Baseball announced yesterday that it had no announcement to make.
Commissioner Bowie Kuhn said that it would take at least one more day to finish discussions on a new playoff format that would preclude the possibility of a team throwing a game. "We haven't made a final decision yet, but we'll probably have an announcement on Wednesday," said Kuhn.
"We thought we had the right answer before, and we were wrong," said Chuck Adams of the commissioner's office. "We don't want to rush now. We want to make sure we have the best approach, one with no loopholes. And we want to make sure everybody has their say."
Others disagreed a bit with that explanation of the delay.
"The decision is now in the hands of the real commissioner of baseball -- Marvin Miller," said Hank Peters, Baltimore general manager, referring to the head of the Major League Baseball Players Association. "A decision may have been reached, but, presumably, we don't want to announce it until we're sure the players won't shoot it down."
"Baseball has sent us some 'what if' proposals that we are now getting a sounding on from players," said Don Fehr, general counsel for the players association. "Whether they are part of some final decision, I don't know.
"We have a couple of problems with what they've shown us . . . We view it generally with no great enthusiasm . . . Do you think we want to be any part of this fiasco? The owners said that they would take care of designing this format for the second half. Well, they really designed it. Now, I guess we'll let them undesign it."
Fehr confirmed that one of the 'what ifs' was a proposal to change the method for picking a wild card team. Instead of having the team with the second-best overall percentage for the season meet a double winner in the playoffs, that spot would go to the team that finishes second in the second half.
"That would seem to be the easiest solution (to integrity problems)," said Fehr, "and that (easiness) seems to concern them."
An unexpected source of problems could be the owners' idea of rewarding a winner of both halves of the season with a format in which it plays the first playoff game on the road and all others at home. "Some clubs could have trouble with the 1-4," said Fehr.
It may require more time for the players to take an unofficial poll of their membership than it does for organized baseball to reach a consensus within its hierarchy on a new wild card plan.
"The commissioner may not give us (the clubs) a chance to vote on these changes, but you can be sure that Miller will let his players have their say," said Peters with asperity.
Peters is one of a half-dozen general managers who, since last Friday, has been pleading with the sport's management to make fundamental rather than cosmetic changes in the game's current impromptu format. He had hoped for another owners' meeting and a general airing of views. It won't happen.
"We've done all we can do to impress the people in New York with our thoughts," said Peters, referring to Kuhn and the two league presidents who have been ruminating over the needed changes. "We're just six voices crying in the wilderness.
"They're only concerned with preserving the game's integrity when they should be worried about preserving its credibility, too," said Peters. "A vast number of fans out there are shaking their heads at the credibility of the system we have now . . .
"Or, I guess you could say, its incredibility."
Baseball watchers are just beginning to appreciate the irony of the owners' vote two weeks ago in Chicago. Then, one swing vote by the Montreal Expos decided the issue in favor of a split season rather than a mere continuation. Had the Expos stuck with the other dissidents from Philadelphia, St. Louis and Cincinnati, the split season plan could not have passed the National League, and would almost certainly never have been put in effect. In Expo President John McHale's words then, "We voted in favor of the split season because we didn't want to thwart the will of a clear majority. But we don't like the idea at all."
"If the Expos hadn't swung over, yes, it's probably doubtful we'd have had all this happen," said Peters. "I don't think Kuhn would have had the authority, or perhaps even the inclination, to try to do it on his own (power).