Restart baseball season? Let's just strike that idea

September 04, 1994|By JOHN EISENBERG

We begin today with a list of strike-related items needing to be canceled:

* 1. Federal mediation. (The G-men have really cleaned up this mess, huh?)

* 2. All poems lamenting the strike.

* 3. Richard Ravitch's $750,000 annual salary. (Or haven't you noticed that the only guy getting rich during the strike is the guy causing the strike?)

* 4. Bud Selig.

Oh, and let's add a couple of more things to the list: The rest of the season. The playoffs. The World Series.

I don't want 'em anymore.

At first, the idea was odious, an assault on our sensibilities. How could the players and owners let the Great Strike of '94 last long enough to kill the World Series?

But now, with the strike at 24 days and counting, that is clearly the appropriate thing to do.

Selig says the clock is ticking, and that is fine.

Kill the season.

Paint the Series black.

L It's a necessary evil, a better choice than any alternative.

A season that resumed in the next few weeks would be an insult to the game. A phony three-week pennant race. Standings and statistics with asterisks. In sum, an incomplete season forever subject to speculation.

What would have happened if they'd played those lost games? Would different teams have made the playoffs? Would the Orioles have caught the Yankees? Would the Braves have caught the Expos? These would be valid questions without answers. And the whole point of playing a 162-game season is that all questions are answered in the end.

Better to kill the season than to offer the public such an incomplete, meaningless, phony substitute, one that would succeed in generating tons of television revenue for the owners while failing to settle the matter of which was the best team, which, last time I checked, is sort of the point of playing the games.

The integrity of a baseball season is easily compromised. When the '81 season was interrupted by a 50-day work stoppage, the season was cut into halves and an extra round of playoffs was added. The result? The stupidest season in history.

Don't remember it? The Reds had the best record in the National League and didn't make the playoffs. The Orioles had a higher winning percentage than the Yankees, but the Yankees went to the World Series. A team with a losing record (the Royals) graced the postseason for the first and only time. The season was a smudge on the chronicle of baseball history.

Maybe some fans out there don't care what happens as a prelude as long as there is a Series in the end. I think it would patronize the game, as well as the fans, to stage a devalued, made-for-TV postseason after an aborted regular season. All sense of continuity is gone at this point, after three weeks of blah-blah-blah. Does anyone out there care about baseball anymore? Any excitement for a hastily arranged postseason would be completely trumped up.

Let's not have another smudge. Let's kill the Series and let the owners go ahead and lose their shirts, as they seem willing to do in hopes of maybe breaking the union next spring. Let's let people get used to not having baseball. Maybe then the owners would get around to trying to fix their messy house instead of blaming the players for it.

Of course, no matter what Selig says, you know the owners would take a settlement if it came two minutes before the postseason was scheduled to begin. They'd happily smudge the game in such a fashion. They still get rich off a smudged season as long as the postseason, their cash cow, is played.

That's all they want. They don't care one whit about the integrity of the game.

If the strike were to be settled two minutes before the postseason were to begin, the owners would happily call the standings final and start the playoffs. You bet they would. A season without pennant races? Too bad. Cut the cards. Gimme the check.

(What they'd really love to do, no doubt, would be to throw the names of all 28 teams into a hat and pick two for the Series during a prime-time "World Series Selection Extravaganza" starring Bob Costas and featuring Gene Autry singing on a horse. Or maybe halve the season like they did in '81 and play a one-week second half. You could almost hear Jerry Reinsdorf chirping, "Imagine, everyone's in contention!")

Of course, as the strike drags on and the Donald Fehrs and Richard Ravitches continue to stare at each other without blinking, very much at a stalemate, there is no reason to believe that even a far-fetched ending to the season is in the works. Barring a collective bargaining miracle, the season is kaput. The World Series is going to be canceled for the first time since 1904.

! And that is fine.

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