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A BASEBALL AGREEMENT? STRIKE UP THE YAWNS.

Byline: Edvins Beitiks San Francisco Examiner

After almost four years of woofing, mewling and making fist-faces at each other, baseball players and owners are close to an agreement.

Oh boy.

The argument that started in December 1992 when owners balked at collective bargaining - a finger-pointing, sez-you whine-a-thon that has putrefied the baseball air - seems to be drawing to a close. It'll be over in a few days, they say, maybe a few hours.

As they grin and jingle and hitch up their pants after coming out of all-night negotiating sessions, both sides would have you believe everything's jake. It's not.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, baseball can do to wipe away the sour-milk taste of the last two years, when bad blood and blockheaded thinking forced the first cancellation of the World Series since the turn of the century and delayed the 1995 season by three weeks.

Last Monday marked the second anniversary of the strike that smelled up all of baseball for 232 days, and negotiators for the owners and players cozied up to TV cameras, making kissy-face, huggy-body moves, crooning lover's tunes in anticipation of an agreement.

Both sides are supposedly close on everything that kept them babbling at each other for the last three years - things like the luxury tax, three-man panels for arbitration cases and credit for service time during the strike.

Baseball fans, blinking at the list, must be wondering how this stuff ever became important enough to cost them a World Series and a good part of two seasons. They must be wondering, too, how people who couldn't be bothered to tell each other the time of day, year after year, suddenly found enough energy to meet 13 times over one weekend.

The answer is simple: They're jerks.

They're jerks because they gutted their own game to get more money out of it. They strangled the goose, then kept shaking its skinny neck when no more golden eggs fell out, scratching their heads, wiping away some lip-slobber and muttering to themselves, ``What's the do-da here?''

Even after they killed the '94 World Series they didn't realize they had soiled their own pants. They kept looking around, smelling something, noses honking through the room, never catching on that the stink was themselves.

Now they're batting their eyes at each other like Donald and Daisy Duck in a Technicolor cartoon. But when they open their mouths the same old hacking quacks come out, the same old self-serving screeds.

Those who have maintained a sliver of dignity through all of this look on from the side, shaking their heads.

Meanwhile, the Oakland A's, with the lowest attendance in the majors this year, made a move toward respectability by drawing 72,274 for their three-game series against the Indians last week. But their attendance is still down 200,000 from last year.

Between the team's catchpenny changeovers and Oakland's kowtowing to the Raiders, A's fans seem to be angrier at their franchise than any fans in baseball. But the A's aren't the only ones who are hurting.

Sunday is usually the fattest day of the week for teams. But Kansas City only drew 18,591 last Sunday, the Brewers had 19,178, the Cubs 20,120, and the Blue Jays - who once sold out the 50,000-seat SkyDome on an everyday basis - pulled in 32,162 for a game against Texas.

Baseball is not back, no matter what it keeps telling itself.

Neither the owners nor the players should be taking the fans' anger in stride, even after a new agreement has everybody glad-handing and giving out with greasy smiles all around.

There may be some love-ins going on in places like Baltimore and Cleveland, but most fans remember what it was like to have the World Series yanked out from under them, to have the best season in years come to a stop like a Buick slamming into a brick wall.

Those fans are going to greet the new contract between owners and players with a massive yawn. Baseball's got itself an agreement, after all these years? Oh boy.
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 18, 1996
Words:682
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