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THE INSIDE TRACK | T.J. SIMERS

Here's a Vice the Dodgers Do Need: Good Pitching

September 08, 2000|T.J. SIMERS

When it looks as if batting practice pitcher Al Gore has more on the ball than Dodger starting pitcher Ismael Valdes, it's probably not a good sign for the Dodgers' playoff hopes.

But as long as Vin Scully is going to keep giving us those pitch-by-pitch updates on San Francisco and Arizona, I'll go along with the charade.

The Dodgers have 22 games remaining, which means four more starts for Valdes and four losses for the team, and so the best the Dodgers can do is 18-4 down the stretch to finish 91-71.

Now as long as the Giants don't come on like gangbusters and finish 10-14 to end the season at 92-70, Holy Vinny, the Dodgers are in, and Luke Prokopec is on the hill to open the playoffs.

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NOW HOW CAN I be so sure Valdes will not win--beyond the fact he hasn't won since being traded to the Dodgers in July? I believe I'm in step with Manager Davey Johnson, and he tells me he knows baseball.

If every game means something at this time of the season, is there any other reason to rest Eric Karros, as Johnson did Wednesday night?

I'm sure a lot of players would like to be well-rested going into the off-season, but I think Johnson knows the Dodgers can't win with Valdes, so he's going to freshen Karros when Valdes pitches to try to win those other 18 games.

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THE DODGERS WOULD have been able to win only 14 games the rest of the way had something not snapped in Carlos Perez's arm, so there's one break the Dodgers hadn't counted on. Maybe a few other players could catch flu, although the way the infield has been playing of late they can't catch much of anything.

There's a lot at stake here. I'm worried Vinny will continue to give pitch-by-pitch updates and the Dodgers will be out of it, and he won't know it.

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ON THAT OFF chance the Giants somehow hold off the Dodgers to win the division, you still have to be encouraged about the losers' future after reading Ross Newhan's story on the Dodgers today, because Chairman Bob Daly, a.k.a L.A. Steinbrenner, says he has a five-year plan.

That's a relief--he has some answers-- although it does raise two little questions: 1) Is this new five-year plan endorsed by GM Kevin Malone? 2) Does this new five-year plan endorse GM Kevin Malone?

Are Tom Goodwin and I the only two who are missing something around here? Or would I be correct in saying the only Dodger who has had a worse year than Perez and Valdes is the guy who signed Perez and traded for Valdes?

The Dodgers need a fourth and fifth starter desperately because of Malone's errors, and now it's as if he's just ignoring Gore--who might be available.

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Australia's unofficial mascot is "Skippy the kangaroo," and while they don't sell kangaroo meat in stores in Sydney, a spokesman for the Australia/New Zealand Federation of Animal Societies offered this appetizing tidbit: "With kangaroo skin used in sports shoes, who knows how much of Skippy will actually be running in the Olympics."

I would think high jumpers would be particularly fond of Skippy wear.

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THE NFL will eventually return to a two-week break between the playoffs and the Super Bowl, pushing some future Super Bowls into February.

"It's tough to get from San Francisco to Miami on a couple of days notice," explained NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

Yeah, as if the 49ers are ever going to be in a Super Bowl again.

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ON THE LAST homestand, Angel fans were chanting, "Mo, Mo, Mo," because they are the smartest fans anywhere in baseball, knowing Mo Vaughn has the chance to capture the American League strikeout crown.

This is the most competitive race left for the Angels, who have three players, Vaughn, Troy Glaus and Tim Salmon, fighting for whiff supremacy.

Goodwin should be playing for the Angels.

Vaughn leads with 155 Ks in 139 games, while Glaus is No. 2 with 138 along with Cleveland's Jim Thome, and Salmon sixth with 121. Is there any job--with the exception of writing a column-- where you could miss that often and survive?

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I DON'T KNOW Duke Russell, but he's a pest, and probably a great citizen, and someone I would want on my side. Russell read the paper years ago and noticed they wanted to suddenly drop baseball at L.A. City College, so he picked up the telephone, fought it, and it came back.

Now he's fighting for a bill sponsored by state Sen. Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley) that has been approved by the Senate and Assembly, needing only the governor's signature to make it mandatory for state schools and community colleges to provide more notification to athletes before dropping a sport.

"It's our poor kids who suffer," Russell said in one of two dozen persistent phone calls to the office. "Sports keeps some kids in school, they get an education and a job and become good citizens. These kids don't have the transportation to go somewhere else, so they drop out of school. We just need the governor's signature to protect these kids--but we have to get his signature."

Speaking from experience, Russell won't go away--sign the bill.

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I'VE BEEN TOLD many of you aren't very good at picking football winners, and require expert help. I'm very busy, but going on the honor system with your promise to mail $1 if you use them, I was willing to help. But then I realized there are a lot of Raider fans out there, so this honor thing won't work.

So I will write this off on my income tax as a charitable contribution:

Buffalo, Tennessee, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Carolina, Washington, Denver, Dallas, New York Jets, New York Giants and New Orleans will win.

Last week's record: 14-1. Take my word.

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TODAY'S LAST WORD comes in an e-mail from Marc:

"Being a rabid Raider fan I would love to have my team back. The greatness of the Raiders is in its future, and that's again in Los Angeles."

How did Raider fans first become rabid? I just can never get used to that foaming at the mouth thing.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at his e-mail address: t.j.simers@latimes.com

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