clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

SO MUCH TO DO - SO LITTLE TIME

General managers are scrambling to sign players and Louisville Slugger is in a frenzy making fresh bats. Schedules need to be revised, scoring rules must be rewritten and there's an umpires' lockout to resolve.

Plus, major leaguers and management still do not have a contract.At least, though, baseball finally seemed to be moving forward Monday.

"There's unfinished business," batting champion Tony Gwynn said as he checked into San Diego's spring camp in Peoria, Ariz.

"The buzz that usually comes through you when you come into the clubhouse didn't come this time because I know we still have to get an agreement," he said. "Hopefully, with everything we've gone through, they'll realize we can't go through this again. Let's get to the table and iron out an agreement."

So much to do and so little time to do it. Camps officially open Wednesday, exhibition games begin April 13 and the regular season starts April 26. On Monday, a day after owners accepted the players' back-to-work offer, all sides seemed eager to get going following the 232-day strike.

A sure sign that big leaguers were back: A Rolls-Royce rolled into training camp. Out stepped All-Star Lou Whitaker, ready for action at Tigertown in Lakeland, Fla.

"I could just wake up out of bed and play," the Detroit second baseman said.

There were plenty of other indicators, too.

In Cincinnati, team owner Marge Schott sounded a horn on a fire truck that started the city's traditional opening day parade, albeit now three weeks early. Had the season started with replacement players, the Reds would've opened Monday.

In Baltimore and Boston, fans lined up outside Camden Yards and Fenway Park to buy tickets, and the Minnesota Twins offered them at half-price. President Clinton even said he might throw out the first ball, something he said he wouldn't do if replacements were on the field.

"We've been waiting for today for a long time," Boston Red Sox manager Kevin Kennedy said at camp in Fort Myers, Fla. "It's going to be fun now."

Tigers manager Sparky Anderson, who left camp in February rather than work with replacements, prepared to arrive today in Tigertown. Toronto manager Cito Gaston, who had been coaching minor leaguers instead of the strikebreaking team, readied to take over the real Blue Jays.

To play, though, teams need bats. Ten clubs had not placed their orders with Louisville Slugger while waiting for the walkout to end, and now they need 6,000 new bats right away.

"It's nuts in here today," company spokesman Chuck Schupp said. "We still have plenty to make."

Even more pressing is the issue of 800 unsigned players and 200 free agents. Dennis Eckersley became the first player to make a deal since the strike ended, re-signing with the Oakland Athletics.

Meanwhile, a special training camp has been set up in Homestead, Fla., for free agents, whose ranks include Bo Jackson and Orel Hershiser. In an unprecedented move, they will be allowed to play exhibition games against other teams.

Several trades are in the works. The Montreal Expos expect to swap either Marquis Grissom, Ken Hill or John Wetteland this week, while St. Louis may send Mark Whiten to Boston for Scott Cooper.

"There's going to be good deals available," Montreal general manager Kevin Malone said.

The Los Angeles Dodgers announced Monday night that Brett Butler, their center fielder since 1991 when he signed with them as a free agent, won't be offered salary arbitration.

"I have spoken to both Brett and his agent, Dick Moss, and informed them that we will not be offering salary arbitration to Brett as a re-entry free agent," Dodgers general manager Fred Claire said. "I thank Brett for his four outstanding years with the Dodgers. He has made many contributions to the Dodger team and we appreciate all his efforts."

The situation with the umpires also is unsettled. They were locked out by owners Jan. 1 because of a contract dispute, and amateur fill-ins called the replacement exhibition games.

"I don't think there's any question that now that the regular major leaguers are back, it's more likely we will be able to make a deal," said Bob Opalka, an associate of umpires' union head Richie Phillips.

Other items pending:

- Revising schedules. Baseball plans to have new slates of 144 games, and possibly a few more, ready by Monday. Some teams can expect to play the day after the All-Star game, and also play one-day series.

- Rewriting scoring rules. Because pitchers won't have much time to prepare, starters must go only three innings, instead of the usual five, to get credit for victories through May 9.

- Rejiggering postseason TV schedules. ABC says it should get the World Series this year because it lost the event last season; NBC holds the rights to show the 1995 Series.

For most clubs, the priority is getting players into camp. That old spring training bug-a-boo - visa problems - was expected to prevent some Latin players from arriving on time.

Lenny Dykstra, in the meantime, was an early arrival for the Philadephia Phillies in Clearwater, Fla. His Mercedes was recently stolen, but he wasn't worrying.

"I'm going to go with a Porsche," he said. "Just an emblem switch, that's all."