- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 13, 2001

Ya gotta hand it to baseball. Just when you think it has perpetrated the dumbest stunt of all time, our so-called national pastime tops itself. Or maybe we should say bottoms out.
The dumbest stunt of all time was lining up two franchises against the wall, handing them cigarettes and pulling the trigger or, as commissioner Allan H. "This Bud's Not for You" Selig prefers to call it, contraction.
Now, though, Selig and the players have become eligible to star in a remake of "Dumb and Dumber." The pending decision to delay the execution of two teams presumably the Montreal Expos and Minnesota Twins until at least 2003 is the horsehide equivalent of telling a condemned man, "We've decided to grant you extra time to become more miserable. And by the way, have a nice holiday season."
What will this idiocy accomplish? Basically, it gives Major League Baseball and the players association more time to figure out how to avoid the flood of lawsuits that contraction is sure to bring.
Perhaps you feel the delay lessens the chances of contraction and serves the interests of fans and the game in general. You're certainly entitled to feel that way and by the way, say hello for me to Pollyanna, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny when you see them.
Last season the Expos' attendance was so bad that they only needed one turnstile at Olympic Stadium. Next season, if the team plays there, you might hear the following dialogue (in both English and French).
Diehard fan: "Hello, is this the Expos' office? What time does today's game start?" Receptionist: "What time can you get here?"

I know that's pretty lame, so it fits right in with today's baseball M.O. Actually, Major League Baseball should drop the first two words of its corporate name, because this operation is strictly bush league.
The players aren't any better, of course. Most of 'em don't care a feather or a fig for the Twinkies and Expos, who remain lopsided favorites for eventual execution. In Minnesota's case, the days when a Kent Hrbek felt great pride in playing for the Twins and a Kirby Puckett cried as he thanked loyal fans upon his retirement have gone the way of long-sleeved uniform shirts and baggy pants. All that bothers the players and their union are the number of jobs that will pay journeyman jocks millions of dollars a season to sulk in a corner of the dugout.
I'm glad Cal Ripken hung it up after last season. I don't think he'd enjoy being a part of what baseball has become.
When we label contraction and its delay as the dumbest baseball stunt of all time, that's quite a compliment. After all this is the sport that:
Plays all the games of its championship series so late at night that little kids supposedly the fans of the future could practically catch the school bus minutes after the final out.
Allows pitchers and batters to dawdle so long between pitches that a three-hour game has become a quickie.
Gives us nearly 30 years of the absurd designated hitter rule, and then in only one of the major leagues.
Pays its players such ludicrously high salaries that most fans can only afford to visit a major league ballpark two or three times a year.
Proceeded for more than six decades with an unwritten law banning men of color.
And, perhaps worst of all, doomed the nation's capital to 30 years without representation.
And so, you ask, why should anybody in his right mind be a baseball fan any longer?
I can't answer that for you. Every person who once cherished America's game must decide for himself when he has had enough. After all, there are other sports and other pursuits out there fighting for our attention.
The only thing that keeps a lot of us going, despite all the stupidity, is that we grew up with baseball playing and watching it was an essential part of our lives. How essential? Well, I can still remember what teams won every pennant and World Series since 1900 because I memorized it as a kid. I grew up at a time when Clark Griffith and Connie Mack were alive and revered as grand old pioneers of the grand old game. I remember when men of my father's generation still talked of and marveled at the power of Babe Ruth's bat and the speed of Walter Johnson's fastball. I did the same about Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Warren Spahn and my children listened.
Nowadays, fewer and fewer young people clutch baseball to their breast and how can you blame them. Thanks, Bud Selig. You and your minions have helped turn the greatest game ever invented by man into a sickening mess I hope you're proud of yourselves. And by the way, have a nice holiday season.

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