The Sports Report: It’s the anniversary of a very sad day for baseball fans
Howdy, my name is Houston Mitchell and by the time you read this I will be less than 24 hours away from seeing the new movie “Blinded by the Light” that features a young man inspired by the music of Bruce Springsteen. I should be mad and sue for stealing my life story, but I’m just too excited to see it.
Twenty-five years ago today, Major League Baseball players went on strike. As the strike went on, the World Series was canceled and some fans gave up on baseball entirely. This week in the newsletter, we will run down the stories The Times has prepared in a special look back at the baseball strike. Today, we start with a column by Bill Shaikin, the entirety of which can be read here.
“On Aug. 12, 1994, the players went out on strike, rather than accede to the owners’ demand for a salary cap. The strike ended the next April, after 232 days, and the players had successfully resisted the cap.
“Tony Clark made his major league debut in 1995, the first of his 15 seasons. None were interrupted by a work stoppage. Now, as the possibility of a strike or lockout looms as large as it has at any time since 1994, Clark is the executive director of the players union.
“On the other side of the bargaining table, representing the owners: Rob Manfred, the commissioner. In 1994, Manfred worked for a law firm, advising the owners.
“It was a really difficult time for the game,” Manfred told The Times. “I think it was the one time in our modern history that the game actually took a step backward.”
“It also was the one time in modern history the World Series was called off. For the Montreal Expos, the team with the best record in 1994, the road to the World Series turned into the road to extinction.
“In 1994, the average attendance was a then-record 31,256. It was not until 2004 — the first year in which players could be suspended for testing positive for steroids, after almost a decade of a drug-fueled home run derby — that the average attendance again topped 30,000.
“That average dropped back below 30,000 in 2017. The average in 2019 also is on pace to fall for the sixth time in seven seasons, which could make a strike or lockout particularly ominous.
“I’m pretty confident we’re smart enough not to take another step backward,” Manfred said.
“Manfred played a role in the labor war of 1994, but many of the owners he represents now did not own teams then.
“Clark was a minor league player, and many players he now represents were not alive then.
“Is Manfred confident that all parties involved are informed enough about the ill effects of 1994 to avoid a strike?
“It’s certainly true on our side,” he said. “I hope it is on theirs.”
“Clark said he believes there is an opportunity to resolve the current issues without a labor war. But he also said the lessons of 1994 go beyond baseball taking a big step back.
“It was one of the most challenging times in our history,” Clark told The Times. “But when you believe in a fundamental level of fairness and rights, and that is the reason you are willing to take a stand, there are going to be repercussions — some near-term, some longer-term. So I can appreciate that it was difficult. It wasn’t pretty.
“Owners were looking to declare an impasse, replace major league players with scabs, and force a salary-cap system on us. From that early point in my career, I understood there are always challenges when you sit down to negotiate.”
“The current collective bargaining agreement does not expire until after the 2021 season , but the two sides met last month in an unusually early start for labor talks. The union presented some concepts — bargaining would be an overstatement — because it is the party most interested in change.
“The owners are generating more revenue than ever. At the same time, the promise of the current system — a player must play six years to reach free agency and potentially strike it rich — has been undermined by analytical data that shows older players too often have been paid too much for past performance.
“The result: the dozens of older free agents offered relative dimes on the dollar over the past two winters, or cast aside entirely.The aggravating factor: teams playing for the future, eliminating jobs for veterans while saving millions of dollars.
“The possible solution: reconstructing player compensation so higher wages go to the players analytics say tend to be most productive, the younger players whose salaries now are dictated by the team for the first three years, then subject to the decision of an arbitrator for another three.
“The details of any such solution will not be easy to agree upon. At risk: Twenty-five years of labor peace.”
More baseball reading:
Dodgers’ Scott Alexander hopes to salvage season derailed by nerve issue
Angels lower the (Anthony) Bemboom on the Red Sox in 10-inning victory
Is the Angels’ Jose Suarez tipping his pitches? If so, he’s making changes
Times college football writer J. Brady McCollough has been looking at the top 25 stories heading into this season. Here’s a look at today’s, Will Notre Dame make the college football playoff?
“No matter where one stands on the job Brian Kelly has done as Notre Dame’s head coach, his resume provides something for everyone.
“For those who want to believe the Fighting Irish are hovering near the nation’s elite under Kelly: In his nine seasons, they have played in one national championship game (in the Bowl Championship Series) and made another College Football Playoff appearance — joining only Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Florida State and Oregon. Notre Dame has also been ranked in the top five of the Associated Press poll at some point in four of the last five seasons, a sign that the Fighting Irish are more often than not good enough to create a substantial buzz.
“For those who want to believe the Fighting Irish are all hype and not close to joining Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State atop the sport’s hierarchy: The two times Notre Dame got itself to the big stage, it was humiliated — 42-14 by Alabama in the 2013 BCS title game and 30-3 by Clemson in last year’s CFP semifinal played at the Cotton Bowl. And, stuck in the middle of that four-out-of-five-year run of making the AP top five, the Fighting Irish had a 4-8 stinker that was one of their worst seasons of the modern era.
“Kelly has never been truly on the hot seat in South Bend, but he has also never been beloved because he hasn’t done that one thing the Irish haven’t accomplished since 1988.
“Coming off an invigorating undefeated regular season in 2018 that was followed by a no-show in the playoff, 2019 sizes up as a year that will help place Notre Dame more confidently in college football’s caste system where there appears to be so few elites that can take advantage of their immense privilege.
“If Notre Dame can pull off a win in one brutal road game at Georgia (Sept. 14) or at Michigan (Oct. 26) and then win at Stanford (Nov. 30) in the season finale to get to 11-1, that would likely send the Irish back to the CFP.
“If the Irish lose those big road games and settle around 9-3, the fan base would once again feel deflated.
“With Alabama and Clemson reloading, Notre Dame is staring at another decade going by without a national championship. Is that a Fighting Irish problem or a regional issue?”
And now for something completely different
Here’s a tip for you: If you want to do something under the radar, don’t ask Hulk Hogan to join you.
Hogan was in Chicago for a personal appearance at a convention and was running late. So, a Chicago police officer gave him a ride from the tarmac at O’Hare airport to the convention center.
No one may have noticed except for the fact Hogan filmed the whole thing and put it on Facebook Live.
“My Uber’s got a siren,” Hogan said while the police officer sped around planes and airport workers. “Chicago PD for life.”
Hogan was accompanied by his longtime manager Jimmy Hart and they were nice enough to ask the police officer if he would get into any trouble for this.
“My sergeant is all for it,” the officer said.
Maybe, but some officials in Chicago aren’t.
“The activity and behavior demonstrated in that video poses a significant risk to the officers and overall aviation safety on the airfield,” city spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told the Chicago Tribune. “The superintendent was furious about what he saw.”
All that can be said in summation is: Whatcha gonna do, Chicago, when Hulkamania rides wild on you!
We asked readers of the newsletter and of the newspaper to tell us “Which team has the best 1-2-3 rotation in baseball? Is it Houston, with Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and Gerrit Cole; Washington with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin; the Dodgers with Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Walker Buehler or some other team?” After 13,260 votes, here are the results:
The New York Mets drew most of the votes for “other,” with one poor person apparently stuck in a time loop voting for “Koufax, Drysdale and Osteen.”
Your favorite sports moment
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Odds and ends
Rams’ Dakota Allen making most out of second chance…. Chargers’ prized rookie Jerry Tillery takes big step forward following surgery…. Chelsea Gray makes clutch shots to lead Sparks past Sky…. USC’s Gabriela Ruffels beats Stanford rival for U.S. Women’s Amateur golf title…. Golf: Patrick Reed ends winless streak at the Northern Trust….. Chip Kelly could turn up the tempo with UCLA’s stockpile of speedy players…. Kevin Harvick wins NASCAR Cup race at Michigan…. NFL notes: Vikings acquire kicker Kaare Vedvik from Ravens…. Serena Williams retires from Rogers Cup championship match…. Galaxy’s struggles continue in 2-1 loss to D.C. United
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Today’s local major sports schedule
Pittsburgh at Angels, 7 p.m., FSW, 830 AM
Born on this date
1880: Baseball player Christy Mathewson (d. 1925)
1905: Tennis player Harry Hopman (d. 1985)
1959: Basketball player Lynette Woodard
1960: Cyclist Lauren Fignon (d. 2010)
1971: Tennis player Pete Sampras
1973: NHL player Todd Marchant
1976: NBA player Antoine Walker
1977: NFL player Plaxico Burress
1988: Boxer Tyson Fury
Died on this date
2002: Baseball player Enos Slaughter, 86
Pete Sampras wins the final match of his career, the 2002 U.S. Open final against Andre Agassi. Watch it here.
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