Two and a half seasons of PCS before Jeff Kent is the solution to a puzzle. Who, incidentally, would not displace anyone on the adventure, as he would take an unoccupied seat.
The first thing step is to grab your graph paper and follow the instructions on the grid with the different colors. The first two paragraphs of the puzzle should give you an enclosed loop like so:
Continuing to all the steps of the puzzle, including the stops to pick up people (which are numbered with circles starting with James Loney himself at #1, one gets a final design that looks like this (click on image for greater detail):
The colors and the direction of the paths overlap with segments from the central map of the London Underground subway system, affectionately referred to as "the Tube" (with the yellow being the Circle Line; that yellow bottle should have been the givewaway, before the grid got more cluttered with the other lines):
As an aside, I apologize that my memory failed me here; I really thought that there was an actual Absolut Vodka advertisement called "Absolut London" which had the Circle Line as an Absolut bottle. It appears I was misled. The concept was actually bootleg (though the vodka is not bootlegged moonshine):
Once the London Underground system is recognized, one can map all of James' stops to specific Underground stations ("tube stops"), each of which has a stop name which corresponds to the name of a person who has played for the Dodgers (position they played most frequently during their Dodgers tenure, as per baseball-reference.com, is also relevant):
The position they played most frequently as a Dodger is relevant, because James only has eight other seats, one for every other position in the field (James of course is on the 1B seat). Clyde King (Stop #4) is the second pitcher to join the adventure, so he displaces Tommy Warren (Stop #3) to occupy the pitcher's seat; King is later displaced by Bill Crouch at Stop #8. Similarly, Paul LoDuca displaces Angel Pena at Stop #6, as LoDuca takes the catcher's seat.
Jeff Kent is the player at Stop #11, and it's natural for Loney to be frightened given Kent is kind of a surly lot (Kentish Town must be a place where old guys with pornstaches yell at the young kids in the neighborhood while washing their trucks in their driveways). What's worse, as Kent would be the first 2B to join the adventure, he would indeed take an unoccupied seat.
(Many of the correct solvers--and EK, too, prior to publishing--noted that it should have been more clear that it was the London Underground. I thought that the different-colored lines would have signified a subway line pretty obviously, however I did end up shoving in three oblique references to London or the Underground at the last second: (1) "minding" the "gaps of chairs" --> "mind the gap"; (2) Mr. Pena shouting the name of his cereal --> "Cheerio!" (okay, I admit that was a stretch); (3) the Sneaker Pimps' song --> 6 Underground.)
Congratulations to ubragg, Golem, Mr. Customer, Jason, J Steve, and Josh S.
News to follow shortly about how the tickets will find their eventual home (correct solvers, if you know you are unable to use a pair of reserved level tickets for the August 18 7p game vs. the Rockies, please let me know in an email as soon as you can). Thanks!
Updated rankings to be posted soon. Next puzzle Monday, August 23, 7am!