Don't Take Me Out to the Ballpark

BASEBALL

WHATARELIEE

On Wednesday night, as I was sitting at home reading the 1977 Baseball Dope Book, I received the good news. I was just turning to the section on pinch-hitting records by left handed batters with runners on second and third base, when the radio announcer informed me that the dreadful strike had ended.

People might say that baseball players are overpaid and they get too many benefits, but let's face it they're worth every Mercedes they earn. What would summertime be like without the excitement and thrill of Manor League baseball?

Take the American League East. The strike was called rust as the pennant race started to heat up. With Cleveland just 32 games out, they might catch the Toronto Blue Jays by next June. And fifth place Milwaukee is just a score away from catching them (Well, at least Cleveland might catch Milwaukee by September). The second place Yankees, a mere nine games out, could easily clinch it if the Blue Jays decide to go into the real estate business.

Even if you're not a fan of pennant races, there's always plenty of excitement in following the big name ballplayers. In fact, that's why they get paid so much they're big name players, both on and off the field. Who doesn't enjoy seeing Dave Righetti's smiling face in Prince spaghetti ads. And there's nothing quite like watching George Foster hustle back to the dugout after he strikes out.

Even if some high paid ball players are not having such good years, it is always, reassuring to take a look at the league leaders which shows that the millions they earn are not going to waste. For example, it should come as no surprise that Tim Birtsas of the Oakland A's with his overpowering 8-2 record is the leading A.I. pitcher. Or it is any surprise that some guy named Franco of the Cincinnati Reds is the leading N.I. hurler.

You say you've never heard of either these perennial all-stars. We'll you must then know of some of the other top pitchers in each league: people such as California's Romanick. Montreal's Heskith, and Toronto's Key. And don't forget Kansas City's big crowd draw, Saberhagen. It's little wonder that people like Nolan Ryan and Rick Sutcliffe are making millions.

UNDER THE NEW AGREEMENT the minimum wage for baseball players was increased by a approximately 33 percent--up from an indecent $42,500 to an almost respectable $60,000. The modest increase may finally be just enough to raise the average ballplayer above the Saudi Arabian poverty line. The average annual salary, on the other hand, should get closer to about $400,000, which in all fairness, is fair compensation for having to work with selfless players like like Lee Mazzili, Roy Smalley, and Jim Rice.

Not only do the players get paid a fair salary, but the owners are obviously a greedy group of capitalists who have little better to do make jobs for nice guys like Donald Fehr and Lee MacPhail. In fact, the owners should be permitted only to play a minor role in the scheme of baseball, while the players and the fans should be in complete control.

Why not have the fans make all the decisions about the team. A company like Gillette could hand out ballot cards during the first few weeks of the season and the fans would punch out little holes next to the names of the players they want on the team. As soon as the starting lineups are chosen, a second set of cards would be passed out listing the players' names alongside possible salary figures.

Of course write-in candidates and trade possibilities could be inked in at the bottom of the card. Then, when all the totals were tabulated, the owners would be obligated to use the players and salaries selected by the fans.

As for the rest of their time, the owners could perform other useful duties such as watering the grass at the Houston Astrodome, or maybe even turning on the lights at Chicago's Wrigley Field.

Am I ever glad that baseball is back.