Sun, Jul

Could Molly Knight Be Vin Scully’s Successor?


TONY CASTRO’S LA-For 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. (Photo above.) 

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. 

{module [1177]}

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. (Photo left.) 

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


 (Tony Castro, whose Mickey Mantle: America's Prodigal Son The New York Times called the best biography of the baseball Hall of Fame legend, is the author of the forthcoming books DiMag & Mick: Sibling Rivals, Yankee Blood Brothers (Taylor Trade, 2016) and Looking for Hemingway And The Lost Generation (Lyons Press). He was formerly a columnist for The Los Angeles Herald Examiner and a political writer for The Los Angeles Daily News.  Castro is a feature writer for CityWatch.)






Vol 13 Issue 63

Pub: Aug 4, 2015

Get The News In Your Email Inbox Mondays & Thursdays