Scioscia before I got the chance, the first to tell me he would never tell me what to write and the second so he could tell me what to write.

    Then I talked to Albert, enjoying it all before I woke up that night to collapse. It would be the start of the end for me at the L.A. Times, the Times apparently not thrilled with sickly columnists.

    A Dodger trainer assistant drove me to the hospital, and while sitting on the edge of my bed in a hospital gown, I wrote a Pujols column.

    That was the last time I dealt with Pujols, missing the chance to wish him well, because after all, he was working for Angry Arte.

    Looks like he did just fine, having a night in Dodger Stadium and writing his name into baseball history.

    I wish him well now in retirement, knowing now how old he is.


  • Two Superstars: Kershaw & Hernandez

    By T.J. Simers

    I read the Times’ terrific column Friday by Dylan Hernandez on the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and I was jealous.

    First of all, these are two of my favorite people, but enough about Hernandez.

    I miss interviewing Kershaw and ducking an occasional verbal jab. I was still a young man when Kershaw came to the Dodgers, and I ordinarily pay no attention to rookies or the children of other people. But Kershaw was different, he was already stupendous and so grownup.

    He became one of my all-time favorites, and I’ve gone through a lot of contenders.

    When I met him, he was just a kid. He certainly wasn’t married. Hernandez mentioned in his column that Kershaw now has four kids. So, I presume he’s married now. That suggests a serious passage of time, and Kershaw always acted older than he appeared so he must be acting really old these days.

    But he told Hernandez he wants to keep pitching, and I wish I had gotten that out of him, but it wasn’t like Hernandez tackled him and forced him to give up his most inner competitive thoughts.

    He asked the question. Granted at the right time, and he knew what to do with it, but it takes a certain amount of trust for a superstar to reveal himself.

    Right from the beginning Kershaw was respectful but with an edge to his demeanor, and interesting. You might find this hard to believe but there aren’t that many interesting athletes. The really good ones have been really good most of their lives, which means they don’t have the life experiences to spice up their resumes.

    Kershaw was 20 when he came to the big leagues with the Dodgers, making him the youngest player in the game, but so much more than that.

    Kershaw could talk, and even make sense. I remember when I was writing for the Times, Kershaw was developing an orphanage in Africa. I made some kind of mistake in the story about it and felt absolutely terrible when discussing it with Kershaw, who thank heavens didn’t throw a high hard one back at me in disgust.

    I loved his competitiveness, trashing him, of course, like everyone else when he went ten toes up in postseason play. And then later would marvel at his maturity to put it all on himself, no excuses, no what-ifs.

    If I had a son, he wouldn’t be as effective a pitcher given his genes, but the way Kershaw conducted himself, he was obviously raised right. His parents were divorced when he was 10, no easy thing for any kid, but somebody knew what they were doing.

    I noticed in Hernandez’s column that Manager Dave Roberts had Kershaw say a few words to the team before letting the champagne flow. Smart move, and while I can only take Hernandez’s word that it was Roberts’ idea, Kershaw is one of those rarest of athletes who can stand consistent year after year as a role model should.

    Hernandez has always had an affinity for Kershaw, and I’m not surprised. He likes good guys, and while Kershaw likes to play the tough guy on occasion with the media, he would respect Hernandez’s relentless push to get what he thinks is best for Times’ readers.

    He’s also not Plaschke; enough said.

    I was so happy to hear Kershaw would be starting the All-Star game in Dodger Stadium earlier this season, and I could make a case that Hernandez suggesting that when he did, helped Kershaw’s cause.

    The Dodgers need players like Kershaw, and while the high-priced mercenaries have made the Dodgers dominant, there is still something old-fashioned about home-grown talent. A first-round pick and the seventh player taken in the 2006 draft, he went four picks before Arizona took Max Scherzer, and that’s a pretty good one-two lock on proven talent.

    Scherzer has a 200-101 record with a 3.11 earned run average, while Kershaw is 194-87 with a 2.49 earned run average. It’s a matching pair, all right, and baseball has been better off with their contributions.

    Beyond the stats, though, Kershaw has stood tall for every parent in the L.A. area wanting the very best for their baseball following kids. That makes him the perfect Dodger for baseball fans here, and it sounds like we’re going to get another year from him.

    But it’s up to Hernandez to make sure the Dodgers don’t let Kershaw wander off to another team for his closing act.

    Get on it, Dylan.

  • Tell me it isn’t true about Ridley-Thomas

    By T.J. Simers

    It looks like I might have this all wrong and that bothers me that I could be that wrong about Mark Ridley-Thomas.

    It’s not exactly a sports story but sports are how I came to know city councilman Ridley-Thomas. The NFL wanted back in Los Angeles years ago and possibly to the Coliseum, and that meant the NFL had to deal with the elected official and politician that Ridley-Thomas was.

    And the NFL was scared of him.

    He talked with a measure to his voice, refused to buckle to NFL intimidation and defended Los Angeles. Everything he did seemed so righteous.

    But I read now he was indicted on federal corruption charges a year ago, and as bad as that can be, someone from USC pleaded guilty Monday for bribing Ridley-Thomas and that makes Ridley-Thomas look even more guilty before facing a November trial.

    I don’t know all the scandal details, but am flabbergasted at what has become of him.

    He was thrown off the city council.

    That’s not the man I knew, but what does that say about the people we think we know.

    I thought I knew Patrick Lynch, the Los Angeles Coliseum general manager, better than some of the folks on the LA Times staff. I certainly trusted him more.

    But he eventually stood before a judge hoping to stay out of jail. He received three years of probation for his role in a Coliseum corruption scandal, and maybe it’s best not to have anything to do with the Coliseum.

    Don’t get me started on Darryl Henley, the former UCLA-Rams’ cornerback who is currently serving a 31-year sentence for cocaine trafficking and attempting to murder a judge and witness.

    He used to call me from jail so often, the prosecutors said they took a look at me to make sure I wasn’t somehow involved in his wrongdoings.

    I was at his home the night before he was found guilty and hauled off to jail. I met Henley’s parents, who were ministers. I was in the jail visiting room the first time his baby walked and sitting behind glass Henley was not allowed to touch her.

    He was so believable when he talked, so innocent he said.

    I visited him in the same prison in Illinois that was holding John Gotti, the Rams a few miles away in St. Louis and preparing for a Super Bowl while he was given an hour in the prison yard.

    That pretty much makes me a rotten judge of character, I guess, and so when I tell you how much I admired Karl Dorrell, that probably doesn’t bode well for him. He’s expected to be fired after failing to coach Colorado to success, and will be matched against UCLA Saturday, a school that fired him previously as head coach.

    Maybe he hasn’t proven to be a great coach, but a great guy he was when I knew him, and I put him through the ringer for being boring. I didn’t say I was a great guy.

    But that’s how I knew Ridley-Thomas, as a great stand-up guy. I recently began reading everything I could to find out more about him because I was bothered with the accusation levied against him and how wrong I appeared to be.

    I learned some things that were troubling, but how many of us make it through life without some troubles. I stood before a judge and jury three times, and swore I did nothing wrong and three times I won. But it didn’t feel that way and may not read that way.

    Ridley-Thomas was accused of wanting to spend too much on office remodeling, washed his car too much while under water restrictions, and OK, throw away the key.

    As a reporter I would have mocked him for such malpractice, while adding a harsh rebuke privately, but now the accusations have been ratcheted up to a $100,000 bribe to help one of his twin sons out.

    No idea how it might go in a courtroom, but every time I spoke with the man, I felt I was better off. I thought I was talking to someone who majored in public service; it doesn’t read that way now.

    Can’t wait for that November trial. There are two sides to a story, and I hope Ridley-Thomas has a good one to tell restore my faith in my own judgment, or I might never again be able to trust what a politician has to say.