Vincent lobbies quietly to eliminate DH rule

October 20, 1990|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Correspondent

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Baseball commissioner Fay Vincent said yesterday that he is making a subtle attempt to eliminate the designated hitter rule.

"I would like to see it eliminated, and I think it might happen," Vincent said. "I'm not making any predictions, but patience is a virtue."

Vincent has made no secret of his aversion to the rule and especially how it is used in the World Series, where the designated hitter is used only in American League ballparks. He has made no overt attempt to eliminate the rule, but said he thinks more and more American League owners are leaning in that direction.

"We're working on it," Vincent said. "I think there is a philosophical belief that baseball should operate under one set of rules. I would not see it as a seditious act [if the American League eliminated it]."

The commissioner is a staunch traditionalist, but he cannot simply order a rules change. His power to act in "the best interests of baseball" doesn't really apply here. The DH can be eliminated only by a vote of the American League owners, and the change cannot be made without some accommodation from the Major League Players Association.

"It's a lot more complicated than it looks," Vincent said.

The designated hitter rule was adopted in 1973 and has been a matter of debate ever since. The World Series used to institute it on an alternating basis, but the home-park rule was added during the Peter Ueberroth administration.

Ueberroth ordered a study of the designated hitter rule after he took office, but a public poll did not show strong sentiment either to eliminate it in the American League or incorporate it in the National League.

Vincent seems more interested in maintaining tradition than taking public-opinion polls. He said he remains resistant to any expansion of the playoff format and finds talk of postseason pay-per-view "objectionable."

"I don't like the expanded playoffs system," he said. "I like the finality of the pennant races. I like the fact that it means something to finish second -- it means you go home."

This has been an enjoyable World Series for Vincent, who had been in office only six weeks when last year's Series was interrupted by a disastrous earthquake. His first full season was delayed by a labor dispute and marred by the Howard Spira/George Steinbrenner scandal and the imprisonment of all-time hit leader Pete Rose. "This is a whole new year," he said. "People blamed me for the earthquake, the rain at Cooperstown. I'm starting over."

This year, the most pressing matter facing his office is the upcoming negotiations with the umpires' union, but Vincent remains hopeful that a new labor agreement can be reached without the rancor that characterized this year's negotiations with the players.

"I'm a peace and stability man," he said. "I hope we can get that worked out gracefully."

* Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda is attending the World Series, so he couldn't help but reflect on the way his team knocked off the Oakland A's in 1988.

"Look at the lineup we had," he said. "We had [Rick] Dempsey catching, [Franklin] Stubbs at first, Steve Sax at second and Jeff Hamilton at third. We had [Mickey] Hatcher in left, John Shelby and Danny Heep in right.

"That hurt them more than anything, for us to beat them."

* Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott was showing off her good-luck charms before the game. She had her little bags of Schottzie hair, a telegram from Tom Selleck, a Schottzie watch and several other trinkets. The only thing missing was Schottzie herself, who did not make the trip.

"Everybody's asking where Schottzie is," Schott said. "I should have stayed home and sent the dog."

Thanks all the same.

* Reds pitcher Jose Rijo is getting psyched about his upcoming contract talks, though he's eligible only for arbitration.

"I've talked to the U-Haul people," he said jokingly. "I'm going to rent the biggest truck they have. Then I'm going to back it up to the bank and say, 'Fill it up.' "

* Dave Henderson was hoping that Oct. 19 would be another lucky day for him. He was 4-for-5 against the Dodgers on that date in 1988 and was 3-for-5 playing for the Boston Red Sox against the New York Mets in the 1986 Series.

* Dave Stewart threw out the first pitch last night. He was the 1990 winner of the Roberto Clemente Award for humanitarian and community service.

* The Sporting News announced its postseason awards before last night's game. Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Barry Bonds was the Major League and National League Player of the Year. Cecil Fielder was the AL Player of the Year. Other honorees included Sandy Alomar Jr. (AL Rookie of the Year), Dave Justice (NL Rookie of the Year), Kevin Appier and Mike Harkey (AL and NL rookie pitchers of the year), Dave Winfield and John Tudor (AL and NL comeback players of the year), Bob Welch and Doug Drabek (AL and NL pitchers of the year), Bobby Thigpen and John Franco (Firemen of the Year), and Jeff Torborg and Jim Leyland (managers of the year). The Sporting News also named Dodgers prospect Jose Offerman Minor League Player of the Year.

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