Extra Points: Near the End of my Rope with Baseball
When it comes to baseball, my rope is pretty long and strong.
There have been times when it's been frayed. It nearly snapped in 1994, when a Major League Baseball strike wound up forcing the cancellation of the World Series. That turned me off to the point where I nearly gave up on the game. Yet when the season finally resumed in 1995, I was back in front of my TV each evening and occasionally in the press box at the Vet, watching Jim Eisenreich, the late Darren Daulton and staff ace Paul Quantrill help the Phillies finish 69-75 under late manager Jim Fregosi.
I'm at the end of the rope now.
The PGA is back on the course. The NBA, NHL and MLS are ready to return. The NFL is planning on/hoping for a full season.
Yet Major League Baseball is still in the dugout while owners and the players' union continue to bicker and feud. They had apparently reached an agreement in March on an 81-game season in which players' salaries would be paid on a pro-rated basis. The ensuing weeks have featured a stream of proposals, rejections, counter-proposals and counter-rejections.
It appeared as if an agreement was near last week, when commissioner Rob Manfred guaranteed baseball would be played in 2020, but he backtracked just a few days later. The MLBPA rejected the owners' latest offer on Saturday, said it is finished negotiating and has put the pressure on Manfred to implement a season.
"Tell us when and where!!" Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the three-time American League MVP from Millville, wrote on Twitter Tuesday, repeating a phrase used by Phils outfielder Bryce Harper and others.
The retorts were split. Some accused the players of being selfish while others pointed at the greediness of owners.
My favorite came from Wildwood Crest's Paul Franco, who is an avid sports fan.
He responded to Trout's request with "Jim's Lunch, Millville."
At the moment, you're more likely to see Trout downing a few dozen of Jim's burgers with special sauce than playing centerfield for the Angels.
While the two sides haggle, I've tried to satisfy by baseball fix by watching the Korean Baseball Organization. I also took in "The Long Gone Summer," ESPN's "30-for-30" documentary about the 1998 home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa on Wednesday afternoon.
Even with the fast forward function, that's one hour and four minutes of my life I'll never get back.
It was boring, featuring a barrage of clips of McGwire's and Sosa's home runs, and a little insulting in that it glorified their achievements while essentially glossing over the steroid scandal that rocked the sport in those days.
If you want to check out an interesting, riveting story home run race, watch HBO's 61*. Directed by Billy Crystal, the movie chronicles Yankees teammates Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, the "M&M Boys," during their chase of Babe Ruth's record in 1961.
Incidentally, Maris held the record longer than Ruth.
Maris faced enormous, relentless pressure on several levels. Not only was he threatening a hallowed record held by a Yankees legend, he was competing against Mantle, who followed Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio in the list of pinstripe-wearing icons.
Fans and media members openly rooted for Mantle, who developed a hip infection late in the season and finished with 54 homers.
On a local note, Mantle worked in Atlantic City after baseball. In 1983, he was hired as the new director of sports promotions for Claridge Hotel and Casino, which essentially amounted to playing golf with hi-rollers. Former Giants Hall of Famer Willie Mays had a similar role with Bally's.
The pressure would have been even greater nowadays with the onslaught of social media. Everyone's every move is captured on a cell phone and winds up on Twitter and/or Facebook and Instagram.
Twitter is crammed with videos of women behaving badly under the hashtag #KarensGoneCrazy.
Someone recently explained to me that not every Karen is a "Karen."
Of course, I already knew that. The former Karen Newton and I will be celebrating our 38th anniversary on Friday.