Striking out in search for sense

August 11, 1994|By PHIL JACKMAN

This is not one of those strike preview/review essays.

There will be no suggestions of what each side should do. Why would anyone waste perfectly good breath on it?

A good place to hold the negotiation sessions, though, would be Central Park, about midnight.

There will be no lamenting what terrific seasons some of the chattels are having . . . and how unjust it is that they may be deprived of the opportunity of attaining one-season immortality. Or having their bubble-gum card take on the value of the Hope Diamond.

You want an explanation of what constitutes a large market and a small market, check out the last census.

You want some skinny on owners' negotiator Richard Ravitch, take your place in the checkout line at the supermarket.

No personal attacks on players association chief Donald Fehr's inability to answer even the most innocuous of questions in less than 5,000 words will be rendered. And we'll leave the hair that always flops down over one eye alone, too.

The claim that the strike is just a bunch of millionaires fighting each other is not true; some of these guys have more money than that.

No scare tactics will be relayed, such as some executive saying, "I think the future of the game could be determined in the next few weeks." Clearly, it's too late for that, especially after an astute owner theorized back in the '70s that "the end of baseball as we know it is at hand."

Certainly, there will be no fan-on-the-street quotes because, over the last 20 years and seven strikes, fans have proven they know as much about what's going on as your average herdsman tending his flock in remotest Mongolia.

Check TV Guide if you want to know what The Baseball Network, local affiliates, independent and cable stations plan on doing with all the free time they will fall heir to. Have pity, broadcast types, be reasonable with the beach volleyball.

Who cares if the sale of the Orioles last year netted nearly 16 times as much as the sale of the club did 14 years ago . . . and if the game's attendance leaped ahead in 10 of the past 12 seasons? Yes, some are rolling in dough, but San Diego, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Montreal, Milwaukee and Houston simply don't have the population or interest to survive in today's market.

Hey, after years of expansion, expansion, expansion, might not just one itty-bitty contraction be in order?

There's no chance you will learn here that the players have a strike fund estimated at between $200 million and a half-billion while the owners had their request for strike insurance turned down by Lloyd's of London.

Of course it was a bush trick, the owners withholding the check for the player pension fund from All-Star Game TV revenues. But who among us is prepared to pass moral judgment?

Remember, you weren't reminded here that management decided to cash in an option 20 months ago to start talks toward a new player agreement, then didn't present a proposal until 90 percent of the time was spent.

I= Let someone else explain that the "rebate" the owners are

requesting from the players amounts to more than $100 million if, in a very weak moment, they agree to a cut in their revenue share from 58 to 50 percent.

It may or may not be true that Eli Jacobs cleared $25 million last year and about the same the year before when Camden Yards was built for him. That's in addition to all the dough made for his creditors in last year's auction sale. So such unconfirmed information will never be reported in this space.

Not that it makes much difference, but the players are striking for the only the fifth time in 23 years, so forget it.

May mosquitos ruin my next meditation session if I speculate that the men who bombed the Trade Center in New York City last year were actually looking for 350 Park Ave., where the owners pay rent, and 12 E. 49th St., where the Major League Baseball Players Association has its headquarters.

And I'm certainly not going to make fun of the gent who likened the Fehr-Ravitch tete-a-tete to JFK and Khrushchev squaring off over the missiles in Cuba. Why? Everyone knows it's more akin to kids arguing over who gets the window seat on vacation.

The only cause for hope that will be made here is Fehr promising a counter-proposal to management's salary cap plan. But it's going to be a while, The Donald II predicting: "It won't arrive until the year 2078." Which will probably be the first time the owners have a chance of beating this guy.

The main reason I feel unqualified to make intelligent comment on this whole situation is I don't have the slightest idea what this owners' request means: After a four-year phase-in period in a seven-year agreement, clubs can't have payrolls more than 110 percent of the average or less than 84 percent of the average.

If you do, have yourself checked out immediately.

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