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Baseball Outlook '01

©01 The Media Desk

      Well it's here, and already the Cubs look rather pathetic. So we know Major League Baseball is operating at basically status quo. For now.

      But the skies look dark and foreboding out over the right field fence.

      Labor woes are in the on deck circle and will probably come up before the season is over.

      Baseball, America's Pastime, has never Fully Recovered from the strike that ended the 1994 season without a World Series for the first time in 90 years. The '71 strike hurt the sport, but the '94 two hundred day plus mess almost did it in. The game did not even get close to recovery for years, until Cal Ripken saved the day in pursuit of the Iron Man record then held by Iron Horse Lou Gehrig.

      Then the Sammy Sosa/ Mark McGuire home run duel held the nation riveted to the game. Stadiums that hadn't even gotten close to a sellout found themselves standing room only when either team came to town, people wearing the jersey of their favorite slugger from either Chicago or St Louis regardless of who their home team was. The tally was the lead story on the news, Sammy's charity to his home country brought the spotlight on their problems just as McGuire's use of 'legal' steroids brought that problem to the public attention. Right down to the last week of the season as we waited to see just how many balls McGuire would knock out of the park.

      Now the prima donna players and their million/billionaire owners are looking to undo everything that has been rebuilt in pursuit of another title: 'Most Money Hungry'.

      Basketball learned the hard way. So did football. If the players and owners cry enough, the fans will walk away and find something else to do. And to spend money on. Isn't it true, and hasn't it been preached from the rooftops that in any professional sports management/labor rumble that the FANS are the only real losers?

      Could that explain the increase in the fan base of NASCAR? No labor troubles, no high society Hollywood set owners snubbing the people that buy tickets? No Superstars that refuse to sign their contracts because they are waiting on a better offer from Cleveland?

      The biggest stars in NASCAR, Jeff Gordon, Bill Elliot, and even last year's champion Bobby Labonte know there are fresh faces in the crowd waiting for a seat behind the wheel. Something the late Dale Earnhardt knew well as his outfit went scouting for the next generation of hot talent. Drivers like Dale Earnhardt Junior and Tony Stewart have driven that point home, all the way to victory lane.

      So what's wrong with Baseball Players and other professional athletes? Don't they realize there are plenty of people out there just aching for a shot at hitting the inside curve?

      No.

      No they don't.

      They have convinced the sports-writers and broadcasters that expansion has drained the talent pool to where there simply aren't any more Unknown Wonders out there in the sand lot burning fastballs in at 96 mph. And to do so they ignore their own recent history with guys like Hideo Nomo who came across the water to set a record by throwing no-hitters in both the AL and the NL.

      First off, that's simply a lame excuse for lousy ballgames.

      Let's look at the numbers. The US population in, say, 1950 (before the expansion years) was just over 152 Million. The population in 1980, the year a good percentage of this year's rookies were born in was 227,224,681. Use whatever percentages you want of the general population that can hit a ball with a stick and you still end up with a larger talent pool over those thirty years. Also add to that the fact that the good Messrs. Nomo and Sosa aren't even locals and the pool grows even larger.

      The next reason you sometimes hear is that the athletes are better these days. Sure Red Grange was a phenomenon in his day, Jim Thorpe rewrote the record book with his name all over it, Jessie Owens made a statement that could not be ignored. But if they were on the field of competition today, they'd barely make the second string. Babe Ruth might get cut in Spring Training now for being overweight.

      Again, that's simply a lie. They played under their rules, against the players of their day, and they excelled. Just as Joe Montana and Wayne Gretsky did their thing against the best their sports had to offer in their day and made their entries into the record books just like the Greats of Old did.

      You cannot compare arbitrary numbers and artificial stats... (exactly how do you figure quarterback rankings anyway). Games Won. Home Runs. Touchdowns Scored. Strike Outs. Goals. These things win games. Winning games makes great careers. The rules and judgements from 2001 don't hold well when looking at the games and competitors from 1921. You have to look at the 1920's by the tape measure used by Grantland Rice when he looked at the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame.

      There are more arguments they make to defend everything from multi-year deals that pay some professional athletes more in a minute during a game than most working stiffs make in a year. But it's not worth it to debunk them.

      As a Sports Observer the Desk fully expects some sort of nonsense late in the summer just as the Pennat Races are heating up. And it wouldn't be really surprised if the Playoffs and even the Series itself come into jeopardy.

      Which sport will be next?

      Well. We haven't had a football strike in awhile. And basketball has been quiet for a few years. Who knows. Maybe we can look back on this year as the Trifecta of Stupidity.

      How can we, the forgotten fans, expect any less given the history of Sports in this country?

Selah

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