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T.J. SIMERS

It's a longshot, but he's got a plan to help McCourt and the Dodgers

He enlists the help of experts to fill out his NCAA tournament bracket and is more than willing to share his knowledge to enrich Poor Frank and help him acquire a hitter.

March 14, 2011|T.J. Simers
  • Dodgers owner Frank McCourt talks with reporters after unveiling a new Dodgers Dreamfield at Northridge Recreation Center.
Dodgers owner Frank McCourt talks with reporters after unveiling a new… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)

If you have been following spring training, you know the Dodgers can't buy a hit.

Of course, that's what you would expect these days from a team owned by Frank McCourt.

The Dodgers' offense ranks 30th among 30 teams in practice hitting. Ordinarily I wouldn't give it another thought as the daughter and I prepare for our annual jaunt to Las Vegas to wager on the NCAA tournament and advertise her availability.

By the way, she's bringing along a friend on this trip. A boy. And Mandalay Bay has a beautiful wedding chapel.

I know this for a fact. I've been there many times dreaming about the day maybe the family could put it to use. I think there's an hour break between tournament games Saturday afternoon.

Anyway, as I was reaching out for bracket help Monday, I got to thinking maybe I should share what I learn with Poor Frank.

After all, nobody needs to win their office pool more than Poor Frank. It might be the only way Poor Frank comes up with the money to add a player to the roster who can actually hit.

But I knew if the helpful information came from me, he'd just swear and then disregard it.

So I placed a call to someone in Boston, Vladimir Shpunt, the soothsayer/prophet/clairvoyant who had been on the Dodgers' payroll. But he was unavailable. I guess he saw my call coming.

I turned next to Andrew Clark, a kid from Boston who has written a book, "Bracketeering, the Layman's Guide to Picking the Madness in March.'' Talk about cliffhangers — every page.

"I'm a big Red Sox fan,'' Clark said, and so he's got a lot in common with Frank. I don't think he's married either.

As for picking bracket winners, he said he's had the tournament winner four out of the last six years. He can say whatever he wants because who is going to know the difference. As Poor Frank would tell you, it only matters if they make you swear to tell the truth in a deposition.

The Boston kid said he places a huge emphasis on scoring margin. He also calls baseball statistician Bill James his inspiration. I wonder how many times he's heard someone yell to him, "Get a life."

He said he loves teams that average 80 points, for example, while giving up 60 points on defense. "That means a team plays well on offense and defense as well; it's balanced," he said.

What happens if a team is no good on offense or defense? Just check out the UCLA football team's record.

He said stay clear of teams that foul a lot, and if you're trying to win the office pool, play it safe. If you go for the home run in picking an underdog, make sure the favorite you have eliminated is loaded with flaws, he said. If wrong, and a favorite advances, it's a bracket killer.

The book costs $9.95, so it's not rocket science.

He also has something called "created possession margins." Or, the rebound margin plus the turnover margin equal the created possession margin. He even talks like Frank.

For example, he said, Old Dominion finds a way to have the ball on 10 more possessions a game than its opponent. Old Dominion opens against Butler, and since it will have 10 more opportunities to score, he said take Old Dominion.

Throw away the book if Butler wins, as well as the parlay ticket that includes Old Dominion.

As for his bracket picks using his mathematical gibberish in games too close to call, he said take George Mason, Xavier, Tennessee, Missouri and UNLV, which has a 10-point scoring margin over Illinois.

He also said to take Vanderbilt, Florida State, Utah State and Gonzaga over Steve Lavin and UCLA.

He likes Utah State to win a couple of games and takes Belmont, No. 1 in scoring margin, to upset Wisconsin because it shoots threes and Wisconsin is horrible in defending threes.

As complicated as his system might sound, a 6-year-old might come to the same conclusion. Clark has all the No. 1-seeded teams meeting in the Final Four, with Ohio State beating Kansas for the title.

Not a lot of help there. But he said he's going to law school, so there's still a good chance he and Poor Frank might be working together someday.

But the Dodgers need a hitter now, so I called Jay Rood, the guy in charge of all the sports books in the MGM Mirage properties. He's big on donating to charity, so you can see why he would want to help Poor Frank.

Right away Rood said, "Boston."

Obviously, Rood knows how to get McCourt's attention. He said Boston is a 23-point underdog to Kansas and the public is going to bet Kansas like crazy because it doesn't know anything about Boston. That will make the betting line inflated.

Boston will eventually be a 25-point underdog, he said, and that's the time to take Boston. Just tell him to wait until the last possible moment, Rood said.

If I do that, Frank is going to want me to make the bet for him because I will be in Vegas. And he'll tell me he's good for it when I get back to L.A.

But I ask you: If Frank McCourt told you he was good for anything, would you believe him?

TODAY'S LAST word comes in a handwritten message from the 7-Eleven Kid, whose real name is MacKenzie, although I call her only "Mary."

"You ar the Best grama eva and the Best grapu. I love you bary mush.

"Mare - MacKenzie.''

I wish the Grocery Store Bagger wasn't the one teaching the granddaughter how to spell.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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