Think sneaky. Think conspiracy. Think global.
Put it all together and what results?
The syndicate of owners controlling baseball during this work stoppage is intent on shoving a salary cap down the throats of the players to facilitate global expansion.
The theory might sound a little far out, almost as far out as third baseman Chris Sabo's final quote in an Orioles uniform -- "I merely exist in a free society," -- but it has merit.
Call this strike-causing theory the World-Wide Infusion of the Imperial Industry; WW III for short.
Richard Ravitch, Jerry Reinsdorf's bullet-proof vest, had a catch slogan early in negotiations. "How much is it going to cost?" Ravitch barked over and over in that whiskey baritone of his.
By that, he meant the players' refusal to give a revenue-percentage figure that would appeal to them to counter the 50-percent figure in the owners' proposal.
The syndicate badly wants a salary cap so that accurate costs projections can be made, and plans based on those costs can be hatched.
Also, the syndicate wants a cap because it would control the growth on salaries, giving the appearance of a very stable, predictable industry.
Hence, owning a franchise would become even more attractive than it already is to potential buyers, driving up the demand, all the way up to the $400 million range before long.
A $400 million bargain.
Picture Carl Sagan talking about molecules. It just as well could be said about baseball bucks on a global market. Billions and billions.
BTC Imagine the licensing potential. Images of Frank Thomas, the modern-day Babe Ruth, sprouting up in Tokyo, Mexico City, Moscow, London, even China, Saudi Arabia.
Orioles caps as popular in the Orient as global talent Joan Jett, the biggest Orioles fan in the entertainment industry.
Imagine the advertising dollars Coke, McDonald's, Disney and Hair Club for Men would be willing to pay if the game were watched by the entire world. Budweiser could use global expansion of baseball as a means to penetrate the German beer market.
There is no reason to think baseball would not be a big hit throughout the world. After all, soccer captivates much of the global sporting public, and baseball has way more to offer than that sport.
The game just happened to start in the United States, but there is nothing intrinsically American about the qualities of baseball. The relaxing pace and pastoral charm of the game would appeal to the escapist needs of people of all nationalities.
More importantly, to the cash-conscious syndicate, the game could even become trendy worldwide.
Assuming strides will be made in transportation, that logistical hurdle could be cleared. Already, a supersonic transport can make it from the East Coast to Europe in 3 1/2 hours.
If the WW III theory is on the money (pesos, francs, pounds, etc.), then the syndicate views this players strike not as one that can harm the game irreparably, rather as one that indirectly will allow the game to mushroom.
The players' union stands on the right side of reason -- why should they pay for the owners' spending habits? -- but the union, it appears, made a tactical blunder by striking so early. They figured the owners would repeat history and cave, but thanks in part to the "21" rule that requires votes from 21 owners to agree to a settlement during a work stoppage, the owners are more unified than in years past.
In hindsight, by striking the players cost themselves money and cost some of the union members a chance at history. Matt Williams could have chased Roger Maris. Nothing ever gets done until the ninth inning of negotiations anyway. The ninth inning would have arrived in October, instead of August. And nothing would have happened, just as nothing will happen now.
The controlling owners are willing to sacrifice this season and next, if necessary, to get what they want. A salary cap is what they want.
Turns out they meant what they said this time. Who woulda thunk it?
Laughing in Atlanta
Stan Kasten and John Schuerholz of the Atlanta Braves laughed long and hard all summer at bogus reports that somehow gained national steam that indicated Schuerholz was set to take a job with the Orioles.
But Schuerholz, extended by the Braves through 1999, stopped laughing when those who clumsily attempted to cover their tracks reported that Schuerholz was ready to come to the Orioles but told friends he changed his mind because he didn't want to work for Orioles owner Peter Angelos.
Schuerholz didn't find that fiction too amusing and wrote a letter to Angelos to inform him the reports were bogus. Not to worry, Angelos didn't give them any credence anyway.
As has been the case for months, the most likely front office scenario has Frank Robinson becoming general manager, Roland Hemond vice chairman. But no movement is expected to take place until the future of baseball is more certain.
Lucchino closing in on Padres
Former Orioles president Larry Lucchino, organizing a group to purchase the San Diego Padres, is close to closing the deal. He will not have to invest any money, but in return for brokering the deal, will become club president and be granted a small equity in the team.
If Lucchino decides to fire Padres general manager Randy Smith, look for him to turn to Orioles assistant general manager Doug Melvin to rebuild the Padres. Orioles third base coach Jerry Narron, who roomed with Melvin when they were minor leaguers in the Yankees' organization, would be on Melvin's list of managerial candidates.
Around the horn
Don't ever accuse Colorado Rockies outfielder Ellis Burks of not changing his socks often enough. During his professional baseball career, Burks has played for, in order, the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Boston Red Sox, the Chicago White Sox and the Colorado Springs SkySox (on an injury rehabilitation assignment) . . . If the Cleveland Indians play 16 games or more -- a virtual impossibility at this point -- the player to be named in the Dave Winfield trade would be a Double-A player. Anywhere from one to 15 games would bring a Class-A player in return. If they don't play any more games, Indians general manager John Hart must write a check for $100 made out to the Minnesota Twins and take Andy MacPhail out to dinner. Now that MacPhail has left the Twins to become the president of the Chicago Cubs, shouldn't MacPhail's successor get the free meal? . . . . MacPhail's agreement with the Cubs stipulates there will be absolutely no interference from ownership. Reports on MacPhail's agreement range from a five-year deal at $600,000 per year to a 10-year, $10 million contract. Either way, he has just cause to have his name
legally changed to Andy MacSucceed.