Monday, April 13, 2009

VSR: Welcome to L.A. O-Dog!

I was supposed to be there. I was supposed in the press box thinking of what to ask Orlando Hudson for a potential feature. I was supposed to hear the fly-over and soak up the atmosphere of my first Opening Day at Dodger Stadium. I was supposed to see Vin Scully throw out the 1st pitch. The date was circled on my calendar and inputted in my phone weeks in advance and wouldn’t you know it, 1:10 came and went as I sat in the office typing up some stories.

Life and work have a funny way of screwing with your plans.

But I'm over my disappointment because you couldn’t have asked for a better Opening Day at Dodger Stadium. An 11-1 victory over the hated Giants. Chad Billingsley gave a tired bullpen some relief with seven strong innings and 11 K’s (including his last 5 batters). Andre Ethier had two home runs that broke the game open. Matt Kemp extended his on-base streak to 8 games. The star of the day, however, was Hudson making his debut at Dodger Stadium in the whites.

He got it started with a single in his first at-bat. Then the third-inning homer off Randy Johnson broke the scoreless tie. A double in the fourth inning helped send Johnson to the showers (6 runs in a two-out rally!). Finally, he cranked a triple to right field and slid in before the tag to make it official. First cycle by a Dodgers player in 39 years and the crowd gave him standing ovations the rest of the day.

The most famous O-Dog in L.A. has been Larenz Tate’s character in “Menace to Society” but I think after today, Hudson took one step forward in claiming that nickname in his own way. He broke out two days ago with a homer and a triple and I think I can definitely start yelling “SOUL POWER” whenever he does something now (although I need to find a way to describe his speed)

Pitching will still be a big concern for us after James McDonald’s bad start, Hiroki Kuroda moving to the DL, and the bullpen’s strange implosion (I’m blaming injuries among other things – but Cory Wade, bring the heat next time, please?). We probably need a veteran arm but if Randy Wolf pitches more like he did Sunday, who knows what can happen.

Offensively, this team looks like they can score with anybody – a remarkable shift from Dodgers teams of the past built on pitching. This is probably the best offensive team I’ve seen since Eric Karros, Mike Piazza and Raul Mondesi were loading it up; we just need to see some pitching.

Finally the playoffs start for the Lakers and you can tell because Laker fans are already breaking out the car flags. The glorious return of Andrew Bynum right next to Easter has fans in a frenzy but sloooow down.

Yes, Shannon Brown has effectively replaced Jordan Farmar off the bench and done a great job. Yes, Bynum is showing his tenacity on the rebounding tip. And yes, Lamar Odom happily coming off the bench could be the secret weapon that teams aren’t ready for. BUT don’t get too happy just yet.

That second-round matchup with Portland is going to be brutal. Considering the Lakers haven’t won there in 8 games and the Trailblazers aren’t short on motivation, Brandon Roy and the boys are going to make it a war. And that’s after we get through a first-round date with Dallas or a dangerous Utah team.

But who am I kidding? This Lakers team has proven they can beat anybody (except for two fluky losses to Orlando) and right now, they’re the only team to beat Cleveland at home. Bynum has played really well and I feel he can only get better with more game time. Brown adds one more younger, athletic body off our already solid bench. Chances are, they should cruise through the Western Conference finals but I do think a semifinals series with Portland will go 7 games.

Funny story from last week. I never thought I’d ever attend anything related to the LA Sparks but there I was Thursday at their draft party downtown at the ESPNZONE. But there I was, watching fans watch the 2009 WNBA Draft and interviewing the team’s first two draft picks by phone, Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton (above) and Ashley Paris. Candace Parker was there greeting fans and even though she's 8 months pregnant, I was surprised she got around pretty well.

Women’s sports always get a raw deal for various reasons (not compelling, not hot enough, boring). But I gained a different respect for women’s basketball after I played a few games with my school’s basketball team sophomore year. After I befriended a few of the players, I tried to catch a few games when I could. But I respected the passion they played with and the love they had for each other out there.

I may never rush to see a Sparks game (although I will make it out there), but at least I can scratch off one more thing that I did this week. By the way, the ESPN ZONE downtown is on point. I’ve been to the one in Anaheim twice and this one will definitely get some love.

*I end this Sports Report with thoughts and prayers to the families of Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas and Detroit Tigers legend Mark Fidyrich. Adenhart became the latest victim of drunk driving, Kalas collapsed while getting ready to broadcast today’s game and Fidyrich, a legendary character I discovered through Sports Illustrated, died in an accident.

Three tragedies plaguing the West/East/Midwest worlds of baseball. May God bless their famiiles and teammates and fans.*

No comments:

Post a Comment