Philadelphia Inquirer - February 24, 1980

Sports/People (excerpts)

 

As Rose sees it

 

 

Pete Rose concedes he is "one of a very few players who still get paid if they (the players) strike," but he hopes contract negotiations "don't come to that (a walkout)." Rose, whose four-year contract tops $3 million, said a strike would "really hurt the sport because there are people who don't forget. But we have to stand together, and I'd have to consider staying behind" with teammates who decided to strike.

Undeserved pacts cloud future

 

By Allen Lewis, On Baseball

 

There are many who believe that baseball is seriously mortgaging its future with unrealistic, multimillion-dollar player contracts. Even previously hard-line owners like Gussie Busch of the Cardinals have joined the trend.

 

St. Louis signed catcher Ted Simmons to a six-year contract for $665,000 per year before the start of last season. This month, it gave first-baseman Keith Hernandez a five-year pact for $750,000 a year. Neither contract is realistic, and both are indicative of baseball's flight from reality.

 

Simmons rates as only a fair catcher, although the position is one of the game's more difficult to fill, but he is neither a .300 hitter nor a power hitter. His 1979 figures (.283 average, a career-high 26 home runs and 87 runs batted in) attest to that.

 

Although Hernandez had an excellent 1979 season – .344 batting average and co-Most Valuable Player – this was his first outstanding year and the first time he has hit .300 in his 4½ seasons in the majors. What's more, he has little power (11 homers last year and 105 RBIs, 14 above his previous career high); like Simmons, Allen Lewis on baseball he can't run a lick, and he plays a position that is relatively easy to fill with a competent defensive performer.

 

Most important, however, is the fact that Hernandez is colorless, and the next fan who buys a ticket because he will get a chance to watch Hernandez play will be the first.

 

It may be argued that players such as Pete Rose and Rod Carew are similarly overpaid, but at least the Phillies and Angels received large and immediate financial returns in the form of increased ticket sales (and, in Rose's case, television revenue) after their signings.

 

Aided by recently announced ticket-price increases, plus increased TV fees, it's possible that baseball can survive its tremendous salary burden for a while. But, as the energy crisis worsens and almost surely brings gasoline rationing and possibly a large decrease in night games, will the red ink flow? We may see clubs that now routinely hit the two-million mark in attendance struggling to reach one million, especially in California, where public transportation is minimal.

 

If that happens, pay television may become mandatory for survival.

 

 

The answer to last week's Trivia Question: George Mullin of the 1907 Tigers lost 20 games, the most by any pitcher on a post-1900 pennant-winner. Mullin also won 20 games that season, compiling a 2.59 earned-run average. The biggest loser on a National League pennant-winner was Larry French, who had a 10-19 record and a 3.80 ERA for the 1938 Cubs. Gregory Yagle of Wilmington was first with the answer.

 

 

This week's Trivia Question (submitted by Jerry Orloff of Philadelphia): Name the winning and losing pitcher in the game in which Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's career home-run record.