Could Molly Knight Be Vin Scully’s Successor?

Author Molly Knight's new best-seller on the Los Angeles Dodgers is as

Author Molly Knight’s new best-seller on the Los Angeles Dodgers is as refreshing and entertaining as listening to the personal, informative voice of Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully.

FOUR ALMOST FOUR DECADES, MY SUMMERS have been passed listening to Vin Scully religiously, bemoaning the cutback in his announcing schedule and, I suppose, unconsciously preparing myself for that day when Vinny calls it a career.

I am also one of those baseball fans who wears headphones and listens to Scully call a game on the radio even when I’m at Dodger Stadium.

Especially today, Vinny makes a bearable experience out of what otherwise at times resembles a virtual drive in a convertible through the hood or the barrio bombarded by a cacophony of butchered languages peppered with hip-hop that has sullied the traditional pastoral sense of the game.

The fictional literary character Terence Mann perhaps stated it more succinctly in the Hollywood film Field of Dreams when he says to protagonist Ray Kinsella: “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again.”

That’s what Vin Scully has also meant for the game. He’s been a link to baseball of its glory years, and he’s done that through those marvelous stories he often tells, almost as an afterthought, throughout a broadcast — like his tales about Chad Billingsley, saying that he pitched “with the Sword of Damocles over his head,” using Greek legend to depict the former Dodger so often pitching with danger looming nearby.

I can’t imagine any pretender to Scully’s throne having his wit and talent, much less his ability to weave classical literature into a broadcast.

That is not until I read former ESPN writer Molly Knight’s new best-seller The Best Team Money Can Buy: The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Wild Struggle to Build a Baseball Powerhouse. 

Knight’s book details how the new Dodger ownership, Guggenheim Partners, since 2013 has overtaken the New York Yankees in their annual payrolls though reaping nothing more than near-misses in the playoffs, while having more success in keeping Cuban boy wonder Yasiel Puig alive amid death threats from a smuggling underworld that wanted its share of the slugger’s newfound wealth.

The book fittingly portrays the new Dodger owners as having more dollars than sense, which allowed them to triple the team payroll while under the widely detested Frank McCourt, who sold the team in 2012, much to the delight of fans who thought no one could be worse and thus were willing to give the Guggenheim Partners a long honeymoon while waiting for a World Series championship.

But these Dodgers, unfortunately, have not been the Boys of Summer, nor even the romantic underdog Oakland A’s of Moneyball.

At one point, concerned about the disappointing production of an injury recovering Matt Kemp — the slugging outfielder traded to the San Diego Padres before this season — the befuddled Dodgers brass, according to Knight, even “dispatched a club executive to speak with Kemp’s mother, who attended almost every home game, about what the team might do to help her son. Was he having girl problems?”

If that makes the Dodgers appear a bit like the old bums of Brooklyn, imagine that scene playing out on the big screen should this book become a Hollywood movie, a baseball comedy, for sure.

Then the book also covers a particular Dodgers losing streak that begs comparison with how Oakland general manage Billy Beane handled similar woes in Moneyball. Beane, a genius compared to his counter-part in Los Angeles, made trades, even discarding an All-Star, and insisted that the reluctant A’s manager play the productive journeymen ballplayers that he had signed.

What did the Guggenheim Partners Dodgers do?

“Unsure of what else to do,” Knight writes, “an anxious (GM Ned) Colletti emailed leadership surveys to” half a dozen handpicked players.

These are small nuggets in the overall book, which covers two years of the current Dodgers, but they show Knight’s appreciation of irony and how those kinds of stories are what Scully has used for years to help mold our understanding of baseball and those who play it.

Knight is also not afraid to be honest. Her book offers fresh insight into Dodger pitcher Zack Greinke, who is having a career season in 2016 and whose social anxiety issues have been chronicled in the past.

But Knight may have had a better understanding of Greinke because of her own anxiety disorder of the past of which she has talked candidly in interviews, including a panic attack as she was finishing the book – and of how she went back on the medication Zoloft, which she reveals that Greinke also takes.

When is the last time a Dodger insider was this open about the team, the front office or especially themselves?

I can only think of Vin Scully.

And now Molly Knight, cut from the same cloth as the legend.

Why Valenzuela Should Be the Dodgers’ Next Skipper

Former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, waving to the crowd, is the logical choice to be the team's next manager. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

Former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela is the logical choice to be the team’s next manager. (AP Photo)

WHEN THE DODGERS replaced the Yankees as the team with the highest payroll this year, they also assumed the great expectations that come with spending that kind of money in America’s national pastime.

But a little over a month into the season, the only thing that Dodgers and the Yankees have in common is an abnormal rash of injuries to stars that have put too any multi-million-dollar players on the Disabled List.

Playing with subs and journeyman players, though, the Yankees are in first place in their America League division. The Dodgers, with most of their injured stars back in the lineup, occupy last place in their National League division.

Understandably, fans and sportswriters have begun calling for the firing of Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, once a star with the Yankees but with no real connection to the Los Angeles team and a contract that expires this season.

It is a monumental disappointment. The Dodgers were sold last year for a record $2.2 million, ridding Los Angeles of the previously owner who was widely despised.

Heightening the disillusionment was that the team first celebrated the Jackie Robinson film “42,” and now has been upstaged by that Hollywood motion picture being the only positive thing you can associate with the Dodgers.

The situation is so bad that a leading national writer with Fox even predicts that Mattingly will be sacked as early as this Thursday.

It has raised the subject of who will replace Mattingly, with the usual names popping up, but importantly they are names that reflect on noticeable shortcoming for the times.

None of those names are of Hispanics.

And yet these are Dodgers who hold themselves up as the model for racial inclusion. They are the team that broke baseball’s color barrier with Jackie Robinson in 1947. They are among the first teams that began a widespread recruitment in Latin America, even opening the first baseball camp for that purpose in the Dominican Republic.

But the expected firing of Don Mattingly opens a tremendous opportunity for the Dodgers to make another historic statement in the hiring of a Latino manager.

Ozzie Guillen heads the list of experienced Latino managers who are available. He managed the Miami Marlins last season, and he won a World Series in 2005 with the Chicago White Sox.

Of couse, diehard Latino fans say the Dodgers have perfect Hispanic former player who comes to each game and who would be the ideal Latino Dodger manager.

Former pitching great Fernando Valenzuela, who thrilled Dodger fans with Fernandomania a generation ago, is one of the team’s Spanish-speaking radio announcers.

As such, he is intimately familiar with the team’s players and knows their strengths and limitations. He also has coaching experience, having been he pitching coach for the Mexican national team in the World Baseball Classic.

Earlier this year, passing Fernando in the press box, I asked him the question, though at the time it was completely academic as the season had just begun.

“Ever think about managing?” I asked him in Spanish.

Vez en cuando,” he said. From time to time.

The Dodgers have their next manager in house, if they’re anywhere as smart as they are rich.

They insist they are staying with Mattingly but for how long?

Fernando has no managing experience. You can hear them saying when that moment does come.

That’s true. But then that’s the same amount that Don Mattingly had when they gave him the job.

Will they discriminate in their thinking in hiring a new manager who is Latino and bleeds real Dodger blue?