Apr 13

Stay classy, Los Angeles: The problem with the Dodgers’ tweet

The Dodgers’ satirical invocation of Anchorman on Twitter in the wee hours Friday, before the anger over Thursday’s brawl had begun to die down, has earned a lot of praise for its bold comic timing, with even U-T San Diego taking note.

I wish it didn’t make me uncomfortable, but it does.

The past two years have been an ongoing effort to rebuild the reputation of the Dodger fanbase following the 2011 attack by two men on Bryan Stow in the stadium parking lot. It should go without saying that the actions of those men don’t represent Dodger fans overall, but – with no small help from what had become a rough atmosphere in some sections of the stadium – we have needed to make the point over and over again. We support our team, but you have the right to support yours. Every city has its bad apples, but they don’t speak for us.

“You stay classy San Diego” undermines all that. The Dodgers themselves have told the world that it’s okay to label a city based on the unfortunate actions of just one individual.

And they’ve done so with an arrogance that, with the memory of the Stow tragedy so fresh, they shouldn’t necessarily possess.

The text on the Dodgers’ tweet, “See you on Monday in Los Angeles,” even seems to encourage confrontation.

Yes, some people in San Diego defended Carlos Quentin’s actions. And yes, the tweet was all in good fun – though clearly fun mixed with exasperation at what had happened. It rallied together the Dodger fan base, thousands laughed and even many outsiders now think the Dodgers have, if nothing else, good comic taste.

That doesn’t change the fact that the Dodgers have opened the door for anyone to mock the entire city of Los Angeles any and every time something goes wrong. I’m not happy about it.

Humor can defuse a fight, but it only exacerbated this one.

Perhaps I shouldn’t care what other people think of us, but I’ve got too much pride in Los Angeles, the Dodgers and their fans to just ignore perception. I’ve spent about four decades watching people make fun of a fan base for being dilettantes, even as evidence ceaselessly appears around the country of others acting in the same way. (Here’s but one example of many.) Following the Stow attack, the ridicule only intensified, drowning out the voices of those who were disgusted by the criminal behavior and support their team as well as anyone else in the country. In the eyes of countless baseball fans around the country, Dodger fans became thugs.

With better security, new ownership, improvements to the stadium and what I believe to be some level of collective soul-searching about behavior at the ballpark, I like to think the negativity surrounding Dodger fans is dissipating. Some wil never credit us for being great fans – certainly, many in our rival cities have no incentive to. But I do think it’s important to put our best face forward. This is a proud franchise with a glorious history, and it deserves to be seen that way. Not to mention the fact that the atmosphere at Dodger Stadium is best when everyone feels secure.

The city of San Diego did not fracture Zack Greinke’s collarbone. Carlos Quentin did. Yet the Dodgers themselves chose to make it about the city. Now, when almost inevitably someone in Los Angeles does something unthinkably stupid at a baseball game – perhaps as soon as Monday, when tensions toward the Padres hit a fever pitch – the rest of the baseball world will have carte blanche to make it about all of us. Will we still be laughing then?

Dec 10

Loney: ‘I would never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol’

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports on a conversation with James Loney about his November accident and arrest:

… Loney said he remembers colliding with the first car and hitting his head in the process — he wasn’t sure exactly what he hit his head on — but he doesn’t have a clear memory of what happened from that moment until he woke up several hours later in the hospital.

“After (hitting his head), everything became very fuzzy,” Loney said. “I just felt, like, different. It was a different feeling.”

The Los Angeles Times quoted Judy Eckerling, whom the paper identified as the driver of one of the cars Loney hit, as saying Loney was non-responsive when she went to check on him immediately after the accident. Eckerling told the paper that when Loney woke up, he became agitated, started his engine and tried to drive away.

Loney said he doesn’t remember any of that, nor does he remember being administered a breathalyzer test by police, during which he reportedly bit off the mouthpiece and spat the rest of the tube at the officer. Loney said he was placed in handcuffs before being taken to the hospital, but he believes that was only to restrain him because he was behaving so erratically.

Loney also said he was tested for several drugs at the hospital — he read over the phone a long list from a document he was given when he left the hospital later that night that included cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, barbiturates, amphetamines and opiates — and that those tests all came back negative.

Loney said that when he woke up from the hospital, he felt completely normal. By this time, he said, there no longer were any police officers at the hospital keeping him in custody.

“Once I woke up, they just released me,” Loney said. “There was no questioning, there was no concern for me. I had somebody pick me up, and I went home. I was OK once I woke up. I was like, ‘Whoa, that was a weird experience.’ I talked to them like the person I am, my usual personality, and they were like, ‘He’s fine, he can go home.’

“I just want to make it clear that I would never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. I was just in an accident.”

Loney said he now regrets the fact he didn’t alert the Dodgers to the situation — the incident was first reported by TMZ.com on Thursday, but a club source said team officials were made aware by a third party before that report surfaced. …

More interviews: Ned Colletti spoke to 710 ESPN about Loney and other subjects on Friday – you can hear the interview and read the highlights here.

Dec 08

Four days before contract deadline, Loney’s November arrest revealed

Dodger first baseman James Loney was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence on November 14. (The story was first reported by TMZ.)

The incident by itself does not seem to have any direct effect on Loney’s future with the Dodgers. The Dodgers have had more than three weeks to digest it, with general manager Ned Colletti telling Dylan Hernandez of the Times that Loney’s status won’t be affected “unless something turns up.”

However, I can’t help wondering if the Albert Pujols signing might cause the Dodgers to rethink their plans, whether it’s to reboot a pursuit of Prince Fielder, or if only because of the possibility that the Angels will now make 28-year-old first baseman Kendrys Morales available.  Morales had a .924 OPS in 2009, his last full season before a broken leg waylaid him. Morales could soon be looking for a new home. (Unless, the Angels find a taker for someone like Bobby Abreu.)

The Dodgers must finalize their decision on whether to offer Loney a 2012 contract by 9 p.m. Monday.

Here are some details on the Loney arrest. I have to admit, when I saw the reference to the Maserati, my thoughts immediately turned to Joe Walsh:

… California Highway Patrol spokesman Leland Tang told the Los Angeles Times that the accident took place at around 6:15 p.m. PT in Sherman Oaks. Loney’s Masarati sideswiped several cars before coming to a stop in the fast lane with the player passed out inside.

“His unusual behavior at the scene caused concern on the part of the L.A city fire paramedics and he was transported to Sherman Oaks Hospital for further tests,” Tang said, according to the newspaper.

Loney was traveling westbound when he hit three vehicles and then abruptly came to a stop.

“The three parties involved in the collision including the driver of a 2008 Mini Cooper, a Toyota Prius and Mercedes Benz attempted to contact Mr. Loney but according to their statements he appeared to be unconscious,” Tang said, according to the Times. “He eventually awoke and he saw all the people standing around him. He then attempted to flee the scene.”

A CHP officer, who first responded to the scene, wrote in his report that Loney displayed “objective symptoms of being intoxicated or being under the influence of something.”

A person close to Loney told the Times that the player tested negative for drugs and alcohol, but Tang told the newspaper that results of a blood test taken by officers was not yet available.

Jun 17

Report: Manny Ramirez sought drug exemption in ’09, Dodgers deny involvement

The New York Times has a story today, anonymously sourced, stating that representatives for Manny Ramirez in 2009 explored seeking an exemption to baseball’s drug policy (link via L.A. Observed).

Around the time Major League Baseball suspended Manny Ramirez for violating its drug program last season, his representatives told officials in the commissioner’s office that they planned to file for permission to use a banned drug that would boost his testosterone levels.

Ramirez’s representatives, including his agent, Scott Boras, decided not to file for the exemption then, but the idea of seeking one was resurrected in September, two months after Ramirez returned to the field, though he ultimately never received one.

The second time the idea came up, the Dodgers were in a close race in the National League West and Ramirez was struggling at the plate. In that instance, high-ranking Dodgers personnel, including General Manager Ned Colletti, discussed how they could help Ramirez and whether he had enough of a medical problem to obtain an exemption for a testosterone-boosting drug.

Baseball’s independent drug-testing administrator granted 115 exemptions last season to players who proved a medical need to use a banned substance. All but seven of the players received a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder. Two players received exemptions for drugs to boost their testosterone levels.

The accounts of the discussions about Ramirez’s obtaining an exemption were based on interviews with three people in baseball who spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing medical and drug testing matters.

A spokesman for the Dodgers, Josh Rawitch, said team officials did not look into getting Ramirez an exemption. He declined further comment. …

May 29

Denver police finds no evidence to support allegations against Vicente Padilla


Steve Mitchell/US Presswire
Vicente Padilla

This afternoon brought a bit of unwanted mystery, with a local Denver TV news report emerging at lunchtime that Denver police were investigating allegations against Vicente Padilla made shortly before 4 a.m. at the Ritz Carlton Hotel near Coors Field. At a 3 p.m. press conference, however, Denver police said that after an investigation by detectives, the police department found no evidence that any crime occurred and has no intention to cause Padilla with a crime. The initial call was a domestic violence call, according to police.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details. Padilla went on to throw a simulated game at Coors Field today.

Mar 03

Ronald Belisario trouble: Much ado about almost nothing

It bothers me that the Dodgers seem more upset about relief pitcher Ronald Belisario’s current visa problems than they were about his arrest for driving under the influence last summer.

I understand that with the DUI still awaiting adjudication, there’s a presumption of innocence for Belisario, who pleaded not guilty. So my point is not that the Dodgers should have immediately disciplined Belisario for the arrest.

Rather, it seems to me if you’re going to cut the guy some slack for something that serious, you should do the same for his visa issues.

Yeah, Belisario messed up with his paperwork – for the second year in a row.  It stinks. But it happened. Yet, even as manager Joe Torre tells Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com that the situation is now out of Belisario’s hands and at the mercy of the U.S. government, general manager Ned Colletti is still in a snit.

“While he is sitting in Venezuela, other people are here trying to make the club,” Colletti said. “Maybe one of them will take food off his table.”

Forgive me for thinking Colletti is sounding a little like Inspector Javert.

Meanwhile, all this talk about the Dodgers losing Belisario to waivers continues to be overblown, as I suggested a week ago. Jackson reports that the Dodgers can “suspend Belisario without pay and require him to stay behind in extended spring training.” So Belisario can be punished more than amply for his sins, without the Dodgers losing him forever.

Odds remain that Belisario won’t miss any more regular season time because of his visa problems in 2010 than he missed when he went on the disabled list in 2009 – for an injury that some would argue happened because of the Dodgers’ irresponsibility in their use of him. The Dodgers, as Colletti suggests, have plenty of candidates to replace Belisario in the short-term – it’s not as if his visa problems will make or break their season.

The attention to this issue, it seems to me, is the result of having not enough things to complain about. The McCourts aren’t a presence in Arizona right now, and the silly furor over Manny Ramirez last week has died down. It’s almost like people are having too good a time – so by all means, let’s make an example of Belisario.

And I know I’m asking too much, but I just wish the attention were centered on an issue that might actually mean something.