REMEDY FOR A PASTIME Will baseball players strike? Wont they? Will there be a World Series? Is Bud Seligs brain on steroids? Who knows the answers to these spine-tingling questions? Not me, but I do have some suggestions on curing many of baseballs ills.
SHARE TV REVENUE. All of it. Split the entire 30-team jackpot of television money evenly, from the As right up to the Yankees. If the wealthiest clubs (read: George Steinbrenner, Ted Turner) dont like it, tough. These captains of industry are apparently too thick-headed to recognize that its in their best interest for their competition to achieve at least a modicum of success. When the rest of baseball goes
belly up, see how many viewers tune in to the Yankees' four-game series with Marios Pizzeria, eight-time champions of the Bronx Municipal Fast-Pitch Association.
INSTITUTE A SALARY CAP . . . AND SALARY FLOOR. Youll need better accountants than me to come up with a formula here. Bottom line, though,
is that each team should have a maximum it can spend in acquiring new talent. (I like the NBAs Larry Bird Rule that eliminates the spending leash for a club paying to keep its own players.) Also, clubs must be forced out of the penny-pinching modus operandi that cheats many fans out of (1) seeing their team compete and (2)following their heroes beyond a four- or five-year apprenticeship. Establish a minimum payroll for all thirty franchises.
ELIMINATE THE DESIGNATED HITTER. Absolutely the single worst American idea since Prohibition. Gotta get rid of this half-player. (If Edgar Martinez ever sees the Hall of Fame without a ticket, Im going to picket the place.) The players union will scream foul, that this will
eliminate 14 full-time, well-paying jobs. Fine, heres the deal. Baseball creates a five year grandfather window, during which American League rosters are expanded to 26 players. Over the course of these five years, the former DHs either learn how to wear leather on one hand . . . or find employment elsewhere. A baseball diamond is for baseball players. There are too many Stubby Clapps out there dying for a chance in The Show while the likes of Martinez, Harold Baines, and Mickey freakin Tettleton eat up roster spots.
ELIMINATE BUD SELIG. No need for Tony Soprano here . . . yet. Just get this guy back in an owners booth where he belongs and hire a commissioner who can understand the players and also has enough sense to recognize that Major League Baseball is a business. In other words, the next commissioner should be a former player. Some candidates: Joe Morgan, Ozzie Smith, Johnny Bench, Frank Robinson, Orel Hershiser, Reggie Jackson (dont laugh, hes sharp).
LET PITCHERS PITCH . . . INSIDE. Watch\ Houstons Craig Biggio the next time he steps to the plate. Equipped with armor on his left arm that would do Ivanhoe proud, Biggio leans near the plate and, as the pitch is delivered, lifts his left leg like a dalmation at a fire hydrant. If an inside pitch happens to miss his over-striding coat of armor, theres a good chance the plate umpire will warn the pitcher against throwing at the batter. In the good name of Don Drysdale, this is a travesty. The hitters wear a helmet. If youre not going to outlaw the kind of shields Biggio and Barry Bonds carry to the plate, you simply have to give some bite back to pitching strategy. It will, once and for all, separate the men from the boys. And baseball will be that much more fun to watch. (The next time a batter drills a line drive up the middle that all but ecapitates a pitcher, I want to see the umpire warn against hitting the ball in this manner.)
NO FLORIDA BASEBALL . . . AFTER MARCH. First of all, the 1997 Florida Marlins are the poster boys for all that is wrong with modern baseball economics. Owner Wayne Huizengas win-now-purge later attack on team-building conventions was (is!) an embarrassment and insult to the
good names of Branch Rickey, John McGraw, and Connie Mack. That aside, the Marlins and Tampa Bay Devil Rays have no following, one playing in a football stadium, the other in a dome (in Florida!). Whether these moribund franchises are eliminated entirely or moved elsewhere, they simply have to go. A chain, as they say, is only as strong as its (two) weakest links.