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A Season Without Titles : Baseball: Players will be honored, but there will be no divisional champions because of the shortened schedule.

October 06, 1994|ROSS NEWHAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Dodgers led the National League West with a 58-56 record when the players strike ended the season on Aug. 12.

What does that mean?

It means the Dodgers led the division on Aug. 12, and nothing more.

Neither the Dodgers nor any other division leader will be recognized as a division champion, National League Vice President Katy Feeney said Wednesday.

The same is true in the American League.

And since there were no playoffs, Feeney said, there will be no league champions, which means the 1995 season will start, providing the labor dispute is resolved, with the Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays, the 1993 pennant winners, as defending champions.

"Nobody took their place," Feeney said of the teams that finished fourth and third, respectively, this year.

The league constitutions authorize the respective league presidents to declare the champions, according to Feeney, who said the recommendation to go without champions at any level was reached in a recent meeting that she attended with American League Vice President Phyllis Merhige, baseball's executive director of operations, William A. Murray, and Seymour Siwoff, general manager of the Elias Sports Bureau, baseball's official statistical house.

At the same meeting, Feeney said, it was decided that the individual statistical leaders would be recognized as champions in their respective categories. Thus, Tony Gwynn and Paul O'Neill won the National and American league batting crowns; Matt Williams and Ken Griffey Jr. were the home run kings, and Greg Maddux and Steve Ontiveros won the earned-run average titles.

While neither Gwynn nor O'Neill had the 502 plate appearances required of a batting champion, based on 3.1 appearances for each of the 162 games in a normal schedule, the rule in this case was changed to require 3.1 plate appearances per games played, which permitted Gwynn and O'Neill to qualify.

The players' union has yet to approve the change but is expected to, having approved a similar change in 1981, when the schedule was shortened by a 50-day strike.

Feeney said she saw no contradiction in deciding there could be individual championships but not team championships.

"The statistics are what they are," she said of the individual titles, "but the season was never completed. The races were unfinished. There were no division or league playoffs to determine the champions."

Said Dodger Vice President Fred Claire: "To some degree that's a little inconsistent."

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