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Touching 'Em All
by Dr. Tom
Are Pedro and the Red Sox good enough to do this all season long?

This being my first piece for the new Baseball Revue, I'm going to take a look around the majors and touch on a few things.

First: Is Jose Canseco Hall Of Fame material? He just hung up the cap and spikes, and now the inevitable question is coming in. His combination of run production and speed has only been equaled by a handful of players, and the only one of that group not in the Hall (Barry Bonds) is a lock if there ever was one.

The problem is, all of those people are better than Jose Canseco was.

Canseco was good, sure. His 162-game average (40 homers, 120 RBI and 17 steals) was scary good. Unfortunately, he almost never played 162 games in a season. When healthy, he was a force to be reckoned with at the plate. But a guy who will go down as the second-best player on a team known only for two isn't worthy of enshrinement.

In fact, I'd say Canseco's Bash Brother Mark McGwire isn't a lock for Cooperstown, either. He briefly set the single-season home run record and hit a lot of dingers after discovering the marvel of questionable dietary supplements. But he has his own injury history, as well as a few mediocre seasons. Anyone who hits .201 over a full season is an immediate question mark in my opinion. I'd give McGwire better odds than Canseco to get in (I wouldn't vote for either of them, myself) in five years, though.

The biggest surprise to me is that so many people are speculating as to Canseco's Hall worthiness. Did I miss something when the flyball bounced off his head for a home run? It must have given him a concussion, because he then thought he could pitch, and all it cost him was an elbow ligament and the rest of his credibility. Not all his injuries were self-inflicted, but all the damage he did to his image and reputation was, and when you combine that with borderline stats, he'd better hope the Veterans' Committee fondly remembers him in a couple decades.

Second: I hope you weren't getting too attached to this season, because it might be ending sooner than you though. As you can see on the site's home page, players are considering an August strike to avoid having an impasse declared in the offseason. That would allow the owners to put in their own financial plan, which would spell the end of quarter-billion dollar contracts, at least for a couple years.

As a fan fed up with baseball's continuing labor problems I can only say this: go on strike. Go. Walk out. You'll find there are a lot of people as fed up as I am, and no Cal Ripken to carry the game on his back after you decide to return to the field. In short, what the players might gain financially from a strike, they would lose tenfold in fan support. I cancelled my partial plan Orioles season tickets after the 1994 season. This time, I think more people would be with me.

Every sport has labor disputes, the results of which always seem to be larger salaries, longer games, and higher prices for the fans. How much longer will baseball fans allow themselves to be pissed on before they finally get pissed off? How much longer will we allow ourselves to be taken for granted and have our sheepish loyalty presumed?

Maybe a few months (or longer) off will teach the players how good they have it. They get paid very handsomely to play a game most of us would play for free. The labor vs management conflicts created by the union are to blame. What, team salaries will be capped at $75 million? Boo-hoo. That's still $3 million per player. No more guaranteed contracts? Wee-wah; earn your keep like everyone else in the workforce (except George Lucas). Basically, the players need to grow up, shut up, and realize that 99% of American men would trade places with them in a nanosecond.

If they do strike, returning to empty stadiums, catcalls, and general antipathy from the public might be the best lesson the players could learn.

Third: Kerry Wood had a point. And the best way for management to acknowledge that is to send Don Baylor packing. Not because Wood spoke out, but because it's time for a change. The Cubs are rapidly turning into the Royals of the NL, just with better bleacher bums. And like the Royals, they're sticking with their manager longer than necessary. Loyalty to a good baseball man is one thing; loyalty to your fans is the more important thing. Granted, the fans will blindly support the Cubs no matter how awful they are, but management should at least try to put a winner on the field.

Home: Who mixed the whoop-ass into the Red Sox's Gatorade?

They have a better record than the Mariners, they're leading a good Yankees team by three games, and everything has fallen into place so far. Most impressive of all is their 17-4 record away from Fenway. Some rough times could be ahead, with slugger Manny Ramirez out for a month and a half, and games against Seattle, Chicago, and the Yankees coming up.

The Red Sox have scored the third most runs in baseball, and are tied with the Giants for fewest allowed. Pedro has reminded everyone that he is, indeed, still Pedro. Derek Lowe has been amazing as their #2 starter. Heck, their worst starter has been Frank Castillo, with his terrible 3.79 ERA and atrocious 38 baserunners allowed in 40 innings.

They're not this good, folks. They're good enough to give the Yankees a run, but the Red Sox have to come back to earth at some time. The next six weeks should allow the Yankees to overtake them, thus restoring the universe to its proper order. Expect the Red Sox to hang in there until the end, though, and maybe even sneak away with the division if the Yanks flounder late. But since NY can trade for anyone it wants (Cliff Floyd), what are the chances of that happening.

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