This column refuses to cross an imaginary picket line . . .
* Quasi-Cactus League action begins today at Tempe Diablo Stadium with the ASU varsity taking on the California Angel frosh-soph JVs in front of 1,400 of the most intensely bored souls living or lodging in the state of Arizona today.
* Starting at first base for the Non-gels . . . Jose Peguero, whose experience in professional baseball is \o7 muy pequeNo. \f7 If there were such things as replacement baseball cards--thankfully, Upper Deck has more respect for the game than Bud Selig--the back of Peguero's would read:
"1991: Out of organized baseball."
"1992: Out of organized baseball."
"1993: Out of organized baseball."
And, if the card were to speak the truth:
"1995: Out of organized baseball."
* Starting at shortstop for the Non-gels . . . Kevin Davis, not to be confused with Kevin Costner's "Crash" Davis, though the resumes look suspiciously similar. Kevin Davis has spent the last 13 years mucking around the minor leagues, waiting for a cameo in "The Show."
* This being "The Sideshow," Davis is pumped nevertheless. "It may not be the same names out there, but it's going to be a major league ballpark," Davis enthusiastically notes, for the record.
* Yes, the ballpark will be major league. Even in non-strike seasons, the Angels always could say that.
* Pedro Borbon, fat, 50ish, out of major league baseball for 15 years, shows up at Cincinnati Reds camp Tuesday, throws in the bullpen for half an hour and declares himself ready for Scab Season. "I can get somebody out for two innings," Borbon announced after the workout, and, well, that just about wraps it up today for "Inside Replacement Baseball."
* Tomorrow, Hoyt Wilhelm walks into White Sox camp and tries to throw his age on the speed gun.
* No, replacement baseball is not better than no baseball at all. But college baseball is, especially when the best team in the land is easily accessible by the 57 Freeway.
* Cal State Fullerton is 14-2 and ranked No. 1 in the latest Baseball America poll. The Titans swept Texas, Pepperdine and Notre Dame in a tournament over the weekend, are averaging eight runs a game and play every game with the best players on campus. No mid-strike call-ups from "Introduction To Baseball 201: The Resin Bag" anywhere to be found.
* Seth Greenberg takes himself out of the running for the soon-to-be-vacant USC job to sign an extension with Long Beach State. And when's the last time a Big West coach turned down the Pac-10 because he has a better facility where he's at?
* The Pyramid or the Sports Arena? Even the Clippers can figure out the answer to that one.
* As Charlie Parker can tell from the welts, the USC job today is a shriveled plum. (Does that make it a prune? Who can say? It's hard to know.) Dank empty water tank for a home arena. Third pickings of local recruits after UCLA skims the cream and Long Beach, UC Irvine and Pepperdine divvy up the next best. And, now, the Trojans share a hedge with The No. 1 Team In The Nation. USC was and remains a football school. Once Greenberg sat down long enough to think it through, he realized it. And he punted.
* Long Beach had to come close with its financial counter-offer, and at $175,000 per season, it did. USC is said to be offering $200,000 to the man bold enough to step forward. What, no combat pay? Greenberg always could recruit, even during the days of the Gold Mine. Now, he has the Pyramid and, soon, quite possibly, a Big West championship to flash around. That would be Greenberg's first, but the groundwork for more is certainly there.
* So, who is Jack Reilly and why is he offensive coordinator for the Rams? He was an assistant coach for the Chargers and the Raiders while Steve Ortmayer was employed by both organizations, so that explains the why. Before the NFL, Reilly coached at Utah, in the wide-open WAC, where he and Scott Mitchell shredded passing records. So that's an encouraging word, St. Louis. Any discouraging words? Well, there is this: "I learned a lot," Reilly says, "from Dan Henning during my years in San Diego."
* Reilly says his first priority is "figuring out the quarterback situation," so he's headed in the correct direction. On Tommy Maddox: "I haven't seen enough of him, to be honest. I've watched eight films so far and he's only played a little bit in those." On Chris Miller: "Good athlete. Very good athlete." Early handicap on the race? "We're still evaluating."
* Sterling Sharpe is released by the Green Bay Packers because he has an injury that will keep him out next season and refused to accept a $3 million annual pay cut. There lies the beauty of the salary cap, baseball fans, and that is why Jose Peguero and not J.T. Snow plays first base for the Angels today.
* Newt Gingrich's plan for settling the strike is forcing the owners and the players to sit together and watch "Field Of Dreams." All the way through, he insists. That's right, just throw the rest of the spring to hockey and basketball and turn the summer over to indoor soccer. Make sure they never return to the negotiating table.