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The Inside Track | T.J. Simers

Financial Matters Are Best Kept in the Family

September 19, 2003|T.J. Simers

When the Cubs passed the Dodgers in the wild-card standings earlier this week, I have to admit, I couldn't decide whether that was good or bad.

As most of you probably know, the Tribune Co. owns The Times as well as the Cubs, and so I guess that makes Eric Karros and me co-workers. Oxygen, please, for Mr. Karros.

In fact if you had intranet access to the Tribune company directory you could call up the employee profile for Samuel Sosa and Johnnie B Baker Jr and get their work phone numbers just like Joshua A Adande and T J Simers.

Apparently, we're all on the same team, which got me to wondering whether I should be putting in so much time pumping up the Dodgers with the playoffs in reach for both teams.

I just paid for one wedding, and now I've got the daughter who can't get a date logging onto matchmewithanyloser.com every night, and if it means a financial bonus to the father of the desperate bride if the Cubs make the playoffs, I'd like to know that.

I thought about checking with our top bosses at The Times, but every time I mention anything having to do with money to Editor John S Carroll, I get this blank look in return.

Publisher and Times CEO John P Puerner is Carroll's boss, but the only time I ever see this guy is on the golf course, and I had to work Thursday.

Somebody with the name Jack Fuller was listed as Puerner's boss on the company directory, and it said Fuller worked for some joker by the name of Dennis J FitzSimons, so there was no need to talk to Fuller. According to FitzSimons' profile, he answers to no one, although there was no mention if he's married.

Well, let me tell you, he's not only the President & CEO and Mr. Big at Trib, but he's the only one who had his cell phone listed for every employee to call him. Now that's pretty cool, so I called him.

And what a great guy, nothing like Sports Editor Bill Dwyre had described him.

"Yo, Dennis," I said. "T.J. here."

It took only a few minutes to explain who I was -- he must have missed that episode of "Around the Horn" -- and then he wanted to know how I got his cell number. I thought about telling him Dwyre gave it to me, but then I would have had to explain who Dwyre was.

I told him I was in a quandary, and I didn't know if I should be supporting the Cubs or Dodgers down the stretch.

"I would hope you're rooting for the Cubs," Denny said. "It would be good for everybody's stock price."

I made a mental note to investigate and find out if Dodger General Manager Dan Evans owns any Tribune stock, because that'd explain the lopsided trade of Karros and Mark Grudzielanek to the Cubs for Todd Hundley.

"Are you feeling a little conflicted?" Denny wanted to know.

For all I know that might have been journalism talk about whether I could write objectively about the Dodgers while knowing I was tied financially to the Cubs' success or failure. I didn't take it that way, of course, because I don't write objectively about anything.

I just wanted to know, if the Cubs win the World Series, will that make me wealthy?

I know some people call the Cubs the Bruins, but I could still cheer for them.

"You wouldn't want to depend on the economics of baseball for future compensation," Denny said, "unless you're a player."

Speaking of that, I interrupted, "Do you think we're paying Sammy Sosa too much? He seems to be in a little different pay bracket than most Trib employees."

"Me, too," said Denny, and then I detected a change in his voice. "You aren't quoting me, are you?"

I don't know anyone who just calls up their boss for the fun of it, so I laid it out for Denny. "Of course, I'm quoting you. I'm a reporter -- that's what you pay me to do." It's not very much, of course, but I thought I showed a lot of restraint and professionalism in not mentioning that.

"Let's see how much you know about the Cubs," I said. "How's my favorite Trojan doing?"

"Mark Prior is a great guy, a star," Denny said, and I was impressed about how bright he was, and told him so, because if there's one thing Dwyre has taught me while working at The Times, it's that you should kiss up to your bosses every chance you get.

I tried to shift the talk to college football because of my interest in the Trojans, but he said he went to Fordham. I think I laughed. Maybe it was just a chuckle, but it seemed to end that conversation.

I can't remember for sure where our little chat went after that, but before hanging up I remember him saying, "I'm dying to see how this comes out."

By the way, so am I. I just checked the Trib's intranet Web site, and Denny no longer lists his cell phone number.

To be honest with you, I thought it best not to check to see if anything else has been deleted from the Tribune company directory.

*

I WAS honest with Eric Gagne after my chat with Denny and told him if it comes down to the Cubs and Dodgers now -- and I'm still working for The Times -- I probably won't be there for him.

He didn't seem surprised.

*

TODAY'S LAST word comes in a letter left in my mailbox from Herb Berkus:

"Attention all Trojan tailgaters: Do not, I repeat, do not allow T.J. Simers to infiltrate your tailgate party. The man is a spy. He gathers bits of info and passes it on to opposing coaches and probably for a tidy sum of money to help offset the daughter's wedding to the Bagger. One other note of caution: Do not offer any info to his food tester either -- it's his wife."

Good luck, because no one else has been successful in stopping her from eating.

*

T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com

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