| || When I grow up, I want to be as lucky as Tom Lasorda. Not just
wake-up-put-on-old-pair-of-pants-and-find-$500-in-pocket lucky, but
We know that Branch Rickey once said that luck was the residue of
design. We've heard the old one about making your own breaks. We've even
been bored to diabetic comas with "The Lord helps those who help
But that still doesn't explain Ol' Tom, who has spent much of the
latter third of his life French-kissed by God.
True, Lasorda has brought some ability and skill to his time in the
game; he could schmooze like Ben Stein on crank, but he still has his World
Series rings to wave at anyone who still doubts.
These last few months, though, have shown just how clever/fortunate
the man is.
For one, he has managed to help steer the U.S. Olympic baseball team
to an unexpected gold medal by beating Cuba, an achievement that would make
anyone's short list of kicks.
For two, he has managed to steer himself away from the
planet-destroying toxicity of the Dodger situation. While general manager
Kevin Malone has been unclogging his nostrils on the team's already
diminished profile in the game ... while manager Davey Johnson is
preparing himself for that Day-Glo pink slip that has been two months in
the coming ... while president Bob Daly stands wondering why he couldn't
have been sent to another division of MurdochCo Galactic Enterprises ...
while the players have emotionally prepared themselves for a horrific
winter and even worse summer ...
While all this has happened, Tommy's had an 18-hour head start on his
day and 7,000 miles distance from the rich, earthy funk of accelerated
Indeed, when you think of the Dodger mess now, Tommy doesn't jump out
at you as a potential suspect. Whatever he may or may not have done since
his managerial career ended, he is necessarily absent now that the whole
thing has fallen under the weight of its own dreadfulness.
It isn't just that the Dodgers remain mediocre. It isn't that they
spent $98 million to get that way, or that they will chunk in another $10
million next year to stay that way. It isn't that they will pay for their
minor league neglect well into the current decade.
It's that, well, they've become irrelevant, and that is something the
Dodgers should never be.
Since the middle '40s, they have been mostly very good. Oh, they've
had a few dreadful years here and there, but for the most part, they have
been a force, on the field, in the boardroom and in the lunch line. A
season without worrying about the Dodgers has been a rarity.
But it's now been five years of nothing -- unpleasant, disinterested,
sniping, hateful nothing. Johnson's successor will be the team's fifth
manager in five years; the last time they had this much trouble keeping a
general in place was 107 years ago.
This is a measure of the Dodgers' finally losing their greatest
strength -- stability. Since the strike year of 1994, when it became clear
that Peter O'Malley had finally lost his will to be influential and the
scouts ran out of consensus Rookies of the Year, the Dodgers have been
As a sidelight to this, Lasorda benefits from the absence of other
riveting U.S. tales from Sydney. For one, the gymnasts came and went, won
the zinc medal, and now nobody can remember their names. The women's
softball team was the pre-Olympic favorite; so was the women's soccer team,
and it couldn't beat Norway.
And of course, nothing about these Olympics is brought to you in real
time, unless you get off on still-photo television.
Thus, Tommy fills one void while avoiding another. His 2000 has a gold
medal; the one he would have had has a pile of fired cadavers piled outside
Bob Daly's office. His summer has Doug Mientkiewicz rather than Mark
Grudzielanek. His summer has overachievement on a global scale rather than
a distant second place on a local one.
In short, luck doesn't come in a bigger size than this. As ever, Tommy
Lasorda is livin' large.
Ray Ratto, a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.
|Tommy Lasorda is still popular in Los Angeles -- especially after bringing the U.S. a gold medal.|| |
Sheets' pitching gets U.S. past Cuba for gold