Commentary

Hershiser makes his best pitch

Could the former Dodgers' hurler be the one to rescue the embattled  franchise?

Updated: June 16, 2011, 11:43 PM ET
By Ramona Shelburne | ESPNLosAngeles.com

BEVERLY HILLS -- He comes from a world where the best guy plays. Tall, short, skinny, doesn't matter. If you throw strikes and you get people out, the manager keeps handing you the ball every fifth day even if your first name is Orel and far too many people mistake you for an insurance adjuster.

So this is the part that's going to feel a little unfamiliar for Orel Hershiser as he and the rest of Los Angeles wait for the final moves of the Frank McCourt era to play out.

Last week, Hershiser revealed that he had joined an exploratory ownership group that's "researching opportunities that could arise or already exist." Essentially, but still respectfully, letting everyone know that he's willing to play the role Nolan Ryan so ably played for the group that bought the Texas Rangers last year, if one of those future opportunities happens to be buying the Los Angeles Dodgers.

[+] EnlargeOrel Hershiser
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesOrel Hershiser has found himself in the middle of excited conversations about the possitbility of being the next Dodgers owner.

The news created a buzz around the city. Highlights of his magical 59-inning scoreless-innings streak in 1988 played on every local television station.

And now three decades later after he created those highlights, could he really be the ace pitching out of the bullpen waiting for the call to rescue the franchise?

Fans couldn't help but dream. Investors couldn't help but call to see if he was serious.

It's all so perfect, except for one thing.

The Dodgers aren't yet for sale.

Which means Hershiser has to say things such as: "I'm concerned about the Los Angeles Dodgers' situation, and I'm rooting for Major League Baseball to do something that works."

For someone who comes from a world where the best guy plays, it's an unfamiliar line to walk.

The Dodgers clearly haven't worked under McCourt's ownership. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has already come out to the mound.

But so far, no call has been placed to the bullpen to get the team out of this wretched jam.

For close to two months, it has been assumed McCourt would eventually have to sell the team. The only question was whether he'd have to sell to settle his divorce from his former wife, Jamie, or because Selig ordered him to do so in the best interests of baseball.

No way Selig would've seized operational control of the franchise without tacit approval from the other owners, and without the stomach to go all the way with the move.

But in those two months McCourt has lived about 300 lives, moving pieces around the chessboard to stall what still seems inevitable. Every two weeks, each time McCourt has made payroll, the timer resets and begins a new countdown.

The only play McCourt seems to have left is stalling things long enough for Selig to make a mistake or lose his resolve for the fight.

It has been strange to watch and hard to understand.

Why keep pushing the button? Why keep reseting the clock when, like Desmond on the television show "Lost," you still wake up every day marooned on an island with no way to ever get home?

Hershiser has watched all of this play out as an analyst from the ESPN broadcast booth, an objective distance away from the situation.

I caught up with him on Wednesday at a Little League field in Beverly Hills where he, former Dodgers outfielder Shawn Green and Jared Fogel, the Subway guy, were participating in a charity exhibition baseball game to raise money for the Little League Urban Initiative.

For the past week and a half, ever since he told the Los Angeles Daily News that he had joined Steve Garvey's exploratory ownership group, his phone has been ringing off the hook.

He expected attention when he publicly acknowledged his role in the venture. He expected fans to buzz and for all the old highlights to be replayed on local TV.

He didn't, though, expect the kind of heavy-hitters with the capital to fund a realistic ownership bid, to track him down so quickly.

"It's been a lot of fun for people to still realize that I care about the Dodgers. I think that's the biggest thing," Hershiser said. "I've gotten a lot of interaction with a lot of people, and a lot more influential people than I thought. I thought it was just going to be more of a buzz with the fans.

"But there are tremendous people that have a tremendous amount of money that have a heart for the Los Angeles Dodgers."

It's made all of them feel that, if and when there is an opportunity, the way to seize it might not be as difficult as previously imagined.

As he always was as a pitcher, Hershiser is ready to take the ball.

But for now at least, he isn't in a world where the best guy gets the call.

Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

ALSO SEE