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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

Dodgers Aren't Clueless, They're Simply Average

June 02, 1997|RANDY HARVEY

I've had it with negative ballplayers.

We, the sporting press, go to the ballpark day after day in search of uplifting stories that will whisk you, the readers, away from grim front-page news of Mexican drug wars, Texas tornadoes and Frank and Kathie Lee.

Instead, what do we get? Quotes like this from Dodger third baseman Todd Zeile:

"We stink."

No, they don't.

The Dodgers aren't as good as they were Sunday, when Mike Piazza, Eric Karros and Zeile impersonated Murderer's Row in a 6-1 victory over St. Louis.

But neither are they as bad as they were Saturday, when they borrowed a page from their own history book, recalling 'dem Bums in a 6-3 loss to the Cardinals.

"We're kind of clueless," Piazza said after another loss last week.

Allow me to give them a clue.

The Dodgers have excellent pitching, an impotent offense and a so-so defense, making them average. No better, no worse.

The Dodgers are one game over .500, which shouldn't surprise anyone. They are playing only a little less efficiently than in the rest of the '90s, when their winning percentage is .514.

They've had highs and lows, but the bottom line is they have been an average team, are now an average team and will be an average team as presently assembled.

The frustration comes with the expectations. We see rookies of the year and potential All-Stars at several positions and are fooled into believing that translates into a great team. So do the Dodgers, although they're beginning to accept the truth.

"We have a great team, but we're not a great team," Ramon Martinez said.

Fortunately for these Dodgers, they're playing in an era when it doesn't take a great team to stay in pennant races. They left the ballpark Sunday only four games behind San Francisco in the National League West. But did you notice they were only 5 1/2 games better than the Chicago Cubs?

*

Break up the Bulls? . . .

Don't do it, Jerry Reinsdorf. It won't be as easy as you think to rebuild if you send Michael Jordan into retirement just to prove you haven't been wasting paychecks on Jerry Krause. . . .

The NBA desperately needs MJ. Would you really rather be watching Miami and Utah in the finals? . . .

Another MJ didn't have such a good day Sunday. . . .

Give Donovan Bailey credit. He's the reigning world and Olympic champion at 100 meters, owns the world record at that distance, has anchored Canada to a 400-meter relay victory in the most recent world championships and Olympics and now has beaten Michael Johnson head-to-head. . . .

Bailey proved he's the fastest man in Texas. The Canadian trains in Austin, 100 miles from Johnson's home track at Baylor University in Waco. But Bailey might have more competition soon. . . .

If Pasadena Muir's Obea Moore can't qualify academically for USC, he's indicated he might enroll at Baylor. . . .

Bailey went too far when he called the limping Johnson "a chicken" after the race. But at least CBS gave him time to catch his breath before he spoke, unlike most television interviews after races when it's all an athlete can do to wheeze through a couple of incoherent sentences. . . .

I also was pleasantly surprised that CBS didn't cut away from the race at 120 meters. . . .

The network that once was a leader in sports broadcasting left the UCLA-Miami College World Series game in the top of the 12th Saturday, just as the Hurricanes took a one run lead en route to a 7-3 victory. . . .

The Canadians have Bailey. We have Mia Hamm. She scored three goals for the national team Saturday in a 4-0 U.S. Cup victory over Canada. . . .

Hamm, the world's best female soccer player, will be only 27 when the Women's World Cup comes to the United States in 1999. The Rose Bowl, in conjunction with the L.A. Sports Council, is submitting a bid today to be among the hosts. . . .

The Dodgers need someone to shake them up? Maybe they can find a uniform for Kirk Gibson when he appears at Chavez Ravine before a June 11 game against Houston to sign copies of his book, "Bottom of the Ninth." . . .

Gibson, who has mellowed, thought he was "The Big Nasty" in this town. We know better. That's Joe McDonnell, who starts his new radio show on XTRA/1150 today.

*

While wondering if anyone guessed the Angels would be closer than the Dodgers to first on June 2, I was thinking: Tony Tavares is doing something right, Wilton Guerrero is just trying to hit like Delino DeShields, I bet "The Big Nasty" agrees with Zeile.

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