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MIKE DOWNEY

WORLD SERIES: ATLANTA BRAVES vs. CLEVELAND INDIANS : 20 Reasons Cited Why Baseball Is Still Ailing

October 29, 1995|Mike Downey

The more I watch baseball, the more I miss football. I can come up with 20 reasons off the top of my head why the grand old game of baseball has turned dull and stale, and why now, with the season coming to an end, baseball is no better off than it was when the players were on strike.

Only one good thing came out of the season of 1995, that being the tingles felt by long-suffering fans in Anaheim, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston and Seattle as late as the season's final week, when their teams still had a chance to win a World Series after a quarter-century or more of anticipation.

Otherwise, look at baseball's trouble:

1. Still no contract. This thing could get seriously ugly again.

2. Still no commissioner. He's like a cop. Never around when you need one.

3. The strike zone. TV's overhead-camera replays confirm that umpires are calling strikes on pitches six inches wide of the plate, nowhere near the "outside corner." The zone has shrunk vertically and expanded horizontally.

4. Holding the runner. At times I sit there, as the pitcher lobs over to first base for the 10th time, screaming, "Pitch the damn ball!"

5. "Fake" pickoffs. Baseball should outlaw two things. One, that totally unfair move to second base where the pitcher can bluff a runner back, without throwing. And two, that fake throw to third base, otherwise known as the Play That Fools Nobody.

6. The playoff format. Forget that "alternate year" scheduling. The team with the best record should get to be host to the most games. Period.

7. The Reggie factor. Batters now stand at home plate, admiring their work as their home runs sail toward the outfield seats, same way Reggie Jackson once did. Trouble is, many of these balls leave the park by five feet, hit the fence or even get caught. I must have seen 50 triples turn into doubles, thanks to showboating.

8. Late starts. I don't care what the clock says on the West Coast, you cannot play baseball games that end on the East Coast at 2 o'clock in the morning. One Dodger game televised by ESPN ended at 3:45 a.m. in the East.

9. Slow play. That's another reason games end so late. Baseball tried to accelerate the pace of the game. Put a 30-second clock on that pitcher. And knock off all these conferences on the mound.

10. Begin inter-league play. People in Cleveland want to see the Dodgers, the Mets, the Cubs. It won't "water down" the World Series. It doesn't hurt football, doesn't hurt basketball and doesn't hurt hockey. Get over it.

11. The saliva factor. Excuse me for saying this, but I know many people who simply can't stand watching these guys gush spit like Old Faithful. Basketball players work harder than baseball players, but they don't spit on the floor for two hours. What a filthy habit.

12. The designated hitter. Have it, don't have it, I don't care anymore. It's one sport. Stop playing by two rules.

13. Tantrums. Any manager who leaves the dugout gets ejected. Period. From now on, only the pitching coaches can replace the pitcher. In no other major sport can a coach scream, inches from an official's face.

14. Bad, bad defense. Can't anybody field a hard-hit ground ball anymore? Where have you gone, Brooks Robinson? A nation turns a lonely eye to you.

15. Bad, bad bunting. TV analysts say: "He needs to learn how to square away to bunt." Excuse me. You learn this when you're 8.

16. Bad, bad fundamentals. TV analysts say: "Those outfielders need to learn how to call each other off the ball." Excuse me. You learn this one by 7.

17. The wave. It's old, it's silly, it's passe, and, worst of all, some fans still don't get it. You're supposed to do it when the visiting player is batting, to distract him.

18. CBS. No network has ever messed up a sport more than CBS did baseball, first by shelling out $1 billion so that the players began asking for the moon, and second by single-handedly destroying the Saturday afternoon game of the week that brought many of us so much enjoyment.

19. The Yankees. Strawberry, Howe, Gooden . . . yeah, Role Models R Us.

20. Checked-swing K's. I hate it when some umpire standing 90 to 120 feet up the line punches out some batter on Strike 3. Let the plate umpire call it. This guy's five feet away. I've seen bad calls all season.

Oh, well.

At least we had a season.

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