The network spin from Hershiser, Karros on the Dodgers’ 2011 prospects

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Orel Hershiser and Eric Karros, you’ve got first crack at a live, in-game assessment of the Dodgers’ 2011 prospects as the cloud of ownership hangs over Don Mattingly’s first season as the manager.

Hershiser, the Dodgers’ 1988 Cy Young Award winner from their last World Series title team who is part of ESPN’s coverage in Thursday’s opener against San Francisco and will be back on Sunday (ESPN2, 5 p.m., with Dan Shulan and Bobby Valentine), said the disappointing part of franchise ownership “will be questions of whether there is enough capital to spend later in the season to put the team over the top if they’re in a position to win.”

And without a hot start, “those distractions and disappointments will be something they have to answer every time they enter the locker room. I think the players need to put blinders on and not worry about that situation.”

Hershiser said the only comparable front-office thing he experienced as a Dodger was during the April, 1987 Al Campanis-”Nightline” interview that led to the general manager’s firing.

“That’s the only time I saw (Dodgers owner) Peter O’Malley set foot in the locker room,” said Hershiser. “Whatever we had to deal with as far as the front office, it was always in a low-key, classy manner. Peter was never in the limelight, and handled everything with much class and finesse. So now to have someone at the forefront out there, in all that negative light, it’s disheartening to say the least.”

Adds Karros, the L.A. Dodgers’ franchise leader in home runs who’ll be in the Fox broadcasting booth with Kenny Albert doing the Dodgers-Giants game on Saturday (1 p.m., Channel 11) as well as returning as the KCAL Channel 9 pregame studio analyst during the regular season:

“When Mr. O’Malley sold the club and we went through a different environment there back in ’97 and ’98, the players only dealt with all that when they were asked about it, and it wears on you.

“As a former Dodger, or even a fan of baseball, sure, I’d like the focus to be on what’s happening on the field. It is what it is. You think of all the historic franchises and you’d just like to see things go well, but they’re not picture perfect. There was a time in the 1970s when the Yankees organization wasn’t run well.”

As for Mattingly stepping in, Karros says “when he first faces adversity, that’ll be the true test, whether it’s the team struggling or off-the-field issues. I don’t think he’s been presented with that yet.

“He’ll be given some resources, but if you’re looking at someone who could be a rookie manager with either the Pirates or the Dodgers, you take the Dodgers’ job 10 out of 10 times.”

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More on the power of Laureus

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Getty Images for Laureus
Karen Washington, right, of the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center in the Bronx, N.Y., gives a tour of the neighborhood to Laureus members Edwin Moses and Monica Seles in 2005 to explain how their Fight Back Project has helped the local youth in the area.

More from today’s column (linked here) on how the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation has been trying to focus more recently on helping the children of the U.S. after doing so much good around the world over last 10-plus year:

== Edwin Moses, on how he saw poverty around him while he was traveling around the world as an athlete, and how he sees it differently now:

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“When I was competing, we’d always stay at the nice hotels and eat at the nice restaurants. Even in places like Kenya, we’d see all the best the city had. But in the car rides through the town, we’d pass by the street urchins, go through the crime areas. Maybe we’d have someone take us on a side trip to the slum areas. We’d see kids playing in water that, if we were to put our hands into it with a cut, we’d be dead in two days.

“I was very aware of a lot of poverty around, but now it’s something I see very differently. And we’re doing something about it. We look them in the eye and say: We’re coming back and we’re going to help you. How many times have they heard that, but haven’t had anything delivered? We’re committed to three- and four-year projects. This is what we do. We make those kinds of commitments.”

== Moses, comparing the emotions he feels now accomplishing something as a humanitarian than when he was an athlete:

“Being an athlete with that lifestyle, and then getting into investment banking, those were the first things where I found some satisfaction. It’s avocation. You don’t have to think about how much work is involved, you just do it. In the last 10 years, I’ve gotten the same kind of energy surge as I did when I was running. Then, you’d ge tup and train, go through physical therapy, deal with injuries and compete. Maybe this is as close as I’ll get to that lifestyle again for the rest of my life. It means a lot to be a leader of such an organization like this. I guess when you want someone looking at your tombstone, you want them to know that you really made a difference.”

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Photo by Getty Images for Laureus
Marcus Allen, left, and Edwin Moses entertain the children with an exercise in the boxing ring during their visit at SV Stahl Schoeneweide in Berlin, Germany last November as part of a Laureus Sport for Good Project.

== Marcus Allen, on the group’s mission and why he wanted to be involved:

“The problems we have in the U.S. may be hidden more because we are such a rich nation, but there are kids out there all the time who fall under the radar andl need help. It might not be as blatant as some of the countries torn by civil war or extreme poverty, but there are neightbhods in the U.S. screaming out for foundations to do something for these kids. If we don’t invest in our kids, we’re bound to get in more trouble paying for them more in the long with the prison systems.

“We want to make more people aware of what we’re trying to do, partnering with other organizations and that’s a challenge for us, even with this economy as it is. Kids are still at risk and the fight must go on.”

== Allen, on how individuals can help:

“We need to scream our story. It’s unfortunate that controversial stuff travels faster than Volunteering with the organizations that are already out there is a great start to helping get the word out. It’s as simple as this phrase: Tell them, and they’ll forget; teach them, and they’ll remember. Now involve them, and they’ll understand.

“It’s incumbent for people to understand what we’re doing. Once you’re involved and have a personal interest, you can understand how important it is. We’re a cause greater than ourselves.

For us, it’s more important to be something more than just a grand slam winner, or a perfect 10 or a gold medalist. There’s something greater in life. That’s why we’re so involved in this.”

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More on the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation:

Founded: 2000

Mission statement: The belief that whatever the social problem facing a community, sport provides and effective vehicle by which transformation can happen. The Foundation’s aim is to fund and promote the use of sport as a tool for positive change.

Major sponsors: Daimler and Richemont.

Athletes involved: The group (linked here) includes chairman Edwin Moses, Marcus Allen, Nadia Comaneci, Marvin Hagler, Dan Marino, Tony Hawk, John McEnroe, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Monica Seles, Katarina Witt, Alberto Tomba, Daley Thompson and Mark Spitz.

More information: www.laureus.com

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Play it forward: March 28-April 3 on your L.A. sports calendar

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Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:

MONDAY

MLB exhibition: Dodgers vs. Angels, Dodger Stadium, 7 p.m., Channel 9:

You’ve paid full price for tickets to this practice game, and your reward: The first 20,000 fans get a magnet schedule. And first crack at the post-Manny concession stand purchases.

NHL: Ducks vs. Colorado, Honda Center, 7 p.m., Prime:

They’ve iced down the NCAA’s West Regional champions, and brought in the Zambonis. Back to hockey business.

TUESDAY

MLB exhibition: Angels vs. Dodgers, Angel Stadium, 7 p.m., FSW:

Last chance to visit the Anaheim facility until the Angels’ home opener, which isn’t until a week from Friday.

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NHL: Kings at Edmonton, 6:30 p.m., Prime:

Are the Kings going to have to limp toward the playoffs without Anze Kopitar? A five-game road winning streak is on the line for the team against an Oilers’ squad that they’ve beaten three times already this season, and now have one of their top scorers, Dustin Penner.

WEDNESDAY

NBA: Clippers vs. Dallas, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:

The Mavs have two games in two nights at Staples Center. A perfect chance for Mark Cuban to bring his new pal, Charlie Sheen, down to his floor seats.

NHL: Ducks at Calgary, 6:30 p.m., FSW:

Their last meeting two Saturday’s ago: The Ducks pulled out a 5-4 OT win thanks to Corey Perry.

MLB exhibition: Dodgers vs. Seattle, Dodger Stadium, 7 p.m.:

Because the Dodgers and Angels didn’t want to extend the Freeway Series one more game? Or just a way to get Ichiro some L.A. exposure?

THURSDAY

MLB: Dodgers vs. San Francisco, Dodger Stadium, 5 p.m., ESPN:

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Enough San Francisco residents have supposedly raised $8,000 to hire a plane that will fly a banner over Dodger Stadium during Opening Night that reads “Giants 2010 Champs: BEAT L.A.” How original. Have they seen the movie “Battle: Los Angeles” yet? There are plenty of local residents capable of shooting objects out of the sky that seem to be the least bit threatening. It’s no wonder the World Wide Leader in Sports rearranged the schedule and created this event to open the season, setting up a late-afternoon showdown that’ll feature Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum firing pitches from sunlight to shadow that should create eight scoreless innings before the bullpens get involved.

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Here’s your Hollywood ending: Bottom of the ninth, ex-Giant Juan Uribe drives in the game-winning run off the black beard of Brian Wilson (but we’re not sure if he’ll even be healthy enough after an injury-plagued spring training). The four-game series resumes Friday (7 p.m., Prime), Saturday (1 p.m., Channel 11) and Sunday (5 p.m., ESPN2).

MLB: Angels at Kansas City, 1 p.m., FSW:

Opening Day starter Jered Weaver, who led the majors in strike outs last year but lost a salary arbitration hearing in the offseason, puts his focus back on a very young Royals team that doesn’t have 2009 AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke as its star thrower any more. The Angels and Royals make it a four-game series with appearances on Friday (5 p.m., Channel 13), Saturday (10 a.m., FSW) and Sunday (11 a.m., FSW).

MLB: Detroit at N.Y. Yankees, ESPN, 10 a.m.; San Diego at St. Louis, ESPN, 1:15 p.m.:

Do we not allow the Cincinnati Reds to play the first game of the season any more? While the Reds do open at home against Milwaukee today, the Tigers-Yankees and Nationals-Braves get the early start.

NBA: Lakers vs. Dallas, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., TNT:

Squashing the Mavs’ final hopes for a runner-up finish in the Western Conference is Plan A.

NHL: Kings at Vancouver, 7 p.m., FSW:

There are some who think the Sedin twins could finish 1-2 in the league’s MVP voting — they’ve been 1-2 in the scoring race. Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo and the Kings’ Jamie Quick nearly have the same goals-against-average at 2.21, top five in the league.

Golf: PGA Houston Open, first round, noon, Golf Channel:

Anthony Kim parred the first hole of a playoff with Vaughn Taylor to win the event a year ago, his third PGA title. This is the last event before the Masters. NBC has the third and final rounds Saturday and Sunday.

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Golf: LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship at Rancho Mirage, first round, 9 a.m. to noon and 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., Golf Channel:

Hall of Famer Amy Alcott, a Southern California native, on how she started the tradition of the winner of this event jumping into the pond beside the 18th green: “It was on my second win there in 1988. I made a winning putt and I looked at my caddie and it just happened. I said, ‘We’re going into the water,’ and he said, “Cool, kid.” It was rocky and murky, and there were birds in there. The Russian judge probably would have given us a 2 for our jumps.” And now, it’s common place. Everyone into the lake — except those who don’t win this thing. The LPGA field from last week’s event at Industry Hills goes up the 10 Freeway towards Palm Springs for the first major of the season. Golf Channel covers the entire USGA event through Sunday.

College basketball: NIT final: Alabama/ Colorado vs. Washington State /Wichita State, 4 p.m., ESPN:

Can Klay Thompson give the Pac-10 some paltry title hope? Only if the Cougars make it out of Tuesday’s semifinals.

FRIDAY

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NBA: Lakers at Utah, 7:30 p.m., Channel 9, ESPN:

The Jazz win this one, and they’re still in the mix for the playoffs. April Fool’s.

NBA: Clippers at Phoenix, 7 p.m, Prime:

The Clippers win this one, and they’re still in the mix for the playoffs. See above.

SATURDAY

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College basketball: NCAA men’s Final Four in Houston: Virginia Commonwealth vs. Butler, 3 p.m.; UConn vs. Kentucky, approx.. 5:45 p.m., Channel 2:

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Never has a Final Four been without a No. 1 or No. 2 seed – we’ve got a 3, 4, 8 and 11. There’s your lottery numbers of the week. And you’d not only lying if you had VCU coming this far, but you’d be delusional as well. Having somehow squeaked into the First Four and then, traveling through Dayton, Chicago and San Antonio, have knocked out a team from the Pac-10 (USC), Big East (Georgetown), Big Ten (Purdue), ACC (Florida State) and Big 12 (Kansas), the Rams meet up with the champions from the Horizon League, who’ve remarkably enough have been here before. ESPN’s Jay Bilas, who like most of us mocked VCU’s inclusion in the tournament to start with, said Sunday: “There’s nothing I’ve ever seen like it in NCAA Tournament play. For VCU to have won five straight games in the tournament, four of them in double digits, is absolutely incredible.” And that’s an understatement.

NHL: Kings vs. Dallas, Staples Center, 1 p.m., Prime:

The Kings’ 3-2 regulation win over the Stars a couple of weeks ago – it came on Michal Handzus’ goal with 20 seconds left – prevented a three-point game.

NBA: Clippers vs. Oklahoma City, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:

This Kendrick Perkins experiment seems to have some weight behind it for the Thunder.

NHL: Ducks at San Jose, 7:30 p.m., KDOC:

The Sharks have knocked off the Ducks twice already this year, with one more meeting next week.

MLS: Galaxy vs. Philadelphia, Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:

Union-busting activities are encouraged here. Because the Philadelphia team’s nickname is the Union. OK?

SUNDAY

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NBA: Lakers vs. Denver, Staples Center, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7:

The Nuggets are 12-4 since shipping Carmelo Anthony off to New York (while the Knicks are 7-11 with him), and they’re closing in on actually gaining a home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

NHL: Ducks vs. Dallas, Honda Center, 5 p.m., Prime:

Three of the Ducks’ final four games of the regular season are at home, starting with this one.

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College basketball: NCAA women’s Final Four in Indianapolis: Games at 4 and 6 p.m., ESPN:

Two-time defending champion UConn, not to be upstaged by the success of the school’s men’s team, has to knock out Duke in Tuesday’s East Regional final to make a return trip. All the rest of the No. 1 seeds are alive as well: Tennessee, Stanford and Baylor.

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Nader’s latest crusade doesn’t add up

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In the bizzaro world of Ralph Nader - the Princeton and Harvard-educated attorney, author, lecturer, activist and four-time candidate for President of the United States, according to his Wikipedia page – the stench of college sports is overwhelming.

There’s a dire to “de-professionalize,” he insists. Especially right now, while we’re amidst what he calls “the 2011 NCAA Professional Basketball Championships.”

Start by getting rid of all the preferential athletic scholarships. Set up a need-based financial aid system that athletes can use, like every other student.

That will restore academic integrity. It’ll even end a “win-at-all-cost” mentality for high school, middle school or elementary school kids – whose hoping for a free ride to college in exchange for their ability to generate income for sports programs.

We need to “be able to use the term ‘student-athlete’ without snickering,” Nader says.
“It’s time for our college athletes to be true students on campus, not athletes on athletic stipends with sports – not education – as their top priority and obligation.”

True enough, the system in place now is pretty flawed. The athletes who attract the entertainment dollars aren’t equitably compensated.

But all that Nader’s gameplan lacks is common sense.

Eliminating opportunities for those in need hurts the greater good in the bigger picture. And he misses an essential point: For almost 99 percent of college sports, it is about the amateur athlete, not the budding professional.

NCAA reform, we’d buy into that. Even if the idea leads to someone like Pat Haden, who has managed to make some major philosophical changes in the way USC runs its sports programs now, as a prime candidate to run college athletics’ governing body and bring some missing perspective.

Or is that pushing things too far?

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== How about this Victoria’s Secret a new line of MLB women’s clothing – including a three-pair “hipster” pantie pack that features team logos (including the Dodgers and Angels) on the front and phrases like “Caught Looking” and “Meet Me In The Dugout” on the backsides? Is $25.50 a good package deal?

== How much longer can Ohio State’s basketball team’s run toward an basketball title divert attention from the black-and-Buckeyes athletic department getting Jim Tressel prepared for his permanent golden handshake, with the hopes that Urban Meyer will be waiting to swoop in and save face?

== Butler University, an independent, coeducational, liberal arts and sciences facility with 4,650 students, founded in 1855 in Indianapolis by attorney and abolitionist Ovid Butler, has won eight of its last NCAA hoop tournament games? Hear that UCLA?

== Are we supposed to be paying attention to the Barry Bonds’ trial, or the clinical trial he must have put himself through to lose three hat sizes since we last saw him?

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== Is the portrait of Pedro Martinez that has been unveiled at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., going up next to the one of Delino DeShields?

== And now, the top 10 coolest things about being in Fontana this weekend . . . No. 10 . . . Any suggestions?

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