PICKING AT SOME SCABS

4. Now batting...
For years, baseball's great rules bugaboo has been the Designated Hitter--an innovation sanctioned by the American League, verboten in the Senior Circuit. Proponents argue that the DH helps put more runs on the board and prolongs the careers of beloved old sluggers now too slow to play the field. Opponents say the DH corrupts strategy with regard to relief pitchers and pinch hitters. Never the twain shall meet, unless there's a compromise. To wit: Under our new two-league DH proposal, a manager could insert his Designated Hitter anywhere in his lineup--but only after the seventh inning begins. That way, the new man becomes something more than a late-inning pinch hitter because he'll probably come to the plate more than once, but the pressure to produce will increase because he has fewer at-bats than under the current rule. For fans, the drama of tight games could be heightened.

5. One Fan. One Vote. All She Wrote.
As Andres Galarraga can tell you, major-league baseball's annual All-Star Game, which could be the best such event in sports, has become a sham in recent years. That's because highly organized fans in some cities stuff the ballot boxes for their hometown heroes, without regard to performance. Or they vote for familiar faces. When Joe Blow of the last-place Smurfs, hitting a mighty .178 this season, suddenly shows up as the starting All-Star left-fielder and four of his ragtag teammates are out there with him, people either laugh or change the channel. The remedy for fraud at the polls? Take the vote away from fans and give it to the players, the guys who really know what's going on. But before baseball's already beleaguered constituency gets its nose out of joint, here's the beauty part: Let the fans decide who gets into the Hall of Fame. It's a prestige job they can do just as well as baseball journalists, who've been doing it badly for years. As long as a few election-day controls apply, the fans can probably banish the old prejudices and ego trips that have characterized the process for years. As for the writers, they'll live.

6. Strawberry's Deal Forever.
We are referring here, of course, to ex-New York Met, ex-Los Angeles Dodger, ex-San Francisco Giant Darryl Strawberry, the tall, lean, powerful outfielder once considered so promising that they'd one day have to build a whole new wing for him up in Cooperstown. Instead, Strawberry has spent eleven seasons underachieving, whining, snitching on his teammates and emptying out the pharmacies of every town that would have him. One more thing. While Strawberry was still a Met, in 1988, his club played the Los Angeles Dodgers for the National League pennant. But before the series even started, Strawberry announced that he'd really prefer to be playing for the other team.

Today he is playing for no team. Following his umpteenth drug offense, the Giants got sick of the Straw man and cut him loose. He's finished, and no one's crying about it. In the best of all possible baseball worlds, squanderers and miscreants like Darryl Strawberry will get into the ballpark only if they've got a tray of hot dogs for sale.

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