Sports Beat, 4-28-08

--The Dodgers got back on course over the weekend with a sweep of the defending NL Champion Colorado Rockies. A lot of people have asked me what's wrong with the Dodgers this year, and I tell them it's still really early. They ran into some tough early-season pitching matchups, and I think that led some of their young players to press a bit on offense. If they're still .500 a month from now, then I'd be concerned, but not on April 30.

I do see two specific areas of concern though. The first, and most obvious, being the play of Andruw Jones. While some predicted Jones would be a bust, no one could have predicted he'd be this bad. Jones is hitting .159 with just one home run, and has looked fat and out of shape. I defended the Jones signing in the offseason, in part because it was just a two-year contract, and also because Jones was a 31-year old Major League veteran who had only one bad year. But now that one year looks more like the beginning of the end a once promising career, rather than just an aberration. If Jones continues to play this far below replacement level, then the Dodgers should give serious thought to putting him on the DL for six weeks due to "inability to play baseball at a professional level" and force him to eat right and get into shape.

The second area of concern is at third base, but this isn't as big of a problem. It has now become abundantly clear that Nomar Garciaparra can't stay healthy for more than five minutes. Blake DeWitt isn't ready to be an everyday major leaguer, but he's filled in quite valiantly. Andy LaRoche is on a minor league rehab assignment and could be up soon. If LaRoche comes back soon, then this could be his golden opportunity to prove he's the third baseman of the future.

--The Dodgers unveiled renovation plans to Dodger Stadium which will be done in 2012. This announcement has been expected for months, as it became clear that the McCourts were committed to Dodger Stadium, but were going to take advantage of the land they own to generate more revenue. While it's impossible to pass judgment on this until 2012, in general, Dodger fans should be excited. The McCourts seem genuinely committed to improving the experience for Dodger fans, despite some widely-reported missteps early in their ownership. Chavez Ravine is a beautiful piece of land, and while I absolutely love Dodger Stadium, it would be nice if it was surrounded by something besides a parking lot. A new setup with restaurants and shops will give fans more things to do, and might keep people in the area longer, making entrance and exit times more staggered. It's also possible that the new amenities will attract people in the offseason, but I'm still not 100% sure exactly what will be there.

--UCLA basketball got some good news this week when Darren Collison announced that he'd stay in school for one more year. Collison had such a dismal game against Memphis in the Final Four, that he was beginning to drop on some boards from the lottery to the second round. While Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook haven't hired agents, it's almost a sure bet that they will be in the draft. With that in mind, Collison is in a great position to shine next year as the senior leader on a team that will include Jrue Holliday. Josh Shipp has also declared, but it sounds like he's just going through the process for fun, and it would be surprising if he wasn't a Bruin next year.

--Across town, USC's Davon Jefferson appears to be making a giant mistake by declaring for the NBA Draft and signing with an agent. Jefferson is projected as a second rounder, and it's hard to find any scouts who think he'll go in the first round where contracts are guaranteed. If he signs with an agent, then he can't return to school. If Jefferson is really intent on testing the NBA waters, he'd be best served by not signing with an agent, and learning where he might be taken. Some feel that Jefferson could be a high first-rounder in the 2009 NBA Draft if he get another year of experience in college.

--On to the NFL Draft where USC had a remarkable weekend. A school-record seven players were taken in the first and second rounds, and ten Trojans were taken total. This result speaks volumes about the level of talent that Pete Carroll has brought into the Trojan program, and also about the level of coaching that helped develop these players.

Looking at the new NFL Trojans, Sedrick Ellis has the talent to be a premier NFL defensive tackle. However, the track for DTs in the first round is awful, so it will be interesting to see if he lives up to his potential. Keith Rivers might be a good fit in Cincinnati where he figures to be a solid, consistent, and effective linebacker. Sam Baker will help solidify the Atlanta Falcons offensive line, but it remains to be seen if he's a tackle or a guard in the NFL. I think the Seahawks might have reached on Lawrence Jackson, but they were right on Lofa Tatupu, so maybe Jackson will fit their scheme. It was nice to see the unheralded Chilo Rachal move into the second round, and I think the 49ers will be pleased with that selection. Fred Davis might have been USC's best offensive player this past year, but it's interesting to see him drafted by the Redskins where he figures to backup Chris Cooley in the immediate future. I'm not quite sure why John David Booty desperately wanted to go to Minnesota and nowhere else, but the West Coast offense may suit his game and Tavaris Jackson has come under criticism there. I really like the Jaguars' selection of Chauncey Washington, who could be a nice change-of-pace power back in Jacksonville.

The senior-laden UCLA team saw only three players drafted, led by Bruce Davis who went to Pittsburgh. The Steelers have one of the shrewdest front offices in the NFL, so that should bode well for Davis. Matt Slater could be a good fit as a return specialist in New England.

--For the second straight year, UCLA is facing a disaster situation at quarterback. Just a week after winning the starting job, Patrick Cowan tore his ACL in spring practice, and it appears his college career is over. Talented, but injury-prone QB Ben Olson is hoping and praying to be back in time for preseason practice after breaking a bone his foot within minutes of Cowan's injury. Without their top two QBs, Kevin Craft led the first team offense in UCLA's spring scrimmage, and completed 11 of 24 passes. Craft is a transfer from Mt. San Antonio College, where he primarily worked out of the shotgun, so he's just learning how to play under a center.

--Anaheim Ducks fans are undoubtedly disappointed over their first round playoff loss to Dallas, but they got good news in that they were able to keep GM Brian Burke for one more season. It was rumored that Burke was being pursued by the Toronto Maple Leafs, so it was great news that the Ducks kept one of the game's top front office executives in SoCal for at least another year. Now the real question will be whether Burke signs an extension beyond 2009, or if he pursues a job closer to his children who live on the East Coast.
NOTE: An earlier version of this post contained errors about Burke's contract status and nationality. Burke is not Canadian, and was born in Rhode Island and raised in Minnesota. I apologize for the mistake.

--Before a sold out crowd at Home Depot Center, the LA Galaxy beat Chivas USA 5-2 in what has been the game of the year thus far in MLS. Landon Donovan scored three goals in the win, and David Beckham assisted on one of them. Beckham and Donovan have developed a nice chemistry as Donovan has 8 goals and 2 assists, while Beckham has 1 goal and 4 assists. Five games into the season, the Galaxy are 2-2-1, while Chivas USA is 1-3-1.

April 28, 2008 5:12 PM • Native Intelligence • Email the editor

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