Play It Forward: March 31-April 6 — Will the real Matt Kemp please take his place in center field? Dodgers fans await

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

Matt Kemp smiles in the dugout before the Dodgers' exhibition baseball game against the Angels at Dodger Stadium last weekend.  (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Matt Kemp smiles in the dugout before the Dodgers’ exhibition baseball game against the Angels at Dodger Stadium last weekend. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

MLB: DODGERS HOME OPENING SERIES
vs. SAN FRANCISCO

At Dodger Stadium, Friday (1:10 p.m., SportsNet L.A.), Saturday (1:10 p.m., Fox Sports 1), Sunday (5 p.m., ESPN2):
Kemp-CrutchesIn the Dodgers’ hot-off-the-press 2014 media guide, the listing for Matt Kemp goes eight pages deep. He’s 22 home runs shy of matching Willie Davis for second on the Dodgers’ all-time franchise list for center fielders, behind Duke Snider. Could that happen this season? Kemp is also 34 games short of 1,000 in his career. Again, that could happen this year, right?  His history of appearances on the disabled list is actually somewhat short – for 2013, for example, it lists just May 30-June 25 (mild right hamstring strain), July 6-21 (left AC joint inflammation) and July 22-Sept. 16 (left ankle sprain). That’s because not included there is the Sept. 29 decision to shut him down for a left-ankle injury – eliminating him right before the playoffs. That required surgery on Oct. 21, which was two weeks after he underwent a “left shoulder cleanup on his A-C joint.”
Kemp’s 2014 spring training was a constant slow-moving process as well, with another return to the 15-day DL, making him unavailable for the two-game opener in Australia. Unless there’s any giant setback, the 29-year-old will finally get to start his eighth big-league season when the Dodgers play their home opener against the Giants. Rihanna or not, Khloe or no other Kardashian, he says he’s ready.
logoss“Rehab sucks,” Kemp declared before last Friday’s exhibition game against the Angels. “I’m not missing anything now. I’m ready to go.” A rehab assignment could happen also, pushing his return sometime beyond this early April target date. “I want him to be totally confident when he goes out on the field that he can be Matt Kemp,” says manager Don Mattingly. Confidence doesn’t seem to be what Kemp lacks – it’s stability as well as ability. According to the Dodgers’ DL, Josh Beckett is also eligible to come off on Friday. With Clayton Kershaw out of action until at least the first full week of April, Beckett could be back to fill this spot. This series is also important because some predict that the Giants will provide the main obstacles in the Dodgers’ pursuit of repeating as the NL West champs. The other implication of this matchup: Will most all of Southern California have the team’s new SportsNet L.A. channel by this time? If not, there could be more heck to pay.

BEST OF THE REST: Continue reading

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Coming up: 30 baseball books during the 30 days of April, the 2014 edition

At JosephWaltzArts.com, you can find these baseball bookends for just $62. Handmade.

At JosephWaltzArts of Woodland Hills, you can find these baseball bookends for just $62. Handmade.

It’s five years running now, this exercise in horsehide overload to review 30 newly released baseball books that come out each spring in time for the start of the new season.
A year ago, I tried to explain what this was all about to Ed Sherman of TheShermanReport.com, which, in a slight moment of clarity, pretty much takes care of it from cover to cover. And this year, I’ll be covering a Sherman book, about Babe Ruth’s called shot, and the lengths he went to figure out if it was true, false or somewhere in between.
stack-of-booksThere has been some extenuating circumstances that may not allow me to go the distance on this thing — life sometimes gets in the way of what you think you’re able to pull off — but we’re going to do our best and see how far we go. If not a guaranteed full review, at the very least we will spotlight some of the books that may otherwise go under the wire (a Jerry Reuss’ autobiography, a bio of Walter O’Malley), go more in depth with some books that will likely get a lot of attention (Kostya Kennedy’s book on Pete Rose, “An American Dilemma”), and also spread in some Q-and-As with authors as well.
The official start of the big-league season reboots Sunday with the Dodgers’ game in San Diego. But for us, it all begins on April 1. With a book in our hands. Not a Nook.

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Weekly media column version 03.28.14 — How does #IMissVinScully fit into this Dodger-SportsNet L.A.-TWC #epicfail?

Bjlk537CIAAazZjWhat made it into this week’s column:
We’re going to play the Vin Scully card in this Dodgers-SportsNet L.A.-Time Warner Cable mess. Those who tried to watch him call the Dodgers’ season-opening games in Australia, that’s one thing. Those who wanted to see him back at Dodger Stadium for the Freeway Series exhibition against the Angels, maybe that’s another.

https://twitter.com/VinScullyTweet

https://twitter.com/VinScullyTweet

They’ve made Scully the focal point of the 2014 yearbook, as he enters his 65th season with the franchise. Why keep depriving the fans of his call when this could realistically be his final season?
We suggest a new Twitter harsh-tag: #IMissVinScully.
Angst and all.

We’ve also got info on TWC’s coverage of the CIF state basketball finals in Sacramento, and Marv Albert’s arrival in Anaheim, not so much to visit Disneyland.

What else could have been included but will land here instead: Continue reading

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Play It Forward: March 24-30 on your sports calendar — As Dodgers put Australia in the background, UCLA needs some croc repellant for Florida

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

UCLA's Reeves Nelson, left, loses control of the ball as Florida's Alex Tyus defends during the second half at a third-round Southeast regional NCAA  game in Tampa, Fla., on March 19, 2011. (AP Photo/ Chris O'Meara)

UCLA’s Reeves Nelson, left, loses control of the ball as Florida’s Alex Tyus defends during the second half at a third-round Southeast regional NCAA game in Tampa, Fla., on March 19, 2011. (AP Photo/ Chris O’Meara)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL:
NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT — SWEET 16:
UCLA vs. FLORIDA
South Regional semifinals in Memphis, Tenn., Thursday at approx. 6:45 p.m. Ch. 2:
ncaa-final-florida-ucla-basketballThey meet again.
Billy Donovan’s Gators, holding down the No. 1 overall seed in this year’s tournament, took the Bruins out of business in 2011, ’07 and ‘06, at various stages of the event. The most painful may have been the first – the national championship – which Florida won 73-57, behind Joakim Noah, who capped it off with a monster dunk with 1:09 left. In the national semifinals the follow year, Florida had the same starting lineup and had the same success, 76-66. Their most recent collision was on the second round of the first weekend, a 73-65 Gator victory. Ben Howland was the UCLA head coach in all three of those.
8418450Now it’s Steve Alford’s turn.
The Gators’ 28th consecutive win, by 16 over Pitt in the regional quarterfinals at Orlando, Fla., put them in the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive year, looking to make their third Elite Eight in a row. Against Pitt, the Gators, who haven’t lost since Dec. 2, gave up just 45 points — the ninth-straight game in which Florida held its opponent to 65 points or fewer. In the two games this year when UCLA has been held to 65 of less, it has lost both (scoring 63 against Duke and 55 against Washington State in the regular-season finale).
99454_1_Should UCLA win this one, it has a decent shot at getting a third meeting this year against Stanford, assuming the 10th-seeded Cardinal gets by the 11th-seed Dayton (Thursday, 4:15 p.m.) in the other regional semifinal. In case you were wondering, the Bruins beat Stanford, 91-74 at Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 23, then lost in Palo Alto, 83-74, on Feb. 22. They would meet again on Sunday with a chance to go to the Final Four.

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Q and A: Incoming LMU hoops coach Mike Dunlap, from Lions grad to Michael Jordan’s head man, completes the lap back to a familar spot

Mike Dunlap, center, had a 7-5 start with the Charlotte Hornets in 2012 but they ended up 21-61 by the time the summer of 2013 came, leading to owner Michael Jordan agreeing to a change.

Mike Dunlap, center, had a 7-5 start with the Charlotte Hornets in 2012 but they ended up 21-61 by the time the summer of 2013 came, leading to owner Michael Jordan agreeing to a change.

Mike Dunlap called out to his son, Holt, in the other room on Friday afternoon to see if he could come back into his new office, work the remote and find the Gonzaga-Oklahoma State NCAA Tournament game on the flatscreen TV.

He may have only been on the job about a week as Loyola Marymount’s new head basketball coach, but Dunlap knew the value of multi-tasking while keeping a West Coast Conference rival in his sights.

There’s been enough zigging and zagging in Dunlap’s career, but his return to LMU, where he was a 1980 graduate and spent the following five years an assistant, covers a wide-ranging traffic circle of experience.

 (AP Photo/ Alan Petersime)

(AP Photo/ Alan Petersime)

The 56-year-old from Fairbanks, Alaska has hit nearly every corner of the basketball world thus far – attending a semester at Pepperdine before veering off to L.A. Pierce College for two years, coaching in Australia, winning titles at Thousand Oaks’ D-III Cal Lutheran and D-II at Metro State in Denver, and years as an assistant at USC, Iowa, Arizona and Oregon. Lately, it was more higher-profile exposure in leading St. John’s through a full season as well becoming as an employee for Michael Jordan as head coach of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.

Dunlap has landed in a familiar setting, even though much has changed in the 35 years since he played at LMU. The Manhattan Beach resident explains: Continue reading

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Where is Champion Broadband and why do we care it signed up for the Dodgers’ SportsNet L.A. channel? (Hint: We don’t)

nothing_to_see_hereThe Dodgers and Time Warner Cable have actually used real human resources to craft  out a press release announcing simultaneously this morning that a company purported to be named Champion Broadband, with customers rumored to exist without forcible existence in Arcadia and Monrovia, have accepted the terms of agreement to carry SportsNet L.A. in advance of the team’s season opening games in Australia.

They’ve tried to pass this off as breaking news. And we’ve just written about it. We’ve both just embarrassed ourselves.

Dominoes did not fall. Floodgates did not open.

The clouds did not part and the voice of Vin Scully did not deem this a moment in Dodger history that could rival anything Kirk Gibson could have imagined possible.

Tommy-Lasorda-sleepingTommy Lasorda still slept through it.

For that Champion Broadband customer who will now get the channel — the company’s dynamic Wikipedia page is a mere 29 words short — please reveal yourself. You are a true champion. If you have the service and didn’t even know it, that’s more likely. Check your phone line. That busy signal may connect you to Yasiel Puig tonight at 1 a.m.

For those who have DirecTV, Dish, Cox, Comcast, Charter, AT&T Uverse, Verizon FiOS or a couple of tin pipes connected to your gas-powered microwave oven, operators are sitting by. You still don’t have the channel, and probably won’t until at least in early April. That’s just how it is, as you may have seen with weekly updates we’ve provided since before the Feb. 25 launch even took place.

Please resume your normal Friday. There’s nothing else to see here. OK, here’s another story about it if you really need an update. And another about how the Dodgers like to spin it. But there’s nothing really to update.

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Media column version 03.21.14: As UCLA fans will find out, Catalon’s rising play-by-play career leaves no stone (or broom) unturned

Andrew Catalon, left, with Steve Tasker, on a CBS NFL game from 2011. (photo by www.timesunion.com)

Andrew Catalon, left, with Steve Tasker, on a CBS NFL game from 2011. (photo by www.timesunion.com)

What made it into the column posted Friday:
Ever heard Andrew Catalon call a game? If you’re familiar with Olympic curling, he’s been on your radar. The 34-year-old Syracuse grad may be the eighth seed in the CBS-Turner eight-team broadcasting roster, but there are bigger plans for him, including calling UCLA’s NCAA tournament opener Friday in San Diego (approx. 7 p.m., truTV).
We also have notes on the latest with the Dodgers-SportsNet LA launch, Fox’s coverage of the Auto Club 400 from Fontana and some updates on local sports-talk coverage. And here’s a link to our conversation with Vin Scully early Friday (Australia time).

What could have made it into the column but will do just fine here:

NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Darrell Waltrip celebrates the 1982 Winston Cup Championship after the Winston West 500 at the Riverside International Raceway.

NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Darrell Waltrip celebrates the 1982 Winston Cup Championship after the Winston West 500 at the Riverside International Raceway.

== More from Fox’s Darrell Waltrip about how Fontana has evolved as a hot-spot for NASCAR racing fans, with the Auto Club 400 taking place: “We try to make that Hollywood connection, and quite honestly, that’s part of coming to L.A., but as much as we think we’re for the Hollywood crowd, our base is more ‘Beach Boys’  — guys who drove the Woodies, blue collar truck drivers and hot rodders who identify with what we do. For a place to race where we’ve had some drivers say it was the ‘most boring race on the schedule’ and ‘why do we keep going there?’  a lot of them sure came back after the great race we had last year. And there’s a lot of buzz for that kind of race again. A lot of that is attributed to the way the new cars are performing on a track like this. They’ve made adjustments to where there’s more downforce which creates more grip and on this track you need all the grip you can get. This year it’ll even be better.”

== The Los Angeles News Group editorial that appeared in Thursday’s editions showing concern that the Dodgers’ new TV plans could shut out the team from younger fans in poorer areas of the city who don’t have cable or dish access. Continue reading

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Pair up Vin Scully with a koala and how do you lose? Dodgers Hall of Fame broadcaster reports no fresh-water croc sightings this time

www.twitter.com/dodgers

www.twitter.com/dodgers

Vin Scully says he and his wife Sandy and his daughters once made a three-week trip to Australia some 20 years ago.

“We went parasailing, where they take you out in a speed boat, get you up in the air, drop you in a river and then the boat comes back and scoops you up,” Scully was explaining on the phone from his hotel in Sydney, Australia on Friday morning, the day before the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks start the season with a two-game series at the famed Sydney Cricket Ground.

“I was the first to try it, then Sandy, then the kids. And when it was over, I said to the boat captain: ‘You don’t waste any time getting us up out of the water.’ He said, ‘That’s because of all the fresh-water crocodiles.’ It was nice of him to just throw that in there.”

Vin Scully, right, with wife Sandy, to his left, watch Dodgers players come off teh Quantas Airlines flight. (twitter.com/dodgers)

Vin Scully, right, with wife Sandy, to his left, as the board the plane leaving Phoenix for Australia. (twitter.com/dodgers)

No crocs, kangaroos or koalas have been injured in the making of this Dodgers’ trip, Scully reports, as a photo of him with one of the Australian natives has circulated over Twitter during an outdoor meet-and-greet Wednesday night.

Whatever reservations some players may have had about making this trip should be gone soon, he thinks.

“Tomorrow, we’ll be playing  Arizona, and that will all be forgotten,” he said. “It’ll be the first game of the season, against a rival team in the division, after what happened last year, they’ll no longer be tourists and they’ll go to work.

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Why can’t imperfection be rewarded as well? Take this, Warren Buffett — you’re just wrong

image.american-apparel-unisex-athletic-tee.athletic-blue.w380h440z1p1The more we contemplate the ridiculousness of this Warren Buffett $1 billion-backed offer to produce a perfect NCAA Tournament bracket by filling out all 63 games correctly, there must be equal opportunity for those reverse-psychology thinkers who live for moments like this.

Au contraire.

Thus, we propose: The Perfectly Wrong Bracket.

imperfectionIt can’t be that tough, right? Take a bracket and fill it out all the way through, only picking losers. In actuality, all you need to do is have the imperfect first (or now they call it second) round games — that’s 32 games incorrect, because going forward, you’ll remain perfectly imperfect all the way to the title game.

Here’s your won shining moment, Wofford.

So, if the odds for a perfect bracket are really 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808, wouldn’t it be much easier — say, 1 in couple hundred million — to pick 32 losers in a row?

Back to our perfect bracket, we’ve got Creighton defeating UCLA in the title game.

In the new imperfect bracket we’ve just filled out, we’ve got Coastal Carolina coasting to the title. And it doesn’t even matter to us whether it’s North or South Carolina who takes credit for it.

We’re willing to take this one step further: Should you fill out the imperfect bracket, we’ll reward you with a gift card to the Home Town Buffet. No strings attached. Our lawyers are working on the contest rules as we speak. Submit all wrong brackets before Thursday at 9 a.m. to thomas.hoffarth@langnews.com.

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The $1 billion bracket has been revealed, and it’s free (you’re welcome)

3c36c3500a42bd60883a91e605ee594b3ab2c9f555c80ee14b96cdc2cbe7f667There are more than a bajillion reasons why you’ll never pick a perfect NCAA college basketball tournament.

It matters not how many blank bracket sheets you go through, or by what excavation methods you dig through Doug Gottlieb’s gobbly goop on TV.

But this year, there are a billion reasons why you’ve got at least make one half-cocked attempt at it.

buffettWarren Buffett, without putting his pinkie finger to the corner of his mouth, has put up $1 billion of his own cash (estimated net worth: $53.5 billion), betting that you can’t go to a legal loan shark’s website and produce a flawless forecast of how 63 games will play over the next few weeks.

The odds are stacked in his favor, as usual. Anyone attempting this feat with some willy-nilly strategy has a 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 of getting it right. And if you actually do know something about the sport, the odds are greatly reduced to 1 in 128 billion – or not as good as flipping a coin 37 times and having it come up heads in each instance.

Read more of this column on the Daily News website.

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