Top stories this season:

April 02, 1993|By Andy Knobel | Andy Knobel,STAFF WRITER

1. Labor pains: There will be baseball in 1993. We can only hope for 1994. The owners want to revamp the player compensation system, and are looking at the way other pro leagues have contained spiraling salaries. Player Relations Committee president Richard Ravitch hopes to persuade both the owners and the players to accept a system that calls for both revenue sharing and a salary cap. Players association chief Donald Fehr has called a lockout a foregone conclusion. Call it a Basic Disagreement.

2. TV guide: The current contract with CBS and ESPN has made a lot of organizations rich; none of them were CBS and ESPN. So, look for networks to bid as much as 50 percent less when the contract comes due in 1994.

3. Who's the next commissioner? Nobody if the owners had their way. But since Congress would be unlikely to let baseball keep its antitrust exemption without one, here are some of the dozens of potential candidates: former U.S. Olympic Committee president William Hybl, Chrysler's Lee Iacocca, former Secretary Defense Dick Cheney, Gen. Colin Powell, Blue Jays CEO Paul Beeston, TV executive Dick Ebersol. Did anybody say former President George Bush?

4. Minorities: Baseball, under pressure to show that Marge Schott's slurs against blacks, Jews and Japanese do not reflect the thinking of the game's leaders, has come up with a series of initiatives to increase minority involvement. The plan does not impress the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has called for pickets of major-league games.

5. Indians tragedy: There will be no Indians jokes this year. The team's last year at Cleveland Stadium will be dedicated to the memory of relievers Steve Olin and Tim Crews, who died last month in a boating accident in central Florida.

6. Expansion's effect: APBA Baseball computer projects that the Marlins will lose 111 games in 1993 and the Rockies will finish 48 games behind the Braves in the NL West. Also, look for the watered-down competition and cozy ballpark dimensions in Florida and Colorado to lead to some records. As Phillies manager Jim Fregosi said recently, "If anybody's going to hit .400, this is the year." Expansion years helped Roger Maris soar from 39 to 61 home runs, enabled .271 career hitter Norm Cash bat .361 and aided Rod Carew's bid to bat .400. Is this the year Fred McGriff challenges Maris, that Gregg Jefferies hits .361, that Tony Gwynn creeps up on .400?

7. What's George up to? "Sounds like the rumor I've heard is true: George is back." -- Giants GM Bob Quinn, reacting to reports this spring that George Steinbrenner's Yankees are trying to weasel two top San Francisco minor-leaguers as compensation for Quinn's hiring Brian Sabean as his assistant. Yes, Steinbrenner is back as owner after receiving a lifetime ban Aug. 20, 1990, for his involvement with gambler Howard Spira. New York is expected to contend in the AL East, but will it be with Buck Showalter as manager or with one of Showalter's several successors?

8. Nolan Ryan says goodbye. The Ryan Retirement Express will roll through the American League, punching out tickets here for a no-hitter, punching out tickets there for a 10-strikeout game. Keep in mind that this doddering, 46-year-old man has struck out more batters since his 40th birthday than the career totals of Hall of Famers Mordecai "Three Fingers" Brown (1,375) and Bob Lemon (1,277).

9. Bo's a go. Bo Jackson's knocking and he's coming in. The first NFL All-Pro player to play in a major-league baseball All-Star Game is now the first athlete to play professional team sports after undergoing reconstructive hip surgery. Every step he takes can be his last; then again every swing can result in a 461-foot home run, like the one he hit off Nolan Ryan in 1989.

10. Braves' starting 4: Add 1992 NL Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux to Atlanta's trio of Tom Glavine, Steve Avery and John Smoltz and this is what you get: Every announcer who knows how to turn on a microphone will be telling you that the Braves' fearsome foursome is the best since Dave McNally, Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar and Pat Dobson won 20 each for the 1971 Orioles. There is no truth to rumors that Atlanta is trying to deal one of Ted Turner's yachts for Roger Clemens.

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