- The Washington Times - Monday, August 26, 2002

Baseball is down to a couple of days and a couple of lawyers.
You can feel the tension in the words of the principals. Oh, my. The welfare of the game is at stake, as welfare is defined by millionaires and billionaires.
Alex Rodriguez, the $252million shortstop of the Rangers, has offered to swallow a 30 to 40 percent cut in pay, if it will help the two sides join hands and lip the words to "We are the World."
The gesture is amusing, if being a day late and a dollar short is applicable around anyone in baseball. Most can afford to be both because of the ample supply of suckers in their midst.
The disgruntled fan has resurfaced in news dispatches in the last few weeks. Have you heard? He is done with baseball this time. No. Really. He means it this time. This is almost as amusing as Rodriguez's bid to go on a tight budget.
The disgruntled fan always comes back to the game, if you consider his eight previous empty threats. The disgruntled fan is easier than Renee Zellweger in "Jerry Maguire." The players do not even have to say, "Hello." A disgruntled fan usually counts a spurned autograph request from a ballplayer as sufficient interaction.
Bud Selig is working hard to avert the game's ninth work stoppage since 1972. That should be taken as a cue to pull out your NFL pompoms.
Are you ready for some football? Speaking of which, is football ready for the Redskins?
Steve Spurrier is the NFL's Preseason Coach of the Year, easy. He has rediscovered the touchdown in what has become "a field goal league," as he puts it. The difference is startling, at least when the Redskins are going against the future convenience store clerks of America in the second half.
But back to the idyllic game of yesteryear and the clueless wonder who warms the commissioner's seat.
The former interim commissioner-for-life has been on a bad streak since the Diamondbacks revealed the humanness of Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera last fall. Selig interrupted the celebration with a plan to eliminate two teams, preferably the ex-Senators in Minnesota and the charity case in Montreal.
Selig left Washington's compelling demographics out of the financial charade, so as not to offend Peter Angelos, our buddy up the B-W Parkway. Selig's only acknowledgment to Washington came on Capitol Hill with a tin cup in hand. If life were fair, he would have been summarily dispatched to the old Palm Man's underpass on New York Avenue, if only to test his convictions with the elements.
Selig already has lost one World Series, in 1994, which is worse than the 2002 All-Star Game in Milwaukee that ended in a tie. The looming fallout from this labor-management snit would complete the "hat trick."
The quality of the negotiations is threatening to sink to brain-dead.
Even a former druggie, Ferguson Jenkins, is a model of clarity compared to the owners and players.
"Play and negotiate," he wrote in an open letter to baseball.
Jenkins has managed to state the obvious, which is saying something in his case. Jenkins won 284 games in the big leagues, as well as a free pass from an arbitrator and a Canadian judge after an estimated $500 worth of cocaine, marijuana and hashish was found in his suitcase by a Toronto customs official in 1980.
This is where baseball is, beneath the level of a one-time black eye whose place in the Hall of Fame is mostly useful to Pete Rose, who is not.
The Jenkins-Rose contradiction is the least of the contradictions with the owners and players. They function in such an unreal environment that they are left with what seems to be the old Vietnam strategy. They must destroy the village to save it.
The two sides are stuck on revenue sharing and a luxury tax, however each side crunches the numbers.
The process prompts eyes to glaze over among those who can recite which player hits what under a full moon after stepping out of the batter's box exactly four times and asking the umpire to call time twice.
The clock, meanwhile, is ticking down to Friday, the strike date.
The boys of summer, the owners and players, are throwing bean balls at one another again, on pace to hit the pause button a ninth time since 1972.
Ah, the game's tranquilness and wonderful simplicity.

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