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It Looks as If Murdoch Deserves a Big Discount

September 22, 1997|MIKE DOWNEY

Rupert Murdoch should reconsider.

If you are out there watching this, Rupert, I wouldn't blame you if you changed the channel. Maybe Fox should stick to football. The baseball team you are buying has come apart at the seams. Peter O'Malley ought to offer you 10% off. Instead of the Los Angeles Dodgers, you might look into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In the 79th home game of the 1997 season, the Dodgers did exactly what they did in April's first game . . . pitched Ramon Martinez and lost. They turned a 5-1 advantage into a 10-5 flop. Otis Nixon lost a fly ball in the moon. The pitchers served up nice, fat, please-hit-me strikes to the Colorado Rockies that traveled just as far as the baseballs do in the altitude of the Rockies.

By next weekend in Denver, I wouldn't be shocked if the Dodgers were in third place.

Mike Piazza hit a ball halfway to Burbank, but still the Dodgers couldn't win. It was what baseball people once called a "tape-measure" blow, but nobody's tape stretches as far as the Lot 10 parking lot. I personally measured it at 1,000 feet. I think it hit a Mercedes and bounced out the Elysian Park gate, on its way to Sunset.

It should have been a Shot Heard 'Round Chavez Ravine. With one swing of the bat, Piazza provided the Dodgers with precisely what they needed--a jolt--only to watch the whole game, and possibly the whole season, go right into the Dodger Stadium dumpster.

Rupert, you should have seen it.

The parabola of the ball was a sight to behold. Piazza's poke in the third inning went between the 360 and 370 markers, over the orange seats, over the blue seats, over the undulating roof that zig-zags above the left-field pavilion. Twenty yards farther to the right, and it might have struck the Mitsubishi Diamond Vision scoreboard.

No, seriously.

At any other park in America, the crowd would have begin chanting, "MVP! MVP! MVP!" But the 53,903 Dodger fans in attendance, loyal but meek, did no such thing. I can imagine what Coors Field would have been like at that moment, had Larry Walker whacked a ball that far. The curtain-call alone would have lasted 10 minutes. Walker would have been voted lieutenant governor of Colorado and given the deed to Wyoming.

The clock read 6 p.m. on the dot, when Piazza hit that ball out of the lot. I thought, yes, finally, the Dodgers were straightened out. So what if the San Francisco Giants already had won their game? This was a homer in the gloaming that was going to get Los Angeles out of its smoggy gloom. Sometimes, one big win is all it takes.

No such luck.

Up, 5-1, the Dodgers crumbled again. This team hasn't won any game by more than one run since Sept. 7. For a solid fortnight now, Bill Russell's club has been unable to combine clutch hitting with clutch pitching. The bullpen? The bench? The starting lineup? Hey, don't single anybody out. To a man, these guys have failed. And they know it.

A team summit meeting, held before Sunday's game, didn't amount to a hill of beans.

As Russell said afterward, "We can meet, we can talk, but the bottom line is, they've still got to go out there and do the job."

Then keep their fingers crossed.

Keep hoping that San Francisco will go as sour as sourdough bread, that Rod Beck (as in Wreck) will blow a few more saves, that Barry Bonds will hit an inside-the-park homer but forget to run it out.

"If we win all six [remaining] games, I have a hunch the Giants aren't going to win all six of theirs," said Russell, whose glasses don't have rose-colored lenses, but should.

His supposedly talent-laden Dodgers now own a record of 84-72, the same as that of the New York Mets, a third-place club.

Next weekend, the Dodgers must win most--if not all--of four games in Colorado, where more than 200,000 fans will be comin' down the mountain to scream at them.

Rupert, I fear for your investment.

These final days of the O'Malley Administration could be very, very sad.

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