Should baseball take a one-year hiatus?

February 13, 2009 | Drew Forrester

This is a week in baseball history that everyone involved in the game would like to erase.

The mega-star of the 21st century used steroids, lied about it, laughed at the others who got caught in 2007, then, fittingly, word-smithed his way through a crafty-apology-of-sorts on ESPN.

We also found out that 103 other players tested positive back in 2003 when the league was trying to figure out if the game had a problem with steroid use.  

Wednesday, another All-Star confirmed what everyone already knew.  He was a liar too.

From A-Rod to Tejada, to the 103 we don’t yet know, it’s literally a laugh-a-minute as the game we all knew and loved growing up continues to burn out of control.

And to think that I went to Memorial Stadium when I was 9, 10, 12, 14, 17 and 19 and wanted to BE a baseball player when I grew up.

I’m sure as hell glad I didn’t wind up being one of them.

Baseball – by the way – is fine.  The game…it’s perfect.  It’s still the same game I played at Dorsey Park on the outskirts of Glen Burnie when I was growing up.  You pitch the ball.  You hit the ball.  You catch the ball.  On warm days – and, if you’re lucky, on a cool, crisp Fall day – there’s not much better than baseball.

Baseball is fine. 

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL is not fine.

The time has come for the people who run the league, own the teams and, perhaps, cover the teams via the media, to seriously review the merits of a one-year hiatus.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

These are, indeed, desperate times.

Every home run in 2009 will be questioned.  Every 12 strikeout performance from a pitcher will be questioned.  Any player with big arms will be “on something”.  A guy playing all 162 games is no longer a “gamer” — he’s a cheater.

Players are still using human growth hormones in major league baseball.  Kirk Radomski joined me on The Comcast Morning Show on Thursday and confirmed that without a second of thought when I asked him the question:  ”Are players still using HGH in baseball?”  You can hear the interview in our audio vault on the front page of the WNST.net web-site.

The league is spinning out of control.  Players are still commanding salaries that far exceed their reasonable worth.  10 teams are spending money like it’s going out of style.  10 teams are trying to figure out how much to spend.  And 10 teams, our’s in Baltimore being one of them, are spending less than ever before for fear the crashing economy might leave them in the red at year’s end.  

Interest in major league baseball is down.  The league can report all the ticket sales numbers they want, but those of us who actually watch the games and still attend a few here and there know the real secret.  

Sponsors want to align themselves with marketing partners who possess a healthy community image.  The Orioles could field their own “hometown nine” of steroid users from the last 10 years.  The words “Orioles and steroid use” don’t collide very well with “healthy community image”.

Baseball needs to be re-shaped. 

It would be half-punishment, half-smart business.

These clowns running the league and playing in the league need to understand that there’s a price to pay for putting their greed and arrogance above the sport.  

The most recent precedent, of course, is the NHL.  The league called it quits for a year and didn’t play in 2004-2005.  Most folks thought the league wouldn’t survive a shutdown.

Boy, were they ever wrong.

The NHL is humming along better than ever right now.  The players and owners are on equal footing these days.  A league that lost $225 million in ’03-04 now features a more stable business plan, a much-improved working relationship with the player’s union and, ultimately, a much better game.   

Baseball might be well served to do the same thing.

Painful?  Sure.  Embarrassing?  Abso-friggin’-lutely.  A gamble?  Yes, perhaps.

But, those of us with a brain who continue to watch this charade are losing interest fast.  The attendance in Baltimore, for example, has been declining for years now.  The tickets cost too much.  The food and beverages in the stadium cost too much.  Most teams have created a silly “quality-of-opponent” tier pricing schedule that reeks of nothing more than “just keep on bending the fans over, they won’t do anything about it anyway.”  And yet, there’s nothing on the back end for the fans.  Players are generally unapproachable and the days of kids getting autographs are a thing of the past.  And, on the off chance you do catch up with a guy on his way to the parking lot, you’re likely to hear “Hurry up, I gotta be somewhere” (as he scribbles his name in a manner befitting a 5-year old) before you’ll hear, “Hey, it’s good to see you out at the ballpark today.  Did you like the game?”

The fans are the ones who continue to pay the price – in a bunch of ways – while the league (not the game, but the league) prances around like their poop doesn’t stink and the players make millions of dollars.

The only problem?  We’re all no longer buying in like we have in the past.

I talked at length this week about shutting down the league and starting over.  Re-align the divisions, create a system where teams would be grouped based on their revenue/expenses and win/loss record over a 3-year period and, perhaps, even consider things like standardized ballpark dimensions, a 130-game season and an expanded playoff format where 12 teams make the post-season every year.

I’m not willing to hear the argument:  ”you can’t do that…all the records won’t be consistent anymore.”

The records already aren’t consistent anymore.

You have the league, the owners and the players to thank for that.

I’ll have more next week.  I’m not going to blow hot air.  I’m not going to say, “shut down the league” and then not have a plan for it.

I do have a plan for it.  I’ll share it next week.

One thing I know for sure.

The plan currently in place isn’t working.

That, my friends, is not a low blow.  It’s just a fact.

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