It seems like a lifetime ago, but my life used to revolve around the Sacramento Kings. I had a job as statistician for Gary Gerould and the radio crew. I attended every home game (for many years driving 90 miles from Chico), I would drive to Oakland when the Kings played the Warriors. I was in studio for a lot of road games. But when Sacramento almost lost their team this week, I didn't really care.
I'm not really sure why that is. The town deserves their team, and the team deserves to be better. With the exception of a couple of good years in the early 2000s, the Kings have been pretty bad. They've been lovable losers for the most part, though, with fan support strong, just not several hundred sellouts in a row strong like they were in the late 1980s and well into the 1990s.
If you don't know the story, the going-bankrupt-in-a-hurry Maloof family agreed to sell the franchise to a group that wanted to move them to Seattle. A Sacramento group led by mayor, and former NBA player himself Kevin Johnson lined up prospective buyers to keep the team in town, and put together a deal to build a new arena. The league said that was enough to keep the team, rejected the sale and relocation, and the Maloofs have just sold the club, but to a new group that keeps the franchise in California's capital city.
I seem to have nothing but ambivalence for the Kings now. I had my job there for 11 seasons, but I've been gone now for longer than I was with them. I hardly watch them on television, but when I do, I see some of the same faces at the scorer's table that were there 28 years ago. I think of the stat crew, the time clock operator, and those other folks, and think about the old times, and how they continue to love their Kings. I'm happy for them, but maybe not as ecstatic as I should be.
Gary Gerould is still the radio voice of the Kings, and for my money, there's no one better. There's a gift to being excited without yelling when there's a great play, and there's just a comfortable sound to his voice. That's something that you can't teach. He also has the knowledge, and vocabulary, to paint an unbelievable word picture, whether its something good or bad for the Sacramento faithful. I'm not sure if he would have gone to Seattle with the team had they left, but I know he's thrilled that the Kings are still in Sacramento. I'm happy for G-Man, but maybe not as ecstatic as I should be.
Maybe it's because this saga has gone on for so long. Rich people want new arenas but don't want to pay for them, and meanwhile the team keeps losing. The Kings are the only major league sport in Sacramento, but their story, and their play, has become tired. General Manager and former NBA Rookie of the Year (and only sports executive who spells his first name like I do) Geoff Petrie still has a job (for now), even though they keep losing. The franchise has been through a lot of coaches, but Petrie has remained. I'm happy for him, too, but maybe not as ecstatic as I should be.
There are many others. Jerry Reynolds. He and Gerould are the faces of the franchise as far as I'm concerned. How about the Lukenbill family, who bought the team, and brought them in from Kansas City. They haven't owned the franchise for years, but they are the ones who I'll always think of as the owners. Gregg Lukenbill built Arco Arena, and even climbed into the rafters to fix a leak when it rained one night and delayed a game. I'm happy for him, and his sister who I worked with for awhile, but maybe not as ecstatic as I should be.
Kings fans are thrilled, and I still recognize some of the same faces that have been there the whole time. These are the people that makes sports what they are, that make an arena an exciting place to be. Being a part of that franchise, with sellout crowds, and exciting basketball is amazing, and even though I was a lowly statkeeper, walking through that tunnel and into the arena was something I'll never forget. I'm happy for all that will still get to enjoy that part of sport, and make it an experience that it should be, and maybe, perhaps inside the new area whenever that opens, if I get to experience that again, I'll be as ecstatic as I should be.
Dodger fans had to have gotten pretty excited late this morning when Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweeted that today was going to be Don Mattingly's last day as manager. Even though players insist that they love the guy, they don't seem to be hitting, running, or relief pitching for the guy. Rosenthal's report was inaccurate, however, and as of this publishing, Donnie Baseball is still at the helm. The helm of a sinking ship, maybe, but he's still there.
It is one of those cases, though, that you can say the Dodgers' losing ways are not Mattingly's fault, but even though there have been numerous injuries, and key guys like Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are in slumps, something has to change. The Dodgers are near the top of the league in on-base percentage, but at the bottom in runs scored. Managers don't drive in runners in scoring position, but perhaps a change of scenery in the dugout will create something positive. It did with the Orioles when they hired Buck Showalter, even though the players remained the same.
Personally, Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten, and the rest of the Dodger money guys could start by firing hitting coach Mark McGwire. All that guy knew how to do was hit home runs, strike out, and take steroids. And he must have needed the third thing to do the first thing. I do think Mattingly needs to go, though, and even though I never wanted him there in the first place, I feel sorry for him. Davey Lopes or Tim Wallach on an interim basis would be a nice start. Too bad Angels owner Arte Moreno won't fire Mike Scioscia, or the Dodgers could get him, and make up for a wrong that is now 14 years old.
The Dodgers had a stretch where they had two managers in over 50 years. That's probably never going to happen again, but if it does, how about starting with the guy after the guy who is running the team now? Sorry Mr. Baseball, but it's like you must feel after watching Ronald Belisario give up five runs in an inning and a third. It's time for a change.
It's not exactly Powerball: It's sad, but an annual tradition for Kings fans takes place tomorrow. That, of course, is the NBA Draft Lottery. The 14 teams that did not make the playoffs get a bunch of ping pong balls placed in a hopper (how many depends on how lousy each team was), and a drawing is conducted to determine the order of selection for players coming out of college. This tradition has been around as long as the Kings have been in Sacramento. The first lottery was 1985, about four months before training camp opened at Yuba College. The Kings picked sixth, selected Joe Kleine from Arkansas, and the mediocrity (being nice) has continued ever since. ESPN will televise the lottery (don't miss the fun of watching Commissioner David Stern opening envelopes) Tuesday at 5:30pm Pacific Time.
Playoffs. Playoffs?: Maybe I'm just down on the whole NBA in general. Partly because the Lakers had a down year, but I don't know. I just seem so blasť about the whole league and sport right now. I'm sure the Miami Heat will win again. Maybe I'll be excited if they are down in the championship series. Right now I just say wake me up when it's over.
Interleague mania: The only good part of the whole interleague baseball thing is next week, and it's not even on a weekend. All of the rivalry series (Dodgers-Angels, Giants-Angels, Cubs-White Sox, et. al.) will all be played at the same time. Two games in one city Monday and Tuesday, with two games in the other park Wednesday and Thursday. I'm sure this is something that will be ironed out in the future, but they stagger interleague play all season long, but all the rivalry games are at the same time? Not smart. The networks don't even get to capitalize on those popular series either. At least the first game of the home-and-home four-game series is on Memorial Day. Incidentally, to whet your appetite for those big series, Major League Baseball brings us Twins-Braves midweek, and Marlins-White Sox over the weekend. Can you stand it?
The Boys Are Back: The Marysville Gold Sox open their eleventh collegiate baseball season Thursday, and I'll have two jobs for the next eleven weeks. I'm certainly not complaining, I just hope I remember which station I'm on. I have been told that KUBA is going to broadcast all 49 games this season, after initially saying they were only going to carry 35. Great news.