Mike and Cito show is an affair to forget


TORONTO -- Now that Mike Mussina says he is thinking of apologizing to Cito Gaston, Gaston should do the right thing and apologize to Mussina.

It'll happen just as soon as the roof blows off SkyDome, which is to say it'll never happen.

Still, that shouldn't prevent us from corking up the whole business and shipping it out to sea somewhere.

Enough already, eh?

It's a tired topic. Moreover, a pointless, tired topic.

Maybe we could keep it alive if Ann Landers were the commissioner of baseball and it mattered who apologized and who didn't.

And maybe we could keep it alive if the players, not the fans, were the ones trading insults and nasty letters. Imagine Jack Morris and Rick Sutcliffe pitching tonight after telling each other, in so many words, to drop as dead as Elvis. Would you pay a scalper's price or what?

But, alas, at this point it's just a talking point for fans, papers and talk-show callers. The players couldn't care less about Cito and Mike and who shoulda and who coulda.

To the players, and to the endeavor of winning games, the situation is no more important than the pre-game food spread. Less important to some players, actually.

What that means, in the controversy biz, is it's time to move on to the next Topic. Like whether the Orioles should slug it out in their rematch with the Mariners in a few weeks. Or had you forgotten The (Boxing) Card at the Yard?

We don't need this All-Star deal. We've got plenty of Topics. We've got the whole dadblasted franchise up for auction in bankruptcy court Monday. (Six more shopping days!) We've got hours to spend with an abacus trying to guess how much of the Orioles' operating profit won't go into the player payroll. Oh, and we've got this little pennant race deal.

Maybe we could have kept the All-Star Affair alive had Mussina and Cito, both of whom were wrong, stuck out their lower lips and refused to show contrition. Well, one of two is enough.

Mussina had the class to take the big step. Whatever his reasoning for throwing in the bullpen in the ninth inning that night, he was wrong for showing up his manager. One of the first baseball commandments, right up there with Thou Shalt Chew Chew, is Thou Shalt Not Embarrass Anyone Under Any Circumstances (Because Thou Shalt Get It Flung Back In Thou's Face).

Showing up Cito, and offering flimsy excuses in the clubhouse afterward, was a sophomore act. But Mussina is young and just got carried away. Apologizing closes his part of the case.

Of course, Cito also owes Mussina an apology. Equally sophomoric was his refusal not to pitch Mussina in front of the hometown fans.

The All-Star Game is for the fans, particularly the home fans, who get to see the game in person, oh, once every 35 years. The Orioles had two players in uniform, one of whom was required to play. Mussina was the most rested pitcher on the AL staff. It all added up. There was no reason not to use him. No reason except spite.

Understand, Cito is not an evil man. Far from it. He's a quiet, pleasant, old-school baseballer. He makes his plans and doesn't change them. At first he probably just didn't think about not pitching Mussina. No big deal. But once the game got out of hand, he should have let the home crowd have its fun.

Instead, he copped an attitude. He Scrooged the All-Star Game. Nice going.

Two weeks later, with everyone calming down, he should have the good grace to admit that maybe he was wrong. It won't happen. He's mad. He wants to receive apologies, not offer them.

Anyway, the point is that the statute of limitations is running out on all this stuff. Who should apologize, who shouldn't, whose feelings should be hurt . . . oy! Next Topic, please.

Of course, it's all going to escalate the Jays-Orioles rivalry, at least for the short run. There'll be some booing here tonight, and a lot when the Jays come to Baltimore for the last four games of the season. That's all great. Rivalries are the lifeblood of sports. They're what make it fun.

But the passion may not last past tomorrow in Toronto, and in Baltimore, let's face it, there are far better reasons to work up a good mad toward the Jays.

There is the wild pitch Gregg Olson threw on the last Friday of the 1989 season.

There are the four division titles the Jays have won since the Orioles last won one.

There is the Orioles' 31-54 record against the Jays since 1987.

Those are reasons.

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