Dodgers manager Don Mattingly sports a Memorial Day hat before Monday's… (Danny Moloshok / Associated…)
I swear I am listening to Rick Neuheisel every time Don Mattingly's lips move.
Mattingly says he likes this Dodgers team, thinks it's going to be fine and now projects it will be in front of everyone else in the National League West the final week of the season.
Neuheisel, of course, has yet to grasp reality, although it's creeping up on him and threatening to overtake him.
Mattingly, meanwhile, while claiming he's never read anything Neuheisel has had to say, is wondering who the Dodgers will be matched against in the playoffs.
This is after he has told everyone the Dodgers have lost nine of the last 10 series they have played, or so it must seem even to him.
They have actually lost seven of their last 10, an outfit so depressing even General Manager Ned Colletti doesn't want to talk about the players.
Start ticking off the names of the riff-raff Colletti has assembled and he says, "What else you got?"
What else do I have?
I've already done more than Colletti and Mattingly combined — making a consistent hitter out of James Loney.
Under Mattingly's tutelage as hitting instructor last season, Loney hit .211 following the All-Star break.
The Dodgers then promoted Mattingly because that's the way they work around here. Colletti was the Cubs' PR guy and the Giants' GM understudy who thought the Dodgers could use Jason Schmidt.
This season Loney started off so poorly that folks were openly wondering who the Dodgers had to replace him at first base.
I don't know how many other Page 2 columnists would accept such a challenge, but I decided it was time to take over his development rather than have Colletti hire another bum off the street to replace him.
When we spoke, Loney had not hit a home run since April 6, a double since March 31. I was essentially working with a dead man.
I told Loney, "baby steps," and he repeated it, "baby steps," before going out that same night and getting two hits, including a double.
In the 14 games that Loney has started since I began doing Mattingly's job, he has hit safely in 13, while hitting .320.
To certify it a miracle, he also has two home runs, including a two-run shot to break open Monday night's game.
Do you know how difficult it is to get Loney to hit a home run? And two of them in a span of just days?
Like most athletes, Loney trotted around the bases and then went to the dugout to tell everyone how he had hit the ball out of the park — all by himself. He didn't even glance, let alone offer a wave, to the press box.
I went to the clubhouse after the Dodgers' win to tell him, "I'm so disappointed."
"You'll get over it," he says, and so OK, he's on his own from now on. And the same goes for the rest of the Dodgers, who are beyond help.
I'm off to meet and help the guy who is going to make the Lakers great again, and then to Lake Tahoe with the Grocery Store Bagger for some golf.
Someone has to carry my bag.
PREDICTION: THE Dodgers have 12 games scheduled while I make a run for the senior tour in Truckee and Lake Tahoe. The Dodgers will lose nine and Loney will return to Mattingly form.
I LIKE the Lakers' hire of Mike Brown — so far.
We'll hear what he has to say Tuesday afternoon, but for those who thought Brian Shaw might have been the right guy, Brown is four years younger and has a 328-game head start as a head coach with NBA Finals experience as both head and assistant coach.
No matter whom the Lakers hired there was going to be considerable criticism, although the amount tossed Brown's way was a little over the top. The No. 1 knock against him seems to be the way he handled or was handled by LeBron James.
Every other candidate probably has a shortcoming as well, so why not give the youngest of them all a chance to demonstrate he's capable of learning? It happens in most other occupations.
Besides, this is going to be different. Instead of a superstar on the rise, he's going to be dealing with one on the decline.
I LAUGH at the Trojans fans and administrators who contend the punishment handed down from the NCAA was too harsh. That punishment has as much to do with USC's athletic arrogance as exhibited by Mike Garrett for so many years as anything.
And no one at USC did anything to address that until the very end.
COLORADO MANAGER Jim Tracy was asked, "If someone had told you during your tenure here you would attract only 30,000 fans for the Giants, what would you say?''
"I'd have told you, I don't believe you," said Tracy, and this from a guy who managed the Dodgers to the franchise's second all-time worst record — 20 games below .500.
THE DODGERS announced the largest walk-up crowd of the season, 4,200. Who knew pitcher Josh Lindblom, who just got called up from double A, would be such a draw?
Just think how large the crowd might be if they had a player good enough in triple A to get the call.