- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 5, 2002

I turned on the television yesterday afternoon to watch Oakland and Minnesota in their American League Division Series, and three innings went by before I realized I was watching two guys playing Stratomatic baseball on public access television.

I kept surfing the channels for a while. You might want to know that Lotte beat Orix 6-5 in the Japanese league. It was a heck of a game. Kobayashi was the winning pitcher. They drew only 8,000 fans at Green Stadium in Kobe. Sounds like a potential home for the Montreal Expos next year.

Finally, I found the Twins and A's on the ABC Family channel. What, C-Span II wasn't available?

Is there any more haplessly run professional sport than Major League Baseball? Every time something goes right, commissioner Cadillac Bud Selig and his band of car salesmen manage to take the wind right out of the game's sails.

Last year as soon as a terrific World Series ended, Cadillac Bud declared that baseball would contract two teams. Now, just weeks after reaching a labor agreement for the first time without a work stoppage just when it appeared the game might be taking a very small step in the right direction baseball is suffering the embarrassment of having its showcase postseason games shuttled all over the television dial, like a George Foreman Grill infomercial.

I'm surprised they actually read the claim of ownership for the broadcast during yesterday's game. I would think that nobody would want to own up to this debacle. In the bottom of the sixth inning, analyst Rick Sutcliffe marveled at the size of the crowd at the Metrodome 56,000 and the noise levels and said, "I'll bet our television audience has been growing as this goes on because people are calling their friends and telling them you won't believe what is going on here."

It's a safe bet that the television audience grew as the game went on, but only because people were calling their friends to ask where the heck the game was. And this wasn't just small-market disrespect for Oakland and Minnesota. Last night's Yankees-Angels game was on ABC Family, too. You would think there was some kind of FCC doctrine barring the Yankees from being shown on any channel without the name "family" in it.

The Twins and A's certainly deserve better. They are both the anti-system teams in baseball, franchises that have refuted everything that is supposedly wrong with the game the whole big-market, small-market overblown debate.

In Minnesota, the bargain-basement Twins put together a Hollywood-like season, a team that was deemed so irrelevant to baseball that it was supposedly to be closed down this year, and it won a division title and made the playoffs. For Oakland, a team with the lowest payroll in baseball, this is its third straight trip to the postseason, and you could argue that over that span, only the Yankees have been a better team. (Is there any doubt that Oakland general manager Billy Beane should be the commissioner?)

Oakland is one win away from moving on to the AL Championship Series after its 6-3 win yesterday. For the Twins to win, they had to win both home games in the Metrodome, where they are believed to have a huge home field advantage, particularly when the house is full like it was yesterday. But this is a team that thrives on the prospects of being closed out. We've seen that.

Yesterday we watched two playoff teams battle each other, and neither one could be in the city where they reside now in three years, if they don't get new ballparks at least that's the party line being touted by baseball officials. That is all part of this disinformation campaign by Major League Baseball that they have all these options available to move the Montreal Expos. The fact is that after Washington, there is no place ready or willing at this point to take in a team. That's why Portland, Ore., is being propped up. And, of course, there is San Juan, Puerto Rico. And Kobe, Japan.

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