Not another ’94

I remember 1994, and it was not a good year. That year was the last time baseball was in as much trouble as it is now. For those who recall it, 1994 was baseball’s black eye: the first year without a World Series since 1905. Conflicts concerning a new labor agreement were the source of the strike that wiped out the ’94 Series. Unfortunately, the grumbling over issues between the owners and the players are cropping up again since the two sides have been operating without a collective bargaining agreement since November.

With the All-Star game on tap in Milwaukee Tuesday, it would appear that Major League Baseball should be taking this time to celebrate. Instead, the themes of this year’s game are memorials, steroids and strikes. The recent deaths of St. Louis broadcaster Joe Buck and pitcher Darryl Kile, along with the passing away of Hall of Famer Ted Williams Friday have sent baseball into a prolonged period of mourning. So, instead of a party in Milwaukee this week, the atmosphere will more closely resemble a funeral. But, the mourning and the black cloud won’t go away after this week, and there appears no end in sight for baseball’s woes.

The ads for Tuesday’s game were supposed to capitalize on the comic book success of Spiderman the movie, yet with the recent steroid revelation, everyone has pounced on the campaign as only endorsing the fact that players are larger than life. Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, both of whom have had to try to downplay their heavily muscled physiques, are eerily portrayed like the Incredible Hulk. Even for someone like myself who reveres this game, once the notion that steroids are a part of the game, it’s hard not to ponder who’s doing them and what numbers have been enhanced or records broken because of steroids.

I haven’t even broached contraction, either.

Yet, even all these issues pale in comparison to the thought of another year without a World Series. The union representatives are to meet this week with the likely agenda of setting a strike date. Hard to believe that after the lambasting baseball took in ’94, they’d allow themselves to be in this position again. And yet, here we are.

My only hope is that if the owners and fans push hard enough for steroid testing that the players’ union will yield if it can get something valuable in return. Maybe steroids can save baseball.

1994 – it keeps ringing in my head.