2002-08-10 / Sports

Major League Baseball

By Bryan Hoch
Major League Baseball: A Revision of Hell By Bryan Hoch Baseball Columnist

Major League Baseball:
A Revision of Hell
Baseball Columnist

Just before the Mets were to suffer an embarrassing four-game sweep at the hands of the Arizona Diamondbacks, a reporter asked Mike Piazza ‘the question’. Even if you didn’t realize it yet, it was an undeniable truth.

Mike, is this baseball hell?

It certainly felt that way sitting through a tortuous doubleheader at Shea Stadium on a steamy Saturday afternoon, the kind of humid, muggy day that you break a sweat just thinking about walking back to your car. For many of the Mets, they would have been better served just staying home and watching a DVD.

Try as you might, there’s very little to cheer with the 40th Anniversary edition of the Amazin’s. Outfielder Jeromy Burnitz is receiving deafening choruses of boos at Shea on a regular basis, fan reaction to future Hall-of-Famer Roberto Alomar is indifferent at best and even the fan favorite Piazza has received his fair share of grilling on New York sports radio.

Before stinking up the joint last weekend against the defending World Champs, the Mets teased the Big Apple by going on a 12-7 run to close out the month of July, working their way right back to the fringe of the wild card race. And for all of Bud Selig’s troubles as commissioner of baseball, let’s thank him again for that precious fourth playoff berth, because otherwise the Mets would be staring hopelessly up at the Atlanta Braves from 20-or-so games back.

"We did whatever we needed to do and didn’t finish it," said first baseman Mo Vaughn, one of the few productive players on the roster of late. "We’ve got to make sure we take care of our business."

Business? Did somebody say business? Yes, the corporate side of the game is rearing its ugly head in Flushing Meadows yet again, with the looming specter of a strike giving Big Apple fans reason to count down the number of weeks to the opening of NFL season (the Giants open Sept. 5 vs. the 49ers, the Jets on Sept. 8 at Buffalo).

Even the hardy folks at USA Today’s Baseball Weekly see the thick clouds of black work-stoppage smoke on the horizon – on Sept. 4, their publication becomes Sports Weekly and will start to cover gridiron action.

But beyond that, Mets ownership is making their own headlines with a quibble over control of the team. Co-owner Nelson Doubleday agreed to sell his share of the team to Fred Wilpon at a price determined by an independent appraiser earlier this season, who valued the club at $391 million.

Later, Doubleday did his homework and found that the ‘independent’ appraiser, a former Arthur Andersen accountant named Robert Starkey, had strong ties to Selig and may have been working with Major League Baseball to create phantom financial losses. Lord, can’t this game get anything right?

And yes, I’m going to touch upon a certain series of events last week that involved yours truly and made the front page here at the Wave. You would think, that with all of the uncertainty and turmoil surrounding MLB, that they would welcome an outlet – albeit unofficial - for information and support regarding their troubled game. Heck, if I stood on a street corner telling people to buy Doritos, would lawyers from Frito-Lay come after me?

Guess not. The wildly popular Internet site MetsOnline.net is history, and MLB isn’t stopping there – this week, cease-and-desist orders were also filed against Bronx-Bombers.com, a Yankees fan site, and MotownTigers.com. So not only is baseball driving away their customers at the gate with poorly run administration and a possible book-cooking scandal, they’re also telling their most loyal supporters to take a hike.

Mr. Piazza, we’re not quite in baseball hell yet. That comes in about a month or so, when the Players Association tells you guys to pack your bags and leave Shea and Yankee Stadiums for the fall, forgetting altogether to complete the regular season. Why not? July’s All-Star Game already left us hanging.

Whenever the game does eventually decide to come back, most of the fans won’t, just as roughly 40,000 New Yorkers didn’t feel like sticking around to watch the free second game of last Saturday’s Mets-D’Backs doubleheader. Now that would be a fitting conclusion to this saga.

*****

Bryan Hoch covers the New York Mets for FOXSports.com and appears weekly in the Wave. He can be reached via e-mail at bryanhoch@yahoo.com.


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