The reluctance of baseball fans to return to MLB stadiums in
droves this Opening Week is the focus of much media attention.
ABC's Armen Keteyian: "Baseball may be back but its vital signs
are decidedly mixed." Rangers President Tom Schieffer: "There's
going to be a period of time here that's going to be pretty hard"
("World News Tonight," 4/27). In this morning's WALL STREET
JOURNAL, Frederick Klein notes the fans' threats to get "revenge
by staying home," and writes, "Sure, we nodded, we've heard that
before. But maybe more attention should have been paid to them"
(WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/28). ESPN's Keith Olbermann: "It is far
too early to suggest that the near- boycott conditions will
continue in whole or in part, but if they do, the decline from
'94-95 might be the steepest attendance drop since the Players
League War of 1890" ("SportsCenter," 4/27). ESPN's Peter
Gammons: "I'd really like to thank the players union for
threatening to strike the All-Star game. I mean, let's try to
keep the fans away and turned off as much as possible. That's
just ridiculous" ("Baseball Tonight," 4/27). NEWSDAY's Steve
Zipay notes that ratings were up in New York for both the
Yankees' home opener on MSG and the Mets road opener on
SportsChannel (N.Y. NEWSDAY, 4/28). Tonight's "Nightly Business
Report" will report on the business of baseball (PBS, 4/27).
AROUND THE LEAGUE: In Toronto, Jim Proudfoot calls
yesterday's 31,073 crowd -- the smallest ever at SkyDome --
"downright worrisome" (TORONTO STAR, 4/28). Although the
official count for yesterday's Braves game was 26,120, I.J.
Rosenberg reports an actual crowd of 10,000-16,000 and cites
"obvious distaste for major league baseball" (ATLANTA
CONSTITUTION, 4/28). The Giants expect 30,000 for today's home
opener, around half of what they drew last season (SAN FRANCISCO
CHRONICLE, 4/28). Finally, the Mets have only sold 20,000 for
tonight's opener (N.Y. POST, 4/28).
The Ontario Labour Relations Board heard closing arguments
yesterday from lawyers representing players, owners and umpires,
but did not rule on whether replacement umps would be banned in
Toronto under Ontario's anti-scab worker law. While noting that
umpires had never filed as a union in Ontario, AL Counsel Roy
Filion said the MLBUA "cherry picked this opportunity to bring
this application forward" (Donovan Vincent, TORONTO STAR, 4/28).
Blue Jays Counsel Gordon Kirke argued that the umps "are not
employees of ball clubs because it would compromise their
integrity" (Dan Ralph, CP/OTTAWA CITIZEN, 4/28). Meanwhile,
Kirke told the OLRB that a ruling against the league would mean
the Jays playing in Dunedin, FL -- an option that "sent a visible
jolt" through Blue Jays President Paul Beeston (James Christie,
Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 4/28).
In the wake of the Reggie Lewis controversy which engulfed
the city of Boston and NBA circles last month, the NBA's drug
policy is examined in a front-page piece in this morning's BOSTON
GLOBE. Noting that only two of the over 300 players in the NBA
have been in treatment, Daniel Golden writes, "This small
proportion compared with some other pro sports and the American
workforce in general may mean only that the NBA is virtually
drug-free." Yet in the wake of the disputed Lewis story, "drug
specialists and several NBA coaches and players suggest that the
league's policy may be ineffective in uncovering drug use." Dr.
Lloyd Bacchus, an Atlanta psychiatrist who took over the NBA's
drug program last year, "expressed concern" about the number of
players treated. Bacchus has brought on two former NBA players,
both recovering addicts, to counsel players on whether to come
forward. Two key parts of the policy get close examination: the
need for "probable cause" (as established by an arbitrator)
before a veteran can be tested; and the exclusion of the teams
from testing and treatment. NBA Senior VP for Legal & Business
Affairs Jeffrey Mishkin, who noted that the policy is being
reexamined as part of talks with the NBPA: "We believe the drug
policy is working. We believe it's had a tremendous deterrent
effect. Are we ferreting out every last use of cocaine?
Probably not. There are obvious reasons why not" (BOSTON GLOBE,
STAY IN SCHOOL? In Washington, Tom Knott notes the
"hypocrisy" of the NBA's "Stay in School" program while college
sophomores and juniors are considering leaving school to enter
the NBA draft (WASHINGTON TIMES, 4/28).