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Palermo should be commissioner


I've been hot on the trail of something big, but up until last week, I just thought I had a great idea. Now, however, the proof has arrived. By gosh, I do have the answer to one of baseball's biggest questions.

(By they way, does anyone have the name of a good orthopedic guy? I'm afraid I've just blown out a rotator cuff patting myself on the back.)

Steve Palermo for commissioner.

See there, brilliant. Simply brilliant. And very sensible, too.

If you still consider yourself a baseball fan, and you were asked to name the three things most lacking in the game today, here's a bet your list would read:

(1) Leadership. (2) Integrity. (3) Credibility.

Other than that, baseball is in great shape, huh?

With Steve Palermo, one call does all. He covers all those items, and more.

Before there can be integrity and credibility, there has to be leadership provided by someone who can bring the owners and the players' union under one roof.

Maybe you have noticed the lack of trust between the two sides. Or worse yet, the full-scale hate. Because of this continuing firefight, the fans have lost their game to a stupid war of one-upmanship. And the fans also have finally served notice they won't take it anymore, hence the incredible backlash at the gate this season.

I know of only one person with a baseball background who has the respect of the owners, the union and, most importantly, the fans. Palermo never will be a "yes" man for any of these special-interest groups, but when it comes to having the best interest of baseball at heart, yes, he's the man.

The cynics will think, "Well, yeah, Palermo was a great umpire before he became a national hero when he was shot breaking up a robbery, and he has a slight physical disability because the bullet hit his spine. . . it's a sad story, but what does all that have to do with being commissioner?"

The answer is nothing, except what happened outside a Dallas restaurant is the mark of a real man. And that counts for plenty, no matter what the occupation.

But in IQ, personality, dealing with people, knowledge of baseball and love of baseball, Palermo repeatedly displayed those things long before he did bravery.

And the kicker came last week when Palermo addressed the full body of baseball owners to present his six-month study on what should be done to speed up the game. When he was commissioned to do the project, I'm not sure a majority of the owners knew the intensity or commitment of the person they would be dealing with. But the Palermo presentation, according to one owner, "blew everybody away."

I had called Palermo at his Kansas City home a week before he met with the owners. Basically, it was to wish him well. One comment was typical Palermo: "They asked for the truth and the facts, and they're going to get both."

Actually, that telephone call turned into about a 90-minute discussion. I think I became his guinea pig as Palermo went over his seven major proposals.

Like, when he mentioned taking away 40 seconds of commercial time between each half inning, my response was "Great idea, but they will never do it."

They did, of course.

Six of the seven proposals were accepted, and the seventh, which was the American League ending the designated hitter era, was tabled. But Tom Schieffer, the Rangers' managing general partner, has since said the votes may be there to kill the DH, including his.

When I had told Palermo I was a DH fan and wanted the rule to continue, he countered with about 15 minutes of well-documented statistical information to prove the DH has had minimal run-production impact since 1973.

I still don't agree, but I've never been good with facts anyway.

Palermo is now 45 years old. I first met him in 1977 when he was a rookie ump at the age of 28. He took a fast track to the majors because he was talented and sharp. In most polls, he generally was considered baseball's best umpire.

A tragic incident ended that career, but what Palermo has to offer now may be even more important to baseball. When he speaks, there's no question the players will feel they are receiving a fair deal. And when he spoke to the owners last week, they were listening and agreeing.

Maybe the game needs two commissioners -- one in charge of the marketing, the TV negotiations, the state dinners, the glad-handing, etc. That's not Palermo anyway. But the other commissioner should handle nothing but baseball, starting with the labor issue. And this is Steve Palermo.

You don't have to thank me. I already know I'm right.

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