You flip on tonight’s Dodgers-Rockies game from Colorado on KCAL Channel 9 and the immediate reaction is — oh, right, Vin Scully has this part of the trip off.
Those who’ll be making decision about the future of the Dodgers’ TV package once it evolves into the team-owned SportsNet L.A. in 2014 can’t be sold on a future that involves Eric Collins and Steve Lyons as the broadcast team that ends up doing more than half of the roadies where the 85-year-old Scully has negotiated out of his travel plans.
Scully will likely make his intentions known in the next few weeks as to whether he feels up to reporting for duty in 2014, either with the same package of some 110 games or cut it down even further to where he doesn’t have to step on a plane again.
When Scully decides he’s ready to call it a career — and that’s clearly his prerogative — it would behoove the Dodgers ownership to have a backup plan ready. We’ve discussed this on and on for years now.
It could figure out how to use Charley Steiner in the short term, or keep Collins in even the shorter term. As for a longer-term replacement, the choices spray to all fields.
Dan Shulman, who last fall re-upped his contract with ESPN to continue doing the “Sunday Night Baseball” package as well as handle college basketball with Dick Vitale as his frequent partner, had been mentioned on short lists as a possible successor.
He admitted he heard the same thing as well, all the way to his home in Toronto.
“It is never easy to replace anyone like Vin Scully and I hope he does it for many more years,” said Shulman, who’ll be calling the Angels-Red Sox game from Anaheim this Sunday night for ESPN. “It’s so great to listen to him. He sets the bar very high.
“For me, I’m signed and locked up for a long time (at ESPN). I was flattered when some friends told me that my name had come up in the past, but remember, there’s been nothing for me to even consider. The job isn’t open. I’m very happy at ESPN. They’ve treated me very well. When my contract was up it was time to talk and it worked out very quickly.”
We’ll still give Shulman a thumbs-up for the spot should it open — and even knowing that he recently broke his thumb a week ago while playing basketball. That could be a problem.
He is part of a group going to the Israel for a couple of weeks later this month to play on a men’s 35-and-over basketball team representing his native Canada in the 19th annual Maccabiah Games. Digger Phelps, Shulman’s ESPN colleague, agreed to be the team’s coach.
“I’m hoping the thumb will heal in time — I already had some knee surgery in April and I’m thinking, maybe I’m too old to be doing all this,” said the 46-year-old who’ll miss two ESPN Sunday night broadcasts. “I love the guys I’m playing with and it’s something to have a guy like Digger coaching us.”
Shulman has been part of a Sunday night crew that has gone through three lineup changes in the last three seasons. In 2011, he was the play-by-play man with Orel Hershiser and Bobby Valentine. The later took the vacant Boston Red Sox managerial job in 2012, leaving the former manager, Terry Francona, to join the trio. This year, with Francona gone to manage the Cleveland Indians, John Kruk is in the rotating chair, with Buster Olney as the roving reporter.
“John eat, sleeps and read baseball 24/7 so it really didn’t take him long to get to know his personality and get a comfort level in doing games with him,” Shulman said of Kruk.
“I’ve probably worked with 20 different guys over the years, so it’s not that unusual to start over. They all bring something different with great insight and knowledge. I just view my job as the same as a point guard who sets them up and lets them knock down the jump shots.
“I’ve worked two-man booths, three-man booths with a reporter, a lot of different ways to do it. I don’t know if you can say one is always better than the other. It depends on the situation. There’s Vin Scully, the greatest broadcaster and such a unique guy in whatever he does, doing a local broadcast still by himself. That’s what works for (the Dodgers).”
Whether Shulman ever works for the Dodgers, perhaps we’ll just have to wait and see.