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BATTER UP! LET HIM CATCH, TOO, AS TEAMS RUSH TO `DOWNSIZE’

SHARE BATTER UP! LET HIM CATCH, TOO, AS TEAMS RUSH TO `DOWNSIZE’

The name of the game in this country now is "downsizing." CEOs play it by reducing their work staffs, voting themselves a million-dollar bonus and having stockbrokers give them a ticker-tape parade down Wall Street.

What started as a small hobby in the executive-suites dining room has now become a major industry, with companies vying with each other as to how many people they can lay off. What you're hearing more and more from the brass upstairs is, "We had to burn down the company to save it."There is even talk that baseball owners, hit by high salaries and disappointing second-quarter hot-dog sales, are thinking of downsizing their teams.

At a recent meeting of the owners, Goldrick said, "Why can't we field eight players instead of nine?"

Popsicle said, "How will it work?"

"We could have the second baseman also fill in at shortstop. Many times my second baseman has absolutely nothing to do."

Pizza said, "I think we could play the game with seven players. We'll eliminate the center and left fielder, and the right fielder can cover everything in back."

Drumbeat said, "Suppose your center fielder is your best hitter?"

"Then you leave him in and pink-slip the third baseman."

Meatball said, "Why don't we eliminate the outfield completely and have first and third cover it? Or we could offer the catchers a buyout and install a computer in their place."

"Suppose they squawk?"

"We'll tell them if they won't go quietly, we're going to move home plate to Hong Kong and play all our games overseas."

"What can we do to make them feel less essential?"

"We'll offer to retrain them as TV repairmen."

"I like that idea," said Pizza. "And so will my stockholders. Fielding nine men on a team is a waste of money, and we're not keeping up with the times. We can't compete with the Japanese and Mexican teams if we don't cut costs."

"Will the fans be upset if we cut the teams down?"

"They will get used to it if we lower the price of Cracker Jacks."