So far score is owners, $ ;the fans, 0
If any one group of people could be counted on to make a bad situation worse, it's the 26 major league baseball club owners. The latest example of their shortsightedness is the split season with which the game resumed this week after a hiatus of nearly two months due to the players' strike.Skip to next paragraph
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All during the strike it was stated over and over again by people at every level of the game that to have any sort of "meaningful" season, they would have to start anew by early August. The rationale was that baseball is a game which needs a long season to establish a true champion--and that anything less than 100 or so games would be meaningless.
Well, they settled the strike in time to get in those 100 or so games, so what did the owners do? Why, of course, they immediately divided the season in half, creating two mini-seasons of around 50 games each, neither one long enough to prove anything.
Perhaps an elementary math course is in order for the owners: i.e., one meaningless 50-game season equals zero, and when you multiply zero by two, you still get zero. Which is now what the 1981 season has become.
The whole thing is a gimmick, of course, designed to lure back fans who otherwise might write off the season. But what neither the owners nor Commissioner Bowie Kuhn ever seem to understand is that baseball is a game which developed its hold on the public over a long period of years by establishing a maximum of tradition and relying on a minimum of gimmicks. Once you start tinkering around, as Kuhn and some of the so-called "progressive" owners always want to, it gets more and more difficult to stop. Pretty soon tradition is out the window, and you need a new gimmick or two each year just to hang on to a public that once was yours for the asking. If this is progress, give me the status quo!
But Ted Turner is a yachtsman, George Steinbrenner was a football and track enthusiast in his youth, hamburgers are Ray Kroc's thing, etc. Few of today's owners, in fact, have the sort of deep and abiding love of baseball that would enable them to understand and appreciate the fine points that are important to true fans. They see the game only in terms of hype for the mass audience, especially on TV, and they figure maybe it will sell better if it has a little more action, a little more scoring, a little more excitement--in other words, if it's a little more like football, or basketball, or hockey.
This is strange reasoning, considering the fact that baseball in its traditional form has long been the most popular sport of all in this country--the "national pastime," if you will. You'd expect those fortunate enough to be involved in such a gold mine to leave well enough alone and let the others sports worry about catching up. But I long ago abandoned any attempt to apply the rules of logic or reason to the actions of baseball owners, and I'm not about to start now. It's their toy, and unfortunately, if they want to ruin it there isn't much any of us can do about it.
Obviously, once the strike had cut nearly two months out of the season there was no way to resume without creating some inequities. But it was equally clear that these things would have had a much better chance of evening out over a full season of 100 or so games than they do in the new miniseasons.
Surely, for instance, there would have been nothing so patently unfair as the way Oakland has now been handed the AL West first-half championship largely because its early season schedule was such a piece of cake (the A's were 13-1 against Seattle and Minnesota, while contending Chicago didn't meet either of these weak sisters at all).