Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire watches batting practice before a game… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
I had never met Mark McGwire before Tuesday night, but I knew of his reputation and the fact he has struck out so far as the Dodgers' hitting coach.
So given the Dodgers' lack of power, I asked, "Is it time to introduce the players to steroids?"
McGwire laughed and I wondered why.
"You're funny," he said before finally adding, "No. No."
What a bummer, I told him, I thought you might have the magic potion to get the Dodgers going.
"The magic potion is in between the ears," he said. "This game is beautiful, things can change overnight."
You win tonight, I told him, and the Dodgers will still be in last place.
Without one mighty swing of the bat, the Dodgers have shown an inability to peck away and get the big hit with runners in scoring position. They need a bigger display of power.
"It will come," McGwire added. I think he was referring to power rather than some shipment in the mail.
The Dodgers rank third to last in the major leagues in home runs and RBIs, and yet they have a guy who hit 70 home runs as their hitting instructor.
"It's all about pitch selection," said McGwire, who has apparently changed his mind on what it takes to hit the ball out of the park. "We have really, really good hitters that drive the ball and they'll hit home runs as the season goes on. But we don't have any pure home run hitters on this club."
Who can name the last pure home run hitter in baseball?
"I'm a firm believer power hitters are born," McGwire said. "Right now there are probably two or three guys that are legitimate power hitters in the game."
I remember how much fun it was when Sammy Sosa and McGwire were hitting a lot of home runs. I thanked McGwire for providing those thrills and asked if he could still score some steroids.
"Certainly not," he said. "Can't, and will not. That is just no."
So much then for the Dodgers turning things around.
DONNIE MISERABLE. For the first time since taking over as manager, Don Mattingly went sour before Tuesday's game. Recent criticism of his work has apparently taken its toll, making him peevish. The fun is gone in Donnie Baseball.
The last time we spoke he talked about how good he felt about his team after three straight defeats.
In his own snippy and uncharacteristic way, he said he still feels good about his team. But how do you feel good about a team that cannot win consistently? I asked.
"I like our talent," Mattingly said, while jerking his head from side to side to avoid eye contact. "I like what we can be."
At least he still remains a dreamer.
IS IT ME? I remember getting a similar reaction from Davey Johnson when he managed a crummy Dodgers team.
Johnson manages the Nationals now, but he was the Dodgers skipper when I took over Page 2 and he said, "I'm never going to speak to you again as long as I am manager of the Dodgers."
I wrote the next day, "I hope I can wait the three weeks."
The difference between Johnson and Mattingly? I'm pulling for Mattingly's players to perform better and reward his faith in them with the kind of results that will make it tough for the Dodgers to dump him.
WHEN I began Page 2, I asked the question in my first column: If F.P. Santangelo can enter a room with a sign over the door that reads: "Players Only,"' why can't I?
Never one to laugh or hit, a grouchy Santangelo was soon gone.
Now he's a broadcaster for the Nationals, much like Steve Lyons for the Dodgers. Much like Lyons.
What a great country this is.
RUSSIAN RADIO? I received an email while with the Angels in Chicago from the producer of the Travis Rodgers Show on Angels Radio AM 830 requesting a Tuesday morning interview by telephone.
I agreed to be available at 8:25 a.m.
Then I received a Tuesday morning email from the producer saying, "We have a time conflict. Would love to catch up another time up the road."
I replied, "Time conflict or too much criticism of Moreno?"
Never heard back, but I did tune in at 8:25.
Rodgers was doing a monologue on Lane Kiffin's desire to be a high school coach one day, and how he might soon get the chance.
I might've asked Rodgers had I been on, "Who lasts longer, Kiffin or Mike Scioscia?"
Maybe that's the timing conflict they were talking about.