Baseball owners, players, fans are all out of whack with reality

Friday, August 23, 2002
John Mesh

A recent poll by ESPN or FOX or some network who was the most out of touch with reality and fans -- Major League Baseball owners or players.

There should have been a third part to the poll -- both.

There should have been a fourth part to the question -- fans.

Fans -- or the lack of them -- have contributed to the problem.

The dumbest question asked recently and often is "Will fans return to ballparks if there's a strike?"

While it's wishful thinking by baseball haters that they won't, what baseball fans exist will watch the games and might even attend a game in person.

That might be kind of unrealistic for baseball fans here in McCook, Nebraska. I assume there are a few of us out here.

The Colorado Rockies are 4-5 hours away, the Kansas City Royals are seven hours away, the Minnesota Twins are 10 1/2 hours away, the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals are about 12 hours away and Chicago is 13 hours away.

This, of course, depends on how heavy your foot is.

The reality is that even before the Aug. 30 strike date looms, fans aren't going to the games now.

It appears that baseball fans are already on strike.

Occasionally one can hear radio playbacks of one obnoxious non-baseball fans yelling over the telephone "if they go on strike, I'm not coming back."

You were never there in the first place, buddy. You and millions of others are part of that pathetic group of human beings that call talk radio programs just to hear your gums flap and waste much-needed oxygen.

With the exception of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and the lowly Chicago Cubs, one would think that baseball fans are already on strike.

Despite the fact they've won 10 straight division titles and are running away to an 11th, the Atlanta Braves don't draw capacity crowds.

So the idea of a fan walkout is ludicrous. They've already taken a hike.

That's why 29 of the 30 Major League Baseball teams are operating in the red.

The average salary in baseball is $2.4 million. A fan can buy a general admission ticket to a Kansas City Royals game for $8 -- $4 on Mondays.

The whiners say "I'm not going to pay to watch a bunch of millionaires."

Yet movie-goers willingly cough up $6-8 to watch a Tom Cruise movies and he makes anywhere from $20-25 million a flick.

For the youngsters, actress Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blonde, Election, Cruel Intentions) commands $8 million a flick.

By the way, I cannot take credit for this analogy. A radio disc jockey came up with this idea.

No one's going on strike to stop watching movies. Tom Cruise's salary isn't the reason people watch his movies.

This theory also applies to your favorite musicians.

As far as I know, no one has suggested to Tom Cruise or Arnold Swarzenegger that can't make gazillions of dollars because of a salary cap or revenue sharing.

Sports, movies and music have one thing in common -- they were invented to entertain us.

Here's a novel idea first brought up by Kansas City Star columnist Joe Posnanski:

Instead of not showing up at the games, why don't baseball fans pack the parks. That will show the owners and players who should be in charge.

- Sweeney leads AL batting race -- If you've glanced at the American League Leaders in the scoreboard section, you would noticed that Kansas City's Mike Sweeney leads the batting race.

Sweeney missed one month of the season with back and hip problems, but now has enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting race.

Sweeney's name was not on the Associated Press list because they were basing their stats list on at-bats.

But according to the Major League Baseball rule book, the batting title is based on plate appearances -- at-bats plus walks, sacrifice flies, sacrifices, times hit-by-pitch and catcher's interference.

Batting averages are based on the formula of 3.1 PA's times the number of games played by each team. The 3.1 number is the average of PA's each player makes in each game.

A player needs 502 PA's to qualify for the batting title. Sweeney has 348 AB's and 406 PA's through the Royals' 128 games. He has walked 48 times, has six sacrifice flies and has been by pitches four times.

He will likely be batting third in the order to get more PA's. The Royals have 34 games left on the schedule, so Sweeney should get 100-105 more PA's.

Sweeney's main challengers for the batting title will be New York Yankees' center fielder Bernie Williams, who recently had 11 consecutive hits, and Seattle Mariners' right fielder Ichiro Suzuki.

Sweeney was hitting .351 through Thursday's games, Williams .343 and Suzuki .341.

Sweeney's run for the batting title is reminiscent of KC Hall of Famer George Brett's amazing 1980 season in which he won the batting title with a .390 average.

Brett went on the disabled list three times and played in only 117 games. He amassed 449 AB's and 515 PA's -- 13 more than needed.

Brett was batting over .400 late in the season and was just five hits away from being the first player to reach .400 since the legendary Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941.

H 447 and counting ... -- Last week I reported that the University of Colorado's 2002 football media guide was 440 pages long.

This week the University of Nebraska football media guide was published. It came in at a whopping 447 pages.

Whenever Joyce Carol Oates said whatever she said about trees, she obviously didn't have sports information departments in mind.

John J. Mesh is the sports editor of the McCook (Neb.) Daily Gazette. This column killed more than its fair share of trees. You can e-mail John at

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