For the 62nd spring, Vin Scully will pull up a chair and call games for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Scully announced Sunday that he will return for the 2011 season on a one-year contract and keep his normal schedule with the Dodgers, which consists of calling all home games plus road games against National League West opponents.
“I’m just honored and humbled to continue my association with the Dodgers, which has been a major part of my life,” Scully said in a statement.
There was speculation before the season started whether this would be Scully’s last year in the broadcast booth. He almost didn’t make it to this season.
During spring training, Scully was hospitalized after falling in his home and hitting his head on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night.
Scully has cut back his work schedule in recent years, working on a year-to-year basis and traveling less. He wants to spend more time at home with his wife, he says.
Scully could walk away and be strictly a family man now if he wanted because he doesn’t need the Dodgers, he doesn’t need the notoriety, and he probably doesn’t need the money.
But Scully is coming back because he loves what he does, and that means everything to the Dodgers. The Dodgers need him more than ever.
Scully gives the Dodgers an identity. He gives fans a reason to click on the TV every night and listen in.
It’s time for Dodger baseball only because Scully says it is.
With the Dodgers in a time of change—from manager to players to potentially new owners—Scully is the one thing that connects this era’s team with the boys from Brooklyn and ’88. He has seen and called all of it.
Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series? Scully called it.
Kirk Gibson’s walk-off homer in Game 1 of the ’88 World Series? Scully called it.
A Sandy Koufax perfect game and a Fernando Valenzuela no-no? Those were Scully’s, too.
As current owner Frank McCourt tries to settle a divorce with his wife and former co-owner, Jamie, Dodgers fans have watched the club play lifeless baseball and sink to the cellar of the NL West.
Los Angeles is a club of young, talented guys with no clear direction. There’s no leadership in L.A., nobody to challenge the team and tell them how the Dodgers are expected to play.
Manny Ramirez has the talent and the pedigree to be that guy, but it’s hard to demand respect when you milk a calf injury on the DL while continuing to collect millions and count down to free agency.
Casey Blake has the professionalism and character to lead a team, but rarely does a role player take on that job.
Matt Kemp has all the ability in the world, but for whatever reason hasn’t figured out how to play up to his ability on a consistent basis.
At times, Kemp carries himself with a sense of entitlement that is sometimes seen with superstars. Kemp can be a superstar, but he’s not there yet.
The list of issues runs deep on this team.
It used to be that Tommy Lasorda would march down to the clubhouse and light a fire under players he thought weren’t performing up to their capabilities.
A few years ago, when Brad Penny pitched for the Dodgers, Lasorda grew tired of watching Penny, who was supposed to be the Dodgers' ace, continually struggle to get out of the sixth inning during his starts.
Penny had great stuff, but the Dodgers weren’t getting the most out of him.
Lasorda went down to the clubhouse and asked Penny if there was anything wrong with him.
“It’s a different era, Tommy,” Penny said, clearly content with turning in his five or six innings of work and hitting the showers.
Lasorda, disgusted and struggling to come up with a response, simply looked at Penny and said, “a new era, my ass!”
But Lasorda is slowing down, too. His presence isn’t as felt throughout the organization, his voice not quite as boisterous.
Once Scully leaves, the Dodgers are going to have to ask a simple question: Who are we?
For the first time since the organization moved to Los Angeles, the answer is unclear. The Dodgers are a proud franchise with loads of tradition, but tradition needs to be carried on.
If Scully isn’t calling games and the Dodgers aren’t winning, what reason will there be to watch them play? The most prestigious baseball team in the country’s second-largest market won’t have anything of substance to sell to its fan base.
That’s almost unfathomable, but it’s reality now in L.A.
The ownership issue will need to be resolved before the Dodgers can move forward and build a team capable of returning to the World Series.
It would behoove them to do that while Scully is still around and keeping fans watching, if only for nostalgia’s sake.
When Vinny is gone, there will be nobody to tell us, “let's get back to this one.”
Follow Teddy Mitrosilis on Twitter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.