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COMMENTARY : Wake Her Up When This Strike Is Over

WASHINGTON POST

Except for the hurt absorbed by ticket-takers, the stadium vendors and the other blue-collar people who might lose money if baseball has a work stoppage for the eighth time in 23 years, I won’t mind a baseball strike. I say relax. Forget the melodrama, the paroxyms of grief. Look at the bright side.

No baseball could mean no more rotisserie-league seamheads preening around the office water cooler, spouting off self-researched esoterica such as: “Did you know Kenny Rogers was the first left-hander to toss a perfect game in the American League since ATM cards allowed you to withdraw cash anywhere in North America, including Canada?”

With some unexpected time on his hands, Orioles owner Peter Angelos might realize his dream of landing an NFL team for Baltimore.

Unfortunately, having no baseball would probably not mean a respite from that saccharine prose about the pastoral beauty of the game, its gentle rhythms, the unebbing mystery that unfolds slowly during each contest, the answers and nuances revealed only to those true believers who come to the altar of baseball willing to give The Game the attention The Game deserves and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah ...

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I say let ‘em walk.

And don’t let the door smack their stadium seat cushions on the way out.

There was a lot wrong with baseball even before the strike began to loom. The games move like glaciers. The expansion boom to 28 teams has nurtured whole new genres of big leaguers -- the rag-arm outfielders who can’t hit the cutoff man, the rag-arm pitchers who can’t string together three outs in a row, the power-hitting hulks who’d have the range of a bird bath if they had to play the field, the long-toothed veteran who’d hang on forever if the other guys didn’t kid him unmercifully about those boxes of Depends in his locker.

Throw in the pampered stars who rush the mound over an honest inside pitch, the neurotic just-signed free agents who can’t handle the big contract, the spitters and scratchers and preeners who stall between pitches like they’re praying for a rain delay to save them from an 0-2 count and, as I said, what you’ve got is BOR-ING.

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Most of the time.

This season was different for the first time in years. With a livelier ball and numerous record chases, the new contenders and the glut of rising young stars, baseball was more entertaining than it’s been in eons.

But, as usual, baseball found a cynical, money-related way to screw it up.

The average player’s salary is $1.2 million this year. Small-market clubs can’t retain players. But the players have refused to consider a salary cap.

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The owners have a long, sordid history of lying and condescension in negotiations. Last week brought two more examples.

The owners claimed that 19 of the 28 teams would lose money in 1994. When it leaked out that two of baseball’s richest franchises, the Dodgers and White Sox, were rather unbelievably listed among the red-ink teams, owners coughed and said the 19 clubs are projecting losses in 1994 -- a stupid bit of subterfuge, considering the players’ distrust is already sky high.

The second gesture -- withholding a scheduled $7.59 million payment to the players’ pension fund -- was even worse; a dumb and incendiary move that suggested the owners are daring the players to strike, rather than working to avoid one.

So let them all walk out, bloody each other up, then phone it in when they settle. I have no interest in the blow-by-blow.

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Bbaseball has gotten to the point where genuine sympathy is hard to rustle up. It’s had too many chances, suffered too many relapses, asked for forgiveness too many times.

The march to this strike has been no different than the others -- just loaded with more greed, malice and selfishness -- in short, the usual. From the usual guys.


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