There may be level playing fields somewhere, but not in major league baseball. The entire payroll of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays is smaller than the luxury tax imposed on the New York Yankees. As of this writing, the two teams are dead even at 8-11. Their dead heat wonít last long, but it does prove that even a Devil Ray has his day. And isnít it fun to fantasize the impossible; the Yankees finishing the season at that pace. It equates to a record of 68-94. George would be terribly understanding. After all, baseball is only a game. At least thatís what the fans in Tampa Bay and other third-world cities in MLB have to tell themselves every year as they watch their class AAA teams play in major league uniforms.
Terrell Owens and other jocks are rightfully criticized for not living up to their end of the bargain when it comes to signed contracts and commitments. But how about head coaches and management? Once again, itís Larry Brown. He is mentioned as the next coach of the Lakers or the Knicks; to do this heíd have to opt out of his Pistons contract. Brown has a history of saying bye-bye before his contract reaches its final destination. If players should not be able to change their minds mid-contract, then coaches and management shouldnít be able to either.
Story of the Week
Todayís feature story was written by Tim Dahlberg. He is a Las Vegas-based national columnist for the Associated Press. It was written on April 3. I have taken specific paragraphs and points from the article as it was quite lengthy. As my readers well know, I have frequently taken great exception to Bud Selig and MLB; please see my feature story of March 24 on the subject. So it is my pleasure to print the following by Tim Dahlberg, a journalist for whom I have great respect.
MARISí HOMETOWN HAS PERSONAL STAKE IN STEROID SCAM
As museums go, itís not much. Tucked away in a shopping mall next to a pet store, the Roger Maris Museum is little more than a large display case. Press up against the glass and you can see some home run baseballs from 1961, uniforms Maris wore, and a replica of his Yankee Stadium locker. Seats have been added to watch film clips of Maris hitting #61 in í61.
Itís not Cooperstown, but thatís another Maris story by itself. People in Fargo, North Dakota are proud of it, though, just like they are proud of their most famous native son. The Maris Museum is free to anyone strolling by the West Acres Mall. The tribute to Maris is straightforward and honest. Thereís old clippings, old bats, black and white pictures. It brings back memories of a time when things were simpler.
Those times were long gone by the time Mark McGwire broke Marisí record in 1998. By then, players had grown oversized muscles the likes of which were never seen on Maris when he passed Babe Ruth at Yankee Stadium on October 1, 1961.
Now, with a new season beginning, everyone and everything is suspect in a game that was never supposed to change.
The new season begins with McGwire disgraced after an embarrassing performance before Congress, in which he did everything but admit he used steroids.
The new season begins with questions swirling about Barry Bonds, his chase of Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron on the career homer list, and his eventual place in baseballís pumped-up Hall of Shame.
The new season begins with baseballís home run records nothing more than a sham, in need of a bigger asterisk beside them than the mythical one once given Maris.
The new season begins with the people of North Dakota wanting some justice for their hero.
This week, the North Dakota Senate passed a resolution asking baseball commissioner Bud Selig to reinstate Marisí 61 home runs as the official major league record. Thatís likely to happen about the same time Bonds hosts an appreciation party for the media, or the shrinking violet McGwire decides that he would like to talk about the past after all. But the mere fact that North Dakotans are upset ought to jolt some sense into the otherwise senseless Selig.
The same North Dakotans reluctantly embraced McGuire when he broke the record after he hit home run #62. If the record had to be broken, they thought this was the right guy to do it. Things have changed since those warm and fuzzy days that helped rekindle the nationís love affair with its national pasttime. Theyíve been replaced by different images, those of Jason Giambi repeatedly apologizing for something, McGuire being more evasive before Congress than a mob boss, and Bonds blaming everyone but himself for his sticky situation.
The Maris family has every right to feel used and cheated by baseball. Most of all, they want people to know that their guy played a pure form of the game, the kind that farm kids around the country played in his day. The new season begins today at Yankee Stadium, where Roger Maris set the record 44 years ago. Itís a good time to remember a past when you could trust what you saw on the field.
Last Weekís Trivia
Again, my thanks to John Ashley of Moorpark, CA. for this one. How can a pitcher pitch a perfect game, retire all 27 batters he faces, and the batting averages of those opposition players not change at all? Itís opening day of the season, everyone starts with a batting average of .000, and that opening day game keeps their batting averages at .000.
The NFL New York Giants have played their home games in three states. Name the three states. Name the four stadiums. See next weekís Sports Junkie for the answer.