Since the baseball strike started there has been a consensus that on or about Aug. 1 is the cutoff point, a time when the game must be resumed or, at least, a time when a settlement must be reached.
At least there is an agreement on something.
"It has to be somewhere around Aug. 1. We're getting too late," said Harding Peterson, Pittsburgh Pirate executive vice president. "You can't go too much less than 100 games."
"It would not make sense to start (playing) after Aug. 1," said E.J. (Buzzie) Bavasi, the executive vice president of the California Angeles. "I would think it has to be settled by July 26 (Sunday). That would give the players a week to get ready, which is about how much time they have before the start of spring training and the first exhibition game every year."
"It's not too late yet, but we have to get it going soon," said Oriole outfielder Ken Singleton. "Baseball is like an endurance test. The team that wins a division has endured. Everything in baseball is statistical, like a .300 hitter or a 162-game schedule. But no amount of these lost games can be made up. Things have been thrown off. We have to get going sometime in early August. For sure, this will be the year of the asterisk."
The Los Angeles Dodgers are losing between $300,000-$500,000 per home game, more than any other team in baseball, despite the owners' strike insurance policy that runs out on Aug. 6. Dodger owner Peter O'Malley said, "Maybe the (cutoff) point for playing is the middle of August, I don't know. I really haven't looked that carefully at the schedule. It's pretty hard to look at a schedule these days."
Most baseball people would consider 100 games a sufficient amount to constitute a season. "That's because it's three didits. It makes a psychological difference," said Hank Peters, Oriole general manager.
The Orioles have played 54 games and would have to start playing again by Aug. 15, against Chicato, and then finish their schedule in order to play 100 games this year. The Other 25 major league teams are in a similar situation, with only a few days and games difference in scheduling.
The players have said they will need between 10 days nnd two weeks to physically prepare for the rest of the season. Aug. 15 is two weeks beyond the consensus cutoff point.
"Every pitcher would have to have three outings (to get their arms back into shape) and the outfielders and catchers would have to have their arms ready," said Cincinnati pitcher Tom Seaver. "It wouldn't be too tough for the hitters. I would say 10 days. But that's saying we're going to go back to work, and maybe we won't be back at all."
Aug. 1 is now nine days away.
For a moment, say the strike was solved.
There have been several contingency schedules proposed to Bowie Kuhn, the commissioner of baseball. So far, there have been plans by Al Rosen, president of the Houston Astros; Peters and Peterson.
Each has its own quirks and characteristics:
The Peters plan: "Mine is a two-tiered playoff system. I think we should play out the season to its conclusion, Then, take the first two teams in each division and play a three-of-five series to determine the (overall) division winner.Then the division winners would meet in the playoffs and then the World Series would follow," said Peters.
"This would account for the inequities caused by the strike. It would take into account TV and radio, which would be enhanced with another layoffs. I think this might add a little spice after a long spell without baseball," Peters added.
Then Rosen plan: "I proposeed a first-half winner and a second-half winner. The first half would be considered what has been played so far, before the strike. Then, you would start the second half from scratch, where every team would be equal.You might have to lop off the last couple of days of the season to create time for a playoff between the winners of each half in each division. We're trying to create fan interest," said Rosen.
The Peterson plan: "Four teams in each division should make the playoffs. Then, the first-place team would play the fourth--place team would play the fourth-place team and the second-place team would play the third-place team in a two-of-three series. Then, it would become the standard playoff and World Series," said Peterson.
"If you look at the standings, you would have a lot more teams with the possibility of making the playoffs. I just think it's better than some of the other things I've heard."
Eddie Robinson, Texas Ranger executive vice president, submitted a similiar contingency plan to Kuhn earlier this week. This plan would have four teams in each division making the playoffs. However, it would shorten the season from Oct. 4 to Sept. 24 to make room for the extra set of playoffs. "I believe this would be more meaningful than just playing out the rest of the season," said Robinson.
There have been other contingency schedules proposed. Dodger Coach Danny Ozark, for example, recently suggested that a poststrike schedule be created of solely intra-division play.
"It would save some money for one thing," Ozark was recently quoted as saying, "but the main part, is that we would have a true champion.
"To me, it is an easy schedule to work out and nobody would be hurt by it . . . Teams would be playing in their own divisions and clubs not in contention now can make up ground a lot faster by playing in their own division. The races are pretty close now anyway."
Phil Itzoe, Oriole traveling secretary, views the rescheduling possibilities differently. "It would be absolute chaos," said Itzoe. "We're supposed to go to Kansas City and Boston on our next trip. If we were told all of aq sudden that we were going to go to Cleveland and Toronto (two Eastern Division teams) instead, it would be very difficult and very confusing. Anytime it's necessary to replace a commercial charter flight at the last moment, you're talking about great expense. It could cost about twice as much. And then you have to deal with hotels."
Some people say each plan was constructed not so much for fan interest, but more for self-interest.
Peters' plan is formulated for two teams in each division playoff. The Orioles, who finished second last year, were in second place, trailing the Yankees by two games, before the strike.
Rosen's plan would create a new half and new start for each team. His Astros are currently eight games behind the Dodgers and are in third place. The Reds are second. A new start would not hurt the Astro playoff chances.
Another criticism of Rosen's plan is that every team had not played the same amount of games prior to the strike and, therefore, the "first half" cannot justifiably be considered complete. The Dodgers had played one more game than the Reds and led by a half-game. "Whether it's a half-game or 6 1/2 games, the point is Los Angeles was in first," says Rosen.
Peterson's plan recommends a four-team playoff system within each division. His Pirates were in fourth place when the strike intervened. Only the Mets and the Cubs are behind his Pirates.
Indeed, compensation is not the only divisive issue in major league baseball.
There also is the issue of the statistic. Its disappearance from the morning paper has been as disheartening as the players' disappearance from the field.
"The thread has been broken. As a historian, we'll always have to explain this year forever and ever," said Seymour Siwoff, the longtime director of the Elias Sports Bureau in New York, the official statistician for major league baseball.
"There is no way to compare this to anything else. We've never stopped in the middle before. The beauty of baseball is its continuity. But I can't tell you what will happen. The statistics will only be able to be resolved after a settlement has been reached. It's up to the authorities: the commissioner and the two league presidents," said Siwoff.
"There is one thing that must be made clear," said Jim Campbell, president of the Detroit Tigers, speaking of poststrike policy in general. "This will be a decision made by the commissioner of baseball."
So far, however, the commissioner has not said anything about poststrike contingencies. Chuck Adams, an official in teh commissioner's office, said simply, "Certainly, the commissioner has done everything within his power to achieve a settlement."