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THE INSIDE TRACK | RANDY HARVEY

First Things First: Piazza Should Change His Position

March 24, 1998|RANDY HARVEY

Mike Piazza can lead the Dodgers without saying a word. All he has to do--for three weeks, three months or however long it takes Eric Karros to rehabilitate after today's knee surgery--is trade his catcher's mitt for a first baseman's.

I'm sure Piazza, a card-carrying catcher, would not be thrilled by that suggestion. He no doubt prefers for the Dodgers to proceed with their plan of replacing Karros with Paul Konerko.

More Dodger problems, however, would be solved with Piazza at first.

As you no doubt have detected, the Dodgers don't have an abundance of time-tested outfielders. They have Raul Mondesi.

Also competing for positions are an inconsistent Todd Hollandsworth, an injured and unproven Roger Cedeno, an inexperienced Konerko and a bunch of pinch-hitters.

The Dodgers are at their best with Konerko in left and Hollandsworth in center. Moving Konerko to first not only would interrupt his progress as a left fielder but force the Dodgers to patch together an outfield.

It would be easier for the Dodgers to fill in at catcher.

Although Piazza continues to improve, Tom Prince is among the best at calling a game. According to a Sports Illustrated poll of 100 major leaguers, he is one of 15 players considered a prime managerial candidate.

Dodger pitchers need time to adjust to life without their respected pitching coach, Dave Wallace, who left for a front-office job with the New York Mets. Prince could help make that time pass faster.

Also, if Piazza hits as well as he does while burdened with catching, imagine what he might do as a first baseman.

If he ever played an entire season there, scouts in Florida a couple of weeks ago were saying, he could put up the kinds of numbers Ted Williams did in 1941--a .406 batting average and 37 home runs. Or better.

If he plays first only for a few weeks, Piazza could at least help the Dodgers get off to a rare fast start.

Who knows? He might like it.

*

If the stars had been aligned, news that ground will be broken Thursday for the Staples Center would have been followed by Donald Sterling's announcement that he's moving the Clippers into the new downtown arena. . . .

But King President Tim Leiweke reports negotiations have broken down again. . . .

Sterling initially rejected overtures from developers because the Kings and Lakers would get the choice dates and the Clippers would get the rest, probably a lot of weekday matinees. . . .

Hey, if it was good enough for Tom Mix. . . .

Coaches like to complain about all-star teams selected by sportswriters, but could someone explain how Stanford's Arthur Lee was left off the Pac-10's 10-man all-conference team? . . .

It was selected by the coaches. . . .

Los Angeles has become the nation's capital for point guards. . . .

Three--Lee from North Hollywood and his backup, Michael McDonald from Long Beach Poly and Utah's Andre Miller from Verbum Dei--are in the Final Four. . . .

A fourth, Baron Davis of Santa Monica Crossroads, might have been if he hadn't injured his knee, sealing UCLA's doom against Kentucky. . . .

Tyus Edney of Long Beach Poly led UCLA to the national championship three years ago. . . .

Jacque Vaughn of Pasadena Muir led Kansas to the No. 1 regular-season ranking last season. . . .

Compton's Deandre Moore could be next. . . .

He signed with Vanderbilt. . . .

After that, it could be Verbum Dei junior Marlon Parmer. . . .

The last time Utah was in the Final Four, in 1966, UCLA had won only two national championships. . . .

No offense to Texas Western, but the Bruins might have won their third consecutive title that season if freshmen had been eligible. . . .

UCLA's freshmen starters, Lew Alcindor, Lynn Shackleford, Kent Taylor, Lucius Allen and Kenny Heitz, beat the '66 varsity, 75-60. . . .

The L.A. Sports & Entertainment Commission's sports calendar is available free of charge at the Convention & Visitors Bureau's information centers in downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood, Dodger Stadium and the Great Western Forum. . . .

After firing Ron Wilson, failing to sign Paul Kariya for the first 32 games and believing acquisitions such as Tomas Sandstrom and Scott Young would make a difference, Duck General Manager Jack Ferreira deserves to take some heat. . . .

But not all of it. . . .

He had an accomplice, team President Tony Tavares.

*

While wondering if Jerry Tarkanian is having dinner in New York with Mike Wallace, I was thinking: I'd like to see Duke and Kentucky play each other every year, welcome back to the NFL, Dawg Pound, next to return should be instant replay.

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