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A Scary Year

Behind the Mike

By Michael E. Ginsberg

It's the end of April, and one month of the baseball season is complete. People predicted that in this year of realignment, Year Two of The Great Commissioner Search, baseball would have a look and feel totally different from anything we loyal, abused fans had ever seen.

I'd say baseball has done better. I'd say the season has gotten downright scary.

Scary Fact Number One: I woke up this morning to see that Jeff Kent, second baseman for the illustrious New York, is leading the National League in home runs with 8.

Scary Fact Number Two: Get used to tape-measure home runs, football scores, and the Jeff Kents of the world. They're not going away anytime soon.

Here's a few scores from last week:

Red Sox 22, Royals 11

White Sox 12, Red Sox 1

Royals 11, Tigers 1

Angels 11, Orioles 8

Those are some very big numbers, people. I mean, what if the Patriots could score 22 points in a game? They'd probably win.

I like exciting games, with lots of runs scored. But 33 runs in a game? Didn't they just commission a study on how to speed up the game?

People are claiming that expansion depleted the already pitching-thin ranks of the major leagues, resulting in ERA's that are approaching the national debt, but don't be too sure.

Think about it: if you took all the pitchers from the expansion Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins and distributed them evenly among the other 26 teams, would the pitching be any better? The Rockies have only one pitcher with and ERA under 4.00 (David Nied). Florida's number-one starter is 40-year-old Charlie Hough.

Gee, don't spread any of that wealth around.

Scary Fact Number Three: Mention the term "fifth starter" in front of most managers, and they'll laugh at you. Some of them might name a position player (though I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that player won't be Jose Canseco)

Other than the Atlanta Braves, whose fifth starter, Kent Mercker, threw a no-hitter in the first week of the season, no team seems to have credible fourth and fifth starters.

Scary Fact Number Four: The players may strike in September. Would somebody please remind these prima donnas that the major league minimum salary is $109,000?

But if they've gotta strike, do it now. Right now. I'm not going to follow an incredible race in the season to see it cut off in September.

Play or sit, but don't whine and threaten. That's not what the game's about.

Scary Fact Number Five: The leading candidate for AL Rookie of the Year (I know it's early) is a Toronto Blue Jay.

In another move indicating the love of offense over defense in today's game. the Jays converted catcher Carlos Delgado into a leftfielder just to keep him in the batting order.

Delgado hit two mammoth home runs in his first two games at Sky-dome. One of them hit the Hard Rock Cafe beyond the outfield wall.

The Hard Rock Presented him with a bottle of champagne the next day.

Fortunately, it was fellow rookie shortstop Alex Gonzales's 21st birthday (hey, I'm almost that old), so he could share the drinks with everyone.

Where do they get the talent? The Orioles spent $43 million dollars to sign four free agents to beat these guys.

The Red Sox signed Otis Nixon and Dave Valle and got new GM Dan Duquette to end Blue Jay dominance.

It's not happening. Maybe they should give up.

Maybe the season will get better. And maybe they'll have hired a commissioner by the end of this season.

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