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The Inside Track | T.J. Simers

He Can't Hit-and-Run, so He Tries Run-and-Hide?

September 15, 2000|T.J. Simers

There must have been a terrible accident on the freeways leading to Dodger Stadium Thursday night because there were so many empty seats.

I mean this is what the Dodgers have been waiting for all season, the 13-game home stand down the stretch in September that would catapult them into the playoffs. "Being here is everything," remember?

The magic number before Thursday night's game was five, all right, but it was any combination of Giant wins and Dodger losses adding to five that would eliminate our bombers from the division race. A stunning development, I know.

I'd like to think it's unlikely, but the Mets' magic number for eliminating the Dodgers from the wild card pursuit stood at nine before Thursday night's games, and because I prefer to be positive as a rule rather than negative, I purposely wrote this before the Mets could win Thursday night or the Dodgers could lose and shrink that number. If this makes me a homer, so be it.


NOW I DIDN'T think I'd have to tell Manager Davey Johnson that every game counts at this point in the season. But then I took for granted he would pitch a warmed-up Jeff Shaw in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday in a 2-2 game against Arizona instead of overextending Terry Adams and throw away another win, and me with my cell phone and just not making the call to the dugout.

So I went to Dodger Stadium on Thursday night to talk strategy with Johnson, and what a coincidence, he was waiting for me.

I could tell he was upset, probably mad that I had called my daughter a "klutz" in the morning newspaper, like I got a problem and here he is stuck with Alex Cora playing shortstop.

Surprisingly that wasn't it. He was still steaming about something that had been written weeks ago, something that had Chairman Bob Daly calling on him to explain. I had been in Johnson's office the night after writing about him, but he hadn't said a thing, apparently storing up the rage.

I was about to tell him that's not a good thing--and if that was going to make me a homer, so be it. But then Johnson let loose. Yes, he said, he had been quoted accurately when discussing the contention that he was a dead man as long-term Dodger manager, but he said it had been twisted out of context.

After giving me a piece of his mind, which I hoped he could afford with every game meaning so much at this time of the year, he made it clear that as long as he is manager of the Dodgers he will treat me just like GM Kevin Malone.

I don't know if I can take this for three more weeks.

I can understand not talking to the guy who has given you Ismael Valdes, or someone who supposedly likes to stick you in the back, but when I twist it, I make eye contact.

"Davey would not like you to hear his words when he speaks to the other reporters," a Dodger spokesman said, making it clear that Johnson would not conduct his daily briefing if I was there. Now I know why Malone is never there.

I chose to stay because I figured the other reporters needed a break from listening to all the excuses, and it was still a good two hours before they'd have the Dodger Dogs recooked from the last home stand.

But for a guy who doesn't know how to bunt or send runners, Johnson managed to manufacture a situation where he could talk to the media--so long as they approached one-by-one so he could pick who writes it like he likes it written.

Our regular beat reporter, Jason Reid, had the day off, and assured me later he would have been sitting right next to me. But everyone else, of course, proving you don't forget what you learn in kindergarten, dutifully lined up in single file afraid they might miss what Johnson had to say.

I'm guessing Johnson revealed that from now on the "Dodgers are going to take one game at a time," and "it's never over until it's over." He might have mentioned something about a fat lady singing, "or the season's not over until Ross Porter has thought of the last most obscure stat imaginable to man."

I have to be honest. I felt left out, but now I know how the Dodgers feel as teams begin to get excited about the playoffs.


I DON'T BELIEVE Mike Tyson has served his last stint in jail, but I also don't think he's as guilty as those who prey on what bedevils him.

I waited for almost three hours like everyone else for him to show up for a news conference in Beverly Hills, and snickered as he began to talk until I realized just how far this human being has slipped.

He said he'd like to "plant a bullet in his (bleeping) skull," and while it's not always easy to decipher his rants, boxing experts in the room said he was talking about Lennox Lewis. Same old Mike, they added.

"I'm a dysfunctional (bleep)," Tyson said, adding that he has no regrets about saying he'd like to eat Lewis' kids.

The only reason he's on medication, he said, is so "that it keeps me from killing all of you." I believe now that he believes that.

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