I hope that I am not the only baseball fan in America who is baffled by Bud Selig's recent pronouncement that the baseball season is over because the owners say it's over. I am even more baffled by the players' apparent concession on this point.
While the World Series without the grace and skill of the game's best players is unthinkable, the World Series without the current crop of owners is certainly possible (and, lately, perhaps desirable).
Laying my cards on the table, let me say that I generally support the players in the current strike because, to paraphrase one baseball scribe, Roger Clemens and Mo Vaughn got to the Show by hard work and breathtaking ability; Peter O'Malley got there by being sired by Walter.
I qualify my support as "general" because I do believe that the players, at a minimum, owe to the fans everything they can give them in terms of salvaging this season. We, the fans, have lost much: not just the chance to witness history as legends-in-the-making such as Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas chased the ghosts of Ruth and Maris, but also the chance to hang on to a last glimmer of summer late into fall.
If the players want to reach out to the fans out there who are still paying attention -- and there are plenty of us -- they should consider the following:
Play the World Series. Without the owners. For free. The fans and players need each other, but no one needs the owners. Have the players from the best team in each league according to their records when the strike began -- the New York Yankees and the Montreal Expos -- spend the next two weeks getting back into shape, maybe put a keg of beer on the line, and play seven. If money has not ruined the game and if money has not ruined the players -- and I don't believe it has -- what better way for the players to prove it. Do it for free. Do it for the fans.
Imaging and exaggerating potential problems will be easy, but given the sorry state of the current negotiations (or lack thereof), the players should have the time and energy to overcome any obstacles. Players without contracts necessarily have to worry about injury. But underwriting such risks is why God made insurance companies. Insurance, of course, costs money, but that is apparently why God made the Fox network and ESPN. Selling the rights to one of the major networks for enough money to cover expenses, if not fund the Social Security system through the next millennium, should be a snap.
Where to play it? Shame the owners into making the parks available. If the players are willing to give themselves to the fans, the owners should be willing at least to open the gates. If they won't, other facilities in both cities can likely be found. While
those fields may seat only a relative few, most of us watch on television anyway, and the intimacy would have its own redeeming charm.
And maybe, to wax misty-eyed for a moment, the best solution is to take the game back to its agrarian roots. I understand that the "Field of Dreams" ball yard is still sitting out there in the Iowa night. Wouldn't it be grand to watch Don Mattingly jack one into the corn?
If the players want to show the fans that they care and, at the same time, seize the moral high ground from the owners, this proposal is a no-brainer for them. For me, it's the last, best hope for a final piece of summer before the onset of another long, cold New England winter.
7+ Players, do the right thing. Play ball.
James McLindon lives in Boston and suffers from a painful affliction -- he's a Red Sox fan.