Bill Plaschke

We’re entering the busiest time in sports. Football is underway, the baseball playoffs start next week, and basketball and hockey are just around the corner. We thought it would be a great time to speak with Bill Plaschke. The Los Angeles Times sports columnist is also a panelist on ESPN’s Around the Horn.

Awful Announcing recently caught up with Plaschke to discuss the Dodgers, Shohei Ohtani, Caleb Williams, the Rams, the Lakers, and other topics.

Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Awful Announcing: Who is the National League MVP?

Bill Plaschke: “For me, it’s clearly Mookie Betts. I know Ronald Acuña Jr. has great numbers and historic numbers. But Mookie also has historic numbers, the most RBI ever for a leadoff hitter. And the difference between the two players is that Mookie is more versatile. He has played right field, second base, and shortstop. He has carried the Dodgers through those three positions. They need him desperately at all three positions. Acuña has only played right field. So Mookie’s done more on more parts of the diamond in more ways than Acuña has.”

The Dodgers were so dominant last year but didn’t reach the World Series. Does this team have enough to get there?

“They have a great lineup. Their lineup rivals the Braves. It’s almost as deep. They have a hot bullpen. They’re going to try to basically win a championship by bullpening it. Bobby Miller will be their first starter, and then they’ll have Clayton Kershaw. The rest of it’ll be the bullpen. It’ll be interesting to see if they can pull it off. That’s the key to them winning. I’m not sure how far they go. I never seen a team try to jerry-rig a pitching staff like this in a postseason. Who knows? It could be brilliant. It could work. I just don’t know.”

Where will Shohei Ohtani play in 2024?

“The only place that can give him the money he wants, the time it takes to recover from his arm surgery, and the familiarity he wants is the Dodgers. The Dodgers aren’t just the number one destination. I think they are his only destination. You’re going to have to have a team that’s going to be patient with you and let you take a year off from pitching. A team that has enough around you so that you can still win a championship with him only hitting. That’s the Dodgers.”

Is there any chance Caleb Williams will stay at USC after this season instead of jumping to the NFL?

“Zero chance. He’d be insane not to come out. I think his dad is trying a power play, which Archie Manning tried for Eli Manning many years ago. It worked. It got him to the New York Giants. And I think this will work, too. I think he will end up going to a place that’ll work for him, but he’s not staying in school. There’s no way. I know he makes good money on NIL, but that doesn’t compare to the money he’ll make as the No.1 overall draft pick. And trust me, he’ll be the No.1 overall draft pick.”

Are people in L.A. excited about USC and UCLA moving to the Big Ten?

“Yes. I know people feel a little nostalgic about the loss of the Pac-12. But to have Michigan play USC in the Coliseum or UCLA play in Columbus at Ohio State, or Penn State, those are much better opponents for the local teams than Oregon State, Washington State, and Arizona State. It’s a much sexier schedule.”

Could the Rams be better than expected, especially if they get Cooper Kupp back soon?

“The Rams are a lot better than I thought. I thought they’d be horrible. They’ve been in every game. They’ve been exciting. They have a lot of young talent. Sean McVay is coaching his butt off. Matthew Stafford has recovered from his (spinal cord contusion) a lot better than I thought he would. Yes, they are a lot better. This could be a playoff team.”

Is Brandon Staley’s decision-making going to get him fired from the Chargers?

“He’s got the hottest seat in the NFL. But the Spanoses generally don’t make changes during the middle of the season. I think his job is safe, but I think he’s got to win a playoff game for him to be completely safe. He’s such a nice guy. Everybody likes him. He’s great to deal with. He’s been very professional in difficult circumstances. I think everybody’s cheering for him. But he’s got to win.”

Have the Lakers closed the gap between themselves and the Denver Nuggets?

“I think so. They got swept last year, but they were in all four games to the last few minutes. They brought everybody back. If LeBron and A.D. stay healthy day, they could compete with the Nuggets, absolutely. I think the Nuggets are going to have a little bit of a hangover. The Lakers are going to be right there. I think the Lakers have every bit of a chance at winning a championship as the Nuggets do.”

What was the reaction in L.A. to Winning Time being canceled? 

“I think people loved the first season. I think the second season didn’t have as much buzz, and it was slow for some people. The Lakers organization didn’t get involved with it. So, I think just fell off the radar. And having the second season run during the summer was weird to me. I think it should have run during the basketball season. But I love Jeff Pearlman. I love the book. And I love the series. I thought the series was great. I watched every episode.”

What it’s like being on Around the Horn?

“This is my second family. Tony Reali is like everybody’s favorite uncle, and we all kind of bond through him. I feel so connected to everybody on the show. I’ve been doing it for 20 years. It’s my second home, and I love doing it. I love the interaction. We’re getting newer panelists with new opinions and different viewpoints. And that’s just great. It’s a smart, sensitive, impactful show. I’m honored to be on it.”

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.