IT WAS ON the 88th day of the House Republicans' Contract With America that the major league baseball strike was resolved - but the biased liberal news media still hasn't given Newt Gingrich any credit for it.

And don't hold your breath waiting.As the irrepressible House speaker and his gang celebrate their contract's First 100 Days, they are primed to cite examples that are every bit as valid as my own purely factual (and nonsensical) juxtaposition. Their goal is to make you believe that liberal media bias should be blamed for any woes they've suffered in the polls or in Congress.

Lost in this blame game - and in the media's too-defensive overreaction - is reality and truth. The fundamental truth about the way Washington has been working for the past 100 days is that our nation's capital has been driven by a single engine of change: the contract.

Give Gingrich & Co. credit for that. The debate is not at all about anything President Clinton has been saying for the past two-plus years. And it is not about what Senate Republicans and their leader, Bob Dole, have been saying. It is about the provisions of the House Republican Contract - what Gingrich has been saying - and just how far we should go.

Remember what really happened in these first 100 days.

Ever since the historic Republican sweep last November, Gingrich has been unable to shake his penchant for pit bull politics, the attention-getting tactic he used outrageously but effectively an outsider in the dog days of Democratic control.

Unaccustomed to the reins of leadership and control, Gingrich spent much of his First 100 Days popping up in our living rooms on the TV news, reverting to his pit bull past, yapping and snapping at his opponents' pant legs, as though his goal was to get air time and score a political point or two.

His combative ways had little to do with fundamental change. Consider the push for a balanced budget, a noble and necessary goal. He pushed for a constitutional amendment to require it. But in his first deficit-cutting act, he pushed his tired political argument left over from the '80s: Cut public broadcasting, trim school lunch increases. Most of America liked these programs; most understood that the minuscule savings would be irrelevant to real deficit reduction.

Whither the leadership? Wither the leader. Gingrich's personal standing in the polls remains far lower, and his negative ratings much higher, than Dole's.

At his personal 100-day mark, the speaker, unable to shake his pit bull past, is neither (news)paper-trained nor House broken. He will not succeed as a speaker until he learns the difference between wielding the reins of power and straining at the leash.