Yes, look forward to labor peace, but don't forget past

On Baseball

August 11, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

The heart of baseball is beating strongly again. Atlanta's John Smoltz could win 25 games. Cecil Fielder probably is going to be playing in October, in pinstripes. Eddie Murray needs five more homers for 500.

Four teams are contending for the NL Central title. The San Diego Padres are born again. Les Expos are exceeding expectations in spite of their small budget, again. Sammy Sosa is mashing homers at a Ruthian rate. Attendance is up, Fox is energizing baseball broadcasting.

And a labor agreement seems to be on the horizon. The Associated Press quotes sources close to the negotiations as believing that a deal is in sight, after a marathon negotiating session Friday and yesterday.

"It's something we've needed for a couple of years now," Orioles manager Davey Johnson said before last night's game. "We're partner, players and owners. . . . Everybody has to be open about it."

Orioles third baseman B. J. Surhoff, who has been active in the leadership of the players association, said, "Obviously, from what I've heard, progress has been made. But you can't do anything but wait until you see what happens."

Players and owners are pushing for a seven-year agreement, and such a lengthy deal would be a welcome change. There would be no biennial fears of a strike or lockout, no threat to the playoffs or World Series. There would be much less coverage of acting commissioner Bud Selig and union chief Don Fehr, and more coverage of Alex Rodriguez and Greg Maddux.

All those who have worked out an agreement should be congratulated. Then, with the exception of Randy Levine, the owners' negotiator and the newest and most successful party in all of this, they should all step back or step down. Selig, Fehr, all of them.

No one should forget what incredible damage they've done to baseball. No one should forget their collective intransigence cost us the final seven weeks of the 1994 season and the World Series. No one should forget how they violated the implied trust of the fans.

Since the last labor agreement expired, a measure of peace in Bosnia was achieved through negotiation, in the face of years of ethnic and religious conflict. But players and owners could not agree on a new collective bargaining agreement.

Leaders from Palestine and Israel met and found ways in which they could agree, after two generations of conflict. But owners and players could not agree on a new collective bargaining agreement.

It's pathetic and silly when you really think about it: They could not find a way to split the huge revenue stream the game is generating. Regardless of how they couch it or the excuses they make, it all came down to greed, each side attempting to maximize its earning potential, and for that they put at risk the game of baseball.

That should never be forgotten, by fans who pay to watch, or by players and owners. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

Discord on Angels

Public complaints from several players accelerated Marcel Lachemann's demise as manager of the California Angels. J. T. Snow wondered why he wasn't playing, Rex Hudler wondered why he was playing in Snow's place. After Lachemann resigned, shortstop Gary DiSarcina fired back at the whiners.

"I thought that was unprofessional," DiSarcina said. "You keep things like that in the clubhouse. Lach always said if you have a problem, go see him. . . . He tried a lot of different things. One day he'd loosen up. Another day he'd be a real hard-butt. He came full circle, and it got to the point where he was beating himself up on a daily basis."

Michael Johnson on bases?

Sprinter Michael Johnson caught the eye of ex-Orioles manager Johnny Oates, whose Rangers could use some speed. "He's only got to go 90 feet for me," said Oates. "We'd have a

sign to tell him to steal second and third on a pitch. Do that a couple of times, and I'll put $100,000 in your pocket." Oates was kidding.

Kansas City right-hander Kevin Appier, signed to stay on with the Royals, has made adjustments to his delivery and is pitching extremely well.

On the night Chuckie Carr tore up his knee and was lost for the season, he was featured on the cover of the Brewers' game-day program. Fernando Vina was the cover boy Tuesday, when the Orioles' Archie Corbin drilled him with a pitch that sidelined the Milwaukee second baseman. During the last homestand, Ben McDonald was on the cover, and he's 0-3 since then.

Counting deferred money, the Detroit Tigers saved about $5.3 million the night they traded Fielder to the New York Yankees and Chad Curtis to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Lefties in demand

Does Mike Milchin have a chance to be effective with the Orioles? Minnesota manager Tom Kelly said: "Well, he's left-handed, so he's got a chance."

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