Even for those enured to baseball's low standards in high places, this week is a bench mark.

On Monday, the game's umpires went out on a strike that easily could have been avoided. They've been replaced by college umpires who try hard but are incompetent by the big league standards. It's just luck that a pennant hasn't been decided on a bad call that would haunt an amateur league ump all his life.

This evening and again Saturday, the National League playoff games here were scheduled for 5:35 p.m. (PDT) -- twilight time when the ball is barely visible for the game's first 60 to 90 minutes.

Of all baseball's ongoing disgraces, this is the most galling, inexcusable and greedy. Grab that prime time cash. For a league to play 1,000 day or night games, then decide its champion at dusk under farce conditions, is a travesty that baseball pulls year after year.

There's more. This Sunday night, baseball has had the gall not to offer to change its schedule to avoid having a playoff game go head to head with a presidential debate.

Sure, baseball picked its date first, but wouldn't any sport with a sliver of civic-mindedness go out of its way to avoid such a bread-and-circuses joke? It must really be 1984 when ABC-TV has a hard time deciding whether it will show the Kansas City Royals or the presidential candidates in a prime time slot.

Even if you would rather see the Tigers and Royals engage the issue than watch two politicians avoid the issues, that is still hardly the point.

Baseball may luck out here though, naturally, through no merit of its own. If the NL playoffs end quickly, then an AL game might be started earlier.

Twilight, maybe?

As if this weren't enough, another bad joke is just around the bend. If the Cubs win the pennant, then Game 5 of the World Series in Wrigley Field would start at 2:45 p.m. (Chicago time) to avoid competing with televised National Football League games.

Maybe baseball's braintrust hasn't been informed of a strange atmospheric phenomenon unique to Chicago in October.

The sun goes down.

By 6 p.m., Wrigley Field, which hasn't had lights for the last 70 years and still didn't as of yesterday, is dark.

Not twilight dark. If it were just twilight who'd care? We could pretend a real baseball game was being played. No, we're talking about dark as in, "Excuse me, do you have a flashlight?"

Wednesday's AL playoff took 3 hours 37 minutes. If Game 5 of the Series lasts 3:15, let alone 3:37, it'll be the first game ever called on account of stupidity.

All these problems could be solved if only some superhuman creature existed with the power to do anything necessary "in the best interests of baseball."

Such a shaman wouldn't waver.

First, he'd solve the umpires strike in a day. He'd call in the league presidents, who've been dickering with the umps for six months, and he'd whisper in their ears, "What have you comedians been doing? Can't I even send you to the store alone?

"We have 650 big league players making an average salary of $300,000. We have 60 umpires whose average salary is less than 1/10th that much. The umpires' total demands are $300,000.

"In other words, we can end our embarrassment, protect the integrity of our product and take a step toward paying the umpires the wage they've deserved for decades all for the cost of one mediocre ballplayer.

"So pay 'em."

Next, this mighty creature would attend one of the twilighters here and say, "Well, this'll never happen again. Henceforth the most important games of our season will be played in light at least the equivalent of a dim refrigerator bulb. This may cost us some TV bucks, but, hey, we just signed a $1.1-billion TV contract. We can afford to give a little of it back."

While the baseball world was still in state of shock, this mighty leader would say, "We will not play our games head to head with any presidential debates because it's crass beyond belief. We will be patriotic, change our starting time and reap big points in the image sweepstakes.

"Conversely, we will play all our Wrigley Field World Series games at 1 p.m. like sane human beings. We don't think anybody in his right mind would watch Week 7 of the NFL when they could watch Game 5 of the Series.

"Challenge the NFL? Sure. We've got guts. Detract from a vital debate? Not us, not American's pastime."

Sadly for the sport, no such deity exists.

Sure, you say, the commissioner of baseball has the power to do all of this. Unilaterally. Even the courts would back him.

But you know wishy-washy old Bowie Kuhn. Never stands up to the owners in a labor argument. Never intervenes when negotiations fail and a strike arrives. Never stands up to the TV networks.

Gee, if only somebody with some brains and some brass, somebody like that guy who ran the Olympics, was in charge of baseball. He'd do something.

Yes, Peter Ueberroth.

Funny, haven't heard a word from him lately.

Wonder where he is?