Snowbird alert: With spring training in jeopardy, the best chance to catch some rays and some baseball might be in the Arizona Fall League.
The regular-season schedule runs from Oct. 6 to Dec. 1. All 28 clubs send six top prospects to participate in the league. There has been some talk the AFL would be a victim of strike-related cost-cutting measures, but league official Steve Gilbert said he expects the league to start on schedule.
"We haven't been told anything different," Gilbert said.
Six Orioles prospects desperately hope Gilbert's information is accurate. Why? Because one of their teammates on the Scottsdale Scorpions is supposed to be Michael Jordan, one of the six Chicago White Sox "prospects" on the team.
"That's cool," said Orioles outfield prospect Alex Ochoa. "It'll be a cool experience to be with Jordan, I guess."
Other Orioles prospects set to team with Jordan include center fielder Curtis Goodwin, catcher Greg Zaun, and pitchers Joe Borowski, Rick Krivda and Brian Sackinsky.
Ochoa, on the Orioles' 40-man roster but scheduled to open the 1995 season in Triple-A, will be asked by the players union not to report to spring training if there is no labor settlement when owners open camps in mid-February.
What will he do?
"I'll do exactly what the union tells me to do," Ochoa said. "They're doing something that will help us in the long run. All the players have to stick with them. The players before them did it for them and they are doing it for us. I think all young players should feel that way."
Ochoa recited, almost word for word, the lecture union brother and Bowie teammate Jack Voigt gave him.
Gooden, Strawberry reunited?
Already, word is spreading the San Francisco Giants might have an interest in acquiring Dwight Gooden when his drug-related suspension ends.
Gooden had 16 days left on his 60-day suspension when the strike hit. Last week, it was learned he flunked at least two more drug tests, thus becoming a third-time offender. Major League Baseball is reviewing Gooden's medical records and is expected to mete out punishment this week.
Estimates on the length of the suspension run as high as the entire 1995 season, if there is one.
Gooden last spoke publicly in June, after his first drug offense since 1987.
"I will be back stronger and better," Gooden said. "I want to earn their respect."
Instead, he apparently weakened and earned the Mets' mistrust.
"It's a shame," said former teammate David Cone, now with the Kansas City Royals. "That's scary. I guarantee you things are tough for him now. Everything in his life is a mess. He's got to get help."
First, but worst
The 1994 Texas Rangers set a record, a dubious record, a shameful record.
The Rangers finished the season with a 52-62 record and a .4561 winning percentage, making them the worst first-place team ever among the four major professional sports.
The runners-up: the 1978-79 Chicago Blackhawks (the NHL's Smythe Division, 29-36-15, .4563); the 1976-77 St. Louis Blues (Smythe Division, 32-39-9, .4563); the 1971-72 Baltimore Bullets (Central Division, 38-44, .463); the 1975-76 Milwaukee Bucks (Central Division, 38-44, .463).
The Rangers announced last Monday they would be building a baseball museum at The Ballpark in Arlington. The baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., lent the Rangers 135 artifacts. The Rangers also boasted in a press release that a bat autographed by Pete Rose would be in the museum.
Shortly after someone pointed out that Rose had been banned from the Hall of Fame, the Rangers announced the bat would not be displayed at the museum in Arlington.
"It was our choice," museum curator Tom Smith said. "The Hall of Fame had nothing to do with it."
Around the horn
Next time you hear California Angels owner Jackie Autry cry poor, realize this: Gene Autry purchased the club for $2 million. If he and his wife Jackie put it up for sale, they'll be asking $130 million. . . . The Royals are expected to try to lure Whitey Herzog out of retirement to manage the team. Herzog told them in July he would not be interested, but he might change his mind. . . . Front offices are awaiting word from the Player Relations Committee on whether deadline dates for roster moves, free-agency filing, etc., will be moved up or remain the same as they would have been had there been a full season.