As a lifetime baseball fan, I am as distressed as anyone over the strike, which threatens to wipe out one of the great seasons in recent memory. At the same time, given the long history of labor hostility between owners and players, not only this strike, but future strikes even uglier are inevitable. I believe that only one long-term solution exists - a radical but workable proposal.

Get rid of the owners.What good do they do? What useful function do they serve? Start a new league without them. The players are the product. As has happened in the car rental and airline industries recently, why not have an employee buyout of the company? Let the owners' hundred-million dollar investments crumble to nothing overnight. We want to see Frank Thomas and Barry Bonds play baseball. Make Rick Fehr the commissioner. Appoint club presidents. Revenue-share between the new franchises. Let the players make all the decisions - or their agents.

Let's face it, this strike will not be ending any time soon. The owners will not settle for anything less than a salary cap, and the players won't even discuss it. And why should they? Why on earth should entertainment celebrities in a free market economy agree to arbitrary limits on their earning power?

As for the owners' claim that they're all losing money, nonsense. A marketing firm recently did a survey that showed that it costs the average family of four $100 to go to a Major League ball game. The Colorado Rockies drew 4 million fans last year. That suggests a revenue from gate alone, 81 home dates, in the neighborhood of $100 million. Bob Lurie owned the Giants for 15 years. Bought them in 1977 for $8 million and whined about how much he was losing every year. In 1992, he sold them for $100 million.

The owners are not losing money, not going broke, and when they say they are, they're lying. They're useless parasites, killing the game for no good reason. Let's get rid of them.

Eric Samuelsen