Insanity is making early entry

August 15, 1994|By PHIL JACKMAN

It's official! The sports world has gone totally bonkers! (Love those exclamation points!)

The players, owners, fans and the media, we've all gone crazy, slipping into a state of abject confusion with no leader in sight to lead us out of bewilderment.

Just a few days without baseball and men who have been involved with the game for years are asking if the strike will extend through the 1995 season. And, if so, is this the end of the Grand Old Game (Little League, high school, college, amateur ball included)?

Then there's the story about a bunch of fans showing up at a car dealership promotion looking to get an autograph from Rafael Palmeiro and they end up booing the guy as he scribbles furiously for two hours, then has to leave to catch a plane home. "The players are greedy," announces a disgruntled fan who was probably going to do business with the free autograph he didn't get.

OK, you can understand folks from out of town, who had tickets to the weekend games, dropping by the ballpark for a look-see at a place they've heard so much about. Heck, I checked out Cincinnati's Crosley Field in the dead of winter one time. But locals ambling up and pressing their faces against locked gates simply for a glimpse of this beloved greensward?

The main cause of the past three strikes have been the gold dust twins, salary cap and arbitration. This covers nearly 10 years and a series of crack negotiators haven't figured out a solution yet?

Time for a coin flip, obviously.

This newspaper has run stories about how much the Orioles might lose ($5 million) and the Maryland Stadium Authority might lose ($2.5 million) with constant references to the hits vendors, bar owners, light rail and downtown hotels will take. But if so many are losing money, which seems a misnomer since they are not providing goods and services, doesn't it stand to reason that somebody's gaining?

Everybody's mad at the players because they're the show, right? Besides, who even knows who 90 percent of the owners are? So come yarns about what the idled ballplayers will be doing: fish, hit the beach, go home and check out my house, watch TV and all sorts of interesting stuff like that.

New owners are always afforded the opportunity to put their two cents worth in and Peter Angelos of the Orioles certainly hasn't passed up the opportunity. Only trouble is, Pete's made far too much sense with his utterances, so fellow moguls are already marking him as some sort of radical who bears close watching.

A New York tabloid, supposedly as a service to diehards in the metropolitan area, outlines how there are 14 minor-league teams operating within 200 miles of the city, stretching from the Blue Sox in Wilmington (Del.) to the Harrisburg (Pa.) Senators to the Pawtucket (R.I.) Red Sox to the Binghamton (N.Y.) Mets. If you chose to go to Wilmington first, then Pawtucket, that's a nifty 380-mile trip, assuming you don't get lost. Yeah, on a hot, humid day in August, somebody from the Bronx is going to jump in his '49 Hudson Terraplane and hot-tail it up to Oneonta for a Class A NY-Penn League contest.

Come on, a college boy is willing to miss classes toward a master's degree he's working on in order to conduct a rooftop vigil above a bar where he's part-time help? Years ago, I interviewed a radio disk jockey who did the same thing atop Milwaukee County Stadium's scoreboard and it seemed he was definitely affected mentally by the ordeal.

President Clinton, as though he doesn't have enough on his mind already, decries the strike by reminding, "this is the most exciting baseball season in 40 years." Oh? What makes it so, the fact there are 28 teams in six divisions, 18 of which can't win half their games and a wild-card team has been added to postseason play?

Bill, ask Hillary about the seasons of 1959 when the Dodgers won a playoff against the Braves, 1961 and all the home runs, 1962 with the Giants-Dodgers playoff in the NL, 1967 with three American League teams in the pennant chase the last day, 1969 and the first year of playoffs, on and on.

Hey, you want proof the owners are losing money big time? Right there in print is the profit and loss statement of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who already this season had run up a $12.6 million operating loss. Good thing their $12.3 million expansion proceeds check showed up. The Buccos have lost $60 million over the last several years, so they're for sale at a cool asking price of only $85 million.

Pittsburgh's revenue last year was $50 million while that of the Yankees, Blue Jays, Cubs, Orioles, White Sox, Braves, Dodgers and Mets ran between $107 million and $80 million. Which proves that one set of books does not prove the owners' point of indigence.

One thing to be thankful for, gang, is that Ray Grebey isn't management's negotiator anymore. He's the guy who masterminded the 1981 strike that lasted for 50 days and saw 712 games slip down the tube. That's when baseball ended.

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