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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO

It's Good to See Dodgers Take Albuquerque Deep

March 22, 2000|RANDY HARVEY

There has been considerable speculation since Peter O'Malley sold the Dodgers about the possible relocation of their spring training headquarters from Vero Beach to a site in Arizona or perhaps Las Vegas.

There is no question that such a move would have historical significance, breaking another tie between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the L.A. Dodgers, and financial significance, enabling them to rent a spring training site instead of own.

As for headlines, a move to Las Vegas no doubt would create controversy. Pete Rose certainly would have something to say about it.

But, in terms of the product we see on the field, the move the Dodgers should have been concentrating on all along was the one out of Albuquerque.

That is imminent.

Although there was no guarantee that the Dodgers would keep their triple-A team there when the contract lapses after this season, the issue became moot when the Dukes were sold last week to a group from Portland.

That doesn't necessarily mean the Dodgers' triple-A team next season will be in Portland. That remains to be negotiated. They can now, however, put Albuquerque in their rearview mirror.

They should never look back.

Nothing against Albuquerque as a city, but, for evaluating baseball talent, it is a mirage.

With an altitude almost as high as Denver's, it is heaven for hitters. In 107 games there one season, Billy Ashley hit .345 with 37 home runs and 105 runs batted in.

But Albuquerque is hell for scouts, who have difficulty determining which players are for real.

Ashley wasn't. In his three seasons in Los Angeles, he had 23 home runs and 71 RBIs and never hit higher than .244.

He's not the only example. Other Albuquerque power hitters such as Sid Bream, Greg Brock, Mike Marshall, Karim Garcia and Paul Konerko were never so strong in Los Angeles.

Altitude isn't the only factor. Pitchers unquestionably are better in the National League than in the Pacific Coast League, and Dodger Stadium isn't one of the friendliest parks for home run hitters.

Albuquerque, however, is too friendly to them, so friendly that Dodger officials prefer to send their top young pitching prospects to double-A San Antonio. They don't want to ruin their confidence.

*

Admit it. A lot of you weren't sure a month ago that UCLA and North Carolina even belonged in the NIT. . . .

Steve Lavin and Bill Guthridge can breathe again. . . .

Earl Watson is continuing the recent tradition of Bruin point guards such as Tyus Edney and Cameron Dollar coming up big in NCAA tournament games. . . .

Against Maryland on Saturday, Watson might have had the most dominating game by a UCLA point guard since Walt Hazzard. . . .

Watson, who benefited from watching the less athletic but more controlled Ryan Bailey man the position for a few games this season, has been the tournament's best point guard, even better than Michigan State's Mateen Cleaves. . . .

If the first two rounds are an indication, Iowa State's Marcus Fizer can be slowed but not stopped. The matchup that could determine the winner of Thursday night's game is Watson versus Jamaal Tinsley. . . .

Tinsley says he's still learning the major college game after playing at Mt. San Jacinto Community College. . . .

"I ain't nowhere near where I'm gonna be," he says. . . .

You can take Phil Jackson out of Chicago, but you can't stop New York Knick Coach Jeff Van Gundy from needling him. . . .

"To get to this level, every coach is intelligent," he says. "Some choose not to let you know about it." . . .

More Van Gundy on Jackson: " . . . he got his start with the best player in Chicago. He went from maverick to genius. If you start with the Clippers or something like that, suddenly it's, 'You can't coach.' " . . .

A lot of celebrity fans were at Madison Square Garden on Sunday to cheer on the Knicks, but the Lakers had Snoop Doggy Dog. . . .

He was spotted at the NBA store before the game, buying $1,500 worth of Laker gear. . . .

The best player at the Avengers' workout Tuesday at West L.A. College was Keyshawn Johnson, who was visiting his old campus. . . .

Along with the June 17 bout at Staples Center between Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley, promoter Bob Arum is planning a boxing extravaganza that would include three other cards in Los Angeles on the same weekend. . . .

He mentioned Olympic Auditorium and the Variety Arts Center as possible sites.

*

Manchester United's David Beckham has shaved his head, but his wife, Victoria "Posh Spice" Adams, denies that it cost him a $6.28-million Brylcreem endorsement. If he had lost that much money, she says, she would have pulled his hair out.

Randy Harvey can be reached at his e-mail address: randy.harvey@latimes.com.

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