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End of the Strike Brings Changes to National Pastime

Column by David Berl and Jeremy Cohen
Sports Columnists

Not since the Roman Era have more empires been dismantled in a week. This week's major league garage sales in Kansas City and Montreal included the shipping of Kansas City's stud center fielder Brian McRae to the Cubs and Cy Young candidate David Cone to Toronto, as well as Montreal's Ken Hill, John Wetteland, and Marquis Grissom to the Cardinals, Yankees, and Braves, respectively.

The end of the strike has brought abrupt and disturbing changes to the nature of competition in the National Pastime. The small market franchise owners have spoken, in the grand style of a farmer's market auctioneer, and the result is unsettling.

The Expos' cries of "Do I hear token minor leaguer, token minor leaguer, token minor leaguer?" were answered by the likes of Class A outfielder Fernando Seguignol, Bryan "Ever-Cheerfull" Eversgerd and the nefarious Kirk "Candle-Pin" Bullinger. Meanwhile the departures of Hill, the National League's best pitcher outside of the Macon-Atlanta-Marietta metropolitan area, and Wettleland, the outstanding right-handed closer, have left Montreal with a "Big Oh" for a pitching staff as well as a stadium. The additional losses of Grissom to the Braves for Roberto "I prefer the moniker Bobby" Kelly and Tony "Hot Lousiana" Tarasco, and Larry Walker through free agency should tragically prevent the once young and talented Expos from garnering a World Series title.

In the American League, Hal McRae's sinking Royal ship threw two men overboard with the trades of Cone and McRae. Cone, whose bionic arm should have fallen off years ago, is a welcome addition to Cito "Flabber" Gaston's young pitching staff and could, as he did in 1992, spark the Blue Jays to the AL championship. The trade of McRae, perhaps baseball's most outstanding fielding center fielder, breaks up the top of the Royal's lineup and, more importantly, makes Brian the most prominent baseball orphan since Billy "I prefer the moniker Oliver" Ripken.

Seattle trades in the future

Baseball's sweeps week also involved several important free agent movements. The wealthy Colorado Rockies improved themselves greatly with the acquisitions of Larry Walker and groundball-pitcher Billy Swift. Maybe now the infield turf in Denver will get more use than the warning track. Also changing scenery this week were Jim Abbott, who should strongarm the Chicago White Sox to the Central title, John "Charcoal" Burkett and Bobby "Nimm" Witt, who bolster a weak Florida Marlins staff, and Orel "Tradition" Hershiser, who could put the "Cleave" back in Cleveland.

The selling short of major league franchises should continue into this week. Rumor has it that the Houston Astros are trying to give away over-priced lefty Greg Swindell for free, even throwing in promising young closer John Hudek. If Astro general manager Bob "Elementary, my dear" Watson fails to deal the pitcher by the time the season starts, you may be able to pick Swindell up for a fair price at a Houston branch of the Salvation Army.

The Seattle Mariners, whose Kingdome is far from rent-controlled, also need to work a deal to alleviate some salary constraints. We in Mudville expect either the imminent trade of third baseman Edgar Martinez to the Blue Jays or All-Star left-handed fireballer Randy Johnson to the Washington State Hospital Mental Ward, where he would join Seattle Supersonic shooting Guard Kendall "Suddenly, I think I'm Vince" Gill in unholy matrimony.

The final immediate impact of the strike has been the departure of American players for Japan. Big name sluggers such as Kevin Mitchell, Julio Franco, and Shane Mack have exchanged their major league caps for kimonos, leaving a power outage in their wake in Cincinnatti, Chicago and Minnesota. Even ex-Texas Ranger manager Bobby "Be my" Valentine has taken his act to Far East, an event which should open some eyes in Tokyo as the Japanese have finally decided to buy an American good.

NBA update

As most of our readers well know, there has been an unprecedented comeback in the National Basketball Association in the past few weeks. Along these lines, we in Mudville are proud to report that Phoenix Suns small forward Richard Dumas is doing just fine.

However, Phoenix has joined fellow frontrunner Orlando in a tailspin over the last few weeks. The Magic, suffering from the losses of Anfernee Hardaway to esophogitis and Nick "Knack Paddywhack" Anderson to a concussion, have lost 11 of their last 15 road games. Fellow Eastern contenders New York, Indiana, and Chicago have renewed hope for the playoffs as Orlando coach Bob Hill has reason to worry about his crew's performance outside of the Magic Kingdom. If Hardaway fails to come back fully from his injury, the result will be indeed hard to swallow for Magic fans, as Shaq may get an extra month to work on his new Rap Album - Shaq Ringless.

Trivia

We in Mudville extend our four hands in congratulations to Jeff Kyle 96 who was one of three readers to tell us that Sean Higgins' and Rumeal Robinson's shot gave Michigan its two Final Four victories in 1989.

This week's question comes from the annals of World Series trivia. What San Diego Padre hit a ninth inning home run to give his team their only win in the 1984 World Series against the Detroit Tigers? Send answers to bell@mit.edu.