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Dodgers' Penny is the devil who gets his due

April 02, 2008|T.J. SIMERS

The cowboy boots are hideous, going nicely though with the picture of the dead deer he carries in his wallet, and why Alyssa Milano ever gave the big Oklahoma oaf a second look, I'll never know.

"Elk," Brad Penny corrected. "It's a dead elk, and I'm not carrying a picture of it, but I'm still eating it."

He also denies ever dating Milano, although she confirmed they did spend time together, and apparently he didn't think it was too memorable.

But that's the thing about Penny, no one seems to have a real good handle on the guy, who he is and what he does besides taking a baseball in hand and throwing it by most hitters.

Penny has won 32 games the last two years for the Dodgers, now add on the first game this season, and he has represented the team in the last two All-Star games.

A few years back, he won Games 1 and 5 for Florida, beating Joe Torre's Yankees in the World Series, and yet around here he's probably best remembered for losing his temper, and getting thrown out of games. But when's the last time anything like that has happened?

Hard to call him a well-kept secret because he does blot out the sun when he stands on the mound, but the more you spend time around the big oaf, you begin to understand the devil that resides within the Dodgers' clubhouse.

A few weeks back in Vero Beach, Penny took a seat behind Tom Lasorda in the dugout and rode him like one of the four racehorses he owns. He told Lasorda the umpire was making faces at him, didn't respect him, was purposely shading calls to go against Lasorda, and did everything he could to get Lasorda angry and thrown out of the game.

This is the same guy who invited a visitor to peek into a cooler, a snake ready to pop up and take a good four years off his life. He does that to Jeff Kent, and Kent has to retire then because he's too old to play. But of course, Penny went nowhere near Kent with the snake. He's big, and might look like an oaf, but he's not stupid.

In fact, catcher Russell Martin says Penny's pretty smart, and it shows in the way he has become a pitcher rather than just a thrower.

"Now when he needs that little extra, he still has it," Martin said.

Penny has become one of the game's better pitchers, hanging around now into the sixth and seventh innings, and with Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito available, that's a formula for success.

"A few years ago when I hurt my arm, I remember lying in bed wondering if I would ever pitch again," Penny said. "I hadn't worked as hard in getting myself ready, but that was a real eye-opener, and now I'm physically and more mentally prepared.

"And you know what I'm more pleased about than anything from the opener? I controlled my nerves. I was expecting huge butterflies, but instead I felt right at home out there."

Out on the mound all by himself, it was just like being in Oklahoma, no one near him -- the only significant difference, the elk back home catching a reprieve for a while.

LARRY TAMBLYN e-mailed to say that he agreed with Plaschke about the pregame ceremony being one of the team's best.

"Plaschke attributed the success of the event," wrote Tamblyn, "to the creative efforts of the Dodgers' new chief marketing officer, Dr. Charles Steinberg, who previously served as V.P. of public affairs for the Boston Red Sox."

Tamblyn, sounding more like a Steinberg pal than a random reader, went on to describe Steinberg's accomplishments in Boston in great detail before getting to the point.

"Ironically, before day one of Steinberg's employment, columnist T.J. Simers bluntly referred to him as a nutcase (in the article: 'Drug gave Santangelo a lease on baseball life'), even though he had never met the man."

Well, I reread the article on Santangelo and nowhere in that article is there any mention of a nutcase, which could very well have also applied to Santangelo.

The fact that Tamblyn is obviously a supporter of Dr. Steinberg and likes to make things up, worries me now that the Dodgers have hired a P.R. guy who might be like his friend and make up things. Or maybe Tamblyn is just a nutcase.

BY THE way, congrats to Plaschke on being named the columnist of the year, and for the third time in four years. In this profession, it's a monumental achievement, and certainly brought tears to my eyes.

AS FOR the Dodgers' opening ceremony, though, I think both the Dodgers and the award winner were way over the top.

Plaschke wrote something about Duke Snider walking halfway to second base, stopping, "and so did our hearts. Duke Snider has returned to center field."

Say what? Plaschke was 4 when Snider last played for the Dodgers. I would have liked to see a show of hands from the 56,000 in attendance Monday who remember seeing Snider in center.

Right now it's hard to remember Juan Pierre was there a year ago, or maybe I'm just trying to forget.

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