Happy New Year -- indeed!
I'm hearing the Dodgers are working on a deal that will allow the team to cut ties with Andruw Jones, save $12 million and give last year's free-agent bust the opportunity to seek employment elsewhere.
The Dodgers still hold out hope they can save the money and trade Jones, but the end result will be Jones probably won't be swinging and missing in L.A. this season.
Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said, "We can't confirm that, and right now we don't have a comment," but if a deal is made with Jones' agent, it will give the Dodgers an additional $12 million to pursue Manny Ramirez or cover the cost of a new wardrobe for Mrs. Parking Lot this season.
Jones' agent, by the way, is Scott Boras, and freeing up $12 million helps Ramirez, who is also his client. Jones would accept the reduction in pay to get a fresh start elsewhere in the final year of his contract.
As for Ramirez, there was a one-sentence report in the Denver Post on Thursday suggesting the San Francisco Giants are now "quietly" and "aggressively" making a play for him, which suggests the Denver Post has been talking to Boras.
It figures Boras will need another suitor to get the Dodgers' attention, but should the rival Giants actually sign Ramirez, reports of Dodgers fans leaping from the Think Blue sign beyond the left-field pavilion will probably follow.
The Dodgers, suddenly relevant again because of Ramirez's arrival, have wiped a ton of money off the books, losing Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Joe Beimel, Takashi Saito, Greg Maddux, Jeff Kent, Chan Ho Park, Nomar Garciaparra and now probably Jones.
They signed Rafael Furcal, but because much of the money will come at the end of his three-year deal, they will be paying the shortstop something like $6 million less this season than what he was making a year ago.
It appears the Dodgers have a bundle of money available, although it's known Jamie McCourt borrowed $27.9 million to buy two side-by-side homes in Malibu in her name for $46 million -- and just imagine that mortgage payment.
The way the housing market is going, maybe that's why the Mrs. doesn't want to tie up their money in Ramirez for any length of time. If so, then we know who is wearing the pants in the family.
The Giants, meanwhile, are entering new territory with a TV deal struck last year and are reportedly looking to make a splash. I wonder if they know Ramirez is right-handed, and there's no splash zone beyond the left-field wall in AT&T Park.
The Giants already fashion themselves a contender, which doesn't take much in the National League West, because of the recent acquisition of Randy Johnson. But "the batting order remains more shallow than Britney Spears' reading list," according to a column written recently by Mark Purdy in the San Jose Mercury News.
The Giants would become overnight favorites to win the NL West with Ramirez and the pitching staff they have already assembled.
As for the Dodgers, no worries, they would still have Juan Pierre to fill Ramirez's shoes in left field.
WHEN BOTH teams took the field for the start of the Rose Bowl, several USC players ran to the end zone to taunt Penn State fans who were all dressed in white. And then they took a knee to say a prayer, or maybe an act of contrition.
CLORIS LEACHMAN did the coin toss, but instead of announcing heads or tails and who would get the ball, referee Steve Shaw said, "And the winner is USC."
Never heard a referee declare a winner before the game was played, but given the number of calls that went against Penn State at crucial times early on, maybe he knew something.
PENN STATE was losing, 31-7, at the half, and Coach Joe Paterno remained in the press box rather than venture downstairs to rally the troops.
I pictured someone placing a speaker phone in the middle of the Penn State locker room and Paterno rasping, "You hear me? You hear me now? How about now?"
OBVIOUSLY NO one in the USC locker room was listening to Pete Carroll's halftime pep talk.
THE WAY the Trojans played the second half, it's easy to understand how they let the Bowl Championship Series title get away from them at Oregon State. The word "lackluster" comes to mind.
The Trojans were essentially playing a home game, but while they played a championship-caliber second quarter, scoring 24 consecutive points, it was tied in the first, 0-0 in the third and the Lions outscored USC, 17-7, in the final quarter.
It was a convincing win, but the blowing confetti fell kind of flat and it was not a memorable Rose Bowl.
"I don't think anybody can beat us right now," said Carroll, and we will never know because they weren't ready to play at Oregon State.
IT WAS a good night for USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who will now take over as head coach of the Washington Huskies. It might be a while before the team he's coaching puts 38 points on the scoreboard again.
CARROLL SAID a phone call came in at halftime to the officials who warned the Trojans that if they continued to celebrate on the sidelines they would be penalized.
Carroll, calling it fun, said he wanted to get such a penalty to show everyone just how much fun the Trojans were having, "but I forgot."
"I'd just like to know where that phone call came from," Carroll said.
Another day or two, and Ken Norton will probably let it slip that the call came from Rick Neuheisel.
It didn't, did it?