Daily Distractions: Look out spring training, here comes Sandy Kofuax.

Sandy Koufax

Security guards at Camelback Ranch hold back a large crowd while Sandy Koufax signs autographs on Feb. 18, 2013 in Glendale, Arizona.


GLENDALE, Ariz. — Sandy Koufax arrived at the Dodgers’ spring training facility Sunday.

If last year was any indication, there is no need to romanticize the meaning of Koufax’s presence here. The greatest pitcher in Dodger history changes the atmosphere in a way that requires no imagination. His first season in camp as a special advisor to chairman Mark Walter was part spectacle, part inspiration, part chaos.

Like a septugenarian southpaw Svengali, Koufax caused complete strangers to huddle together in their aggressive quest for an autograph. Fans surveying the scene went from quietly attentive to loudly impatient. Koufax quickly joined a short list of 78-year-olds who can command multiple security guards while strolling between baseball fields.

When Koufax showed up last year, so did a bunch of pitchers. Pedro Baez, Chris Reed and other fresh-faced hurlers were shuffled in from the minor-league camp to learn from the master. Overnight, the Dodgers’ bullpen went from a tutoring center to the Westminster Dog Show. Every delivery would be scrutinized for imperfections like a poodle’s tail, and the the final judgment would be unassailable. If Koufax thought your curveball needed tweaking, you tweaked your curveball — even if the tweak didn’t take (as was the case for Hyun-Jin Ryu).

Koufax wasn’t in camp more than a few days. During the season, he didn’t often visit Dodger Stadium. Opening Day and the National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves were notable exceptions. So it’s unlikely that the novelty of Koufax’s presence will wear off — not now, not ever. He’s a rockstar in a park full of them.

Bad spring training pictures (like mine, above) will be taken, shared and reshared like porn. Koufax porn. Enjoy your Koufax porn, folks. It doesn’t come around often.

Some bullet points for a Monday morning:
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Daily Distractions: The National League’s best record is within the Dodgers’ reach.

Brian Wilson

The Dodgers are two games behind the Atlanta Braves for the National League’s best record. (Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer)

While I spent the weekend at a wedding in which two bridesmaids went chasing after a tossed bouquet like a a couple of defensive linemen going after a fumbled football (congrats Darryl and Amanda!), the Dodgers spent the weekend looking ahead to October.

How else to view the Michael Young trade, with the Phillies unloading their primary third baseman to a Dodgers team that might or might not use him extensively off the bench?

Looking ahead in a way the Dodgers won’t publicly, the best record in the National League is within their reach the next three days in Denver. If the Dodgers sweep the Colorado Rockies, and the New York Mets sweep the Braves in Atlanta (stranger things have happened; the Metropolitans are 4-3 in Atlanta this year), the best record in the National League belongs to the Dodgers. Atlanta is currently two games ahead of the Dodgers, 83-53 compared to 81-55.

The National League team with the best record on October 1 will have home-field advantage throughout the postseason until the World Series, thanks to the American League’s All-Star game victory. All those Dodger wins in July and August that had us reaching for the record books, searching for the best 40- and 50-game stretches in baseball history, might actually mean something after all.

So far as we can tell, the last time the Dodgers held the NL’s best record outright as late as Sept. 4 was in 1978.

And so the journey into scarcely charted territory continues.

More bullet points for Labor Day:
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Chad Billingsley to have Tommy John surgery tomorrow.

Chad BillingsleyChad Billingsley will undergo Tommy John surgery tomorrow, leaving the Dodgers without their fifth starter for the remainder of this season and likely part of 2014.

Team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache will perform the surgery at the Kerlan Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles.

Billingsley elected to undergo PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injections and rehabilitation after partially tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow last August. He pitched without pain throughout the winter and into spring training until he developed elbow pain during a bullpen session four days ago. An MRI confirmed an injury to the ligament.
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