Outside the Lines:
Done Deal


Here's the transcript from Show 127 of weekly Outside The Lines - Done Deal

SUN., SEPT. 1, 2002
Host: Bob Ley
Reporter: Mark Schwarz and Lisa Salters
Guests: John Burkett, Boston Red Sox; Gregg Zaun, Houston Astros' player representative

ANNOUNCER- September 1, 2002.

BUD SELIG, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL COMMISSIONER- I'm a Yogi Berra theorist. When it was over, then I knew it was going to get done.

BOB LEY, HOST- It was. But what does this new deal mean for Major League Baseball?

SCOTT SPIEZIO, ANAHEIM ANGELS- We gave a lot, and probably more than we thought we were going to give, but we really wanted to make a deal for the fans.

LEY- There was no strike, but the close call saw venom from the fans. What about now?

UNIDENTIFIED ANGELS FAN- I'm definitely for forgive-and-forget. It's like, Bud Selig -- he's my hero, at the moment.

MAGGIE MORGAN, CUBS FAN- I think that they need to apologize, in general, for their lack of concern for the fans.

LEY- Finally, an agreement without a work stoppage.

DONALD FEHR, PLAYERS ASSOCIATION UNION HEAD- All streaks come to an end, and this is one that was overdue to come to an end.

LEY- We'll speak with a player who feels the union made too many concessions.

Also this morning, amid the rancor of the week, there were ball games played for the purest of reasons.

BRUCE CHRYSTIE, "IN THE BOX"- Guys are diehards, and I don't think you find that in the major leagues anymore.

LEY- Today on Outside The Lines -- Going deep for the love of the game, and the future for baseball with a done deal.

It's a measure of the tortured history between baseball owners and the players union that it took an economic recession and a reordering of the national mindset in the wake of the massive terror attack to create the atmosphere for a labor settlement without a work stoppage. The near miss still leaves plenty of bruised feelings, certainly.

Ordinarily, angry fans are a journalistic cliché to be mined for the opportune quote or the sound bite and then pushed to the background of the story. Two months ago, Barry Bonds predicted his game would survive another strike. Quote, "It's entertainment," he said. "It will come back." But there's something different this time. There's the suggestion that the palpable anger of fans was felt in the negotiating room, fans who would have to be in their 40s to know that work stoppages are not part of baseball's natural order.

Mark Schwarz examines whether Friday's settlement has begun to make things right.

SELIG- Major League Baseball's 30 clubs and the Major League Baseball Players Association have today reached an historic agreement and that all games will be played as scheduled.

MARK SCHWARZ, ESPN CORRESPONDENT- Labor peace means Barry Bonds can continue to chase his godfather. It means an end to the rhetoric, the shots of Bud walking and Fehr talking, the countdown to agony. For the fans, labor peace means there will be a post season, but when it comes to their stormy relationship with the players, labor peace remains an uneasy truce.

STEPHEN LEWIN, YANKEE FAN- Oh, I think they're -- they're a bunch of crybabies, the owners and the players. And I think it's -- you know, it's nice to have an agreement so we can do this, especially around September 11th.

JIM KAWELL, CUBS FAN- I don't think it's the players' fault. The owners are just as guilty. It's both sides. You know, $36 for a ticket -- you know, that's $100 for the three of us to walk in the door, another $30 to park. You're ruling out your average fan. It's all business now.

SCHWARZ- Selig called the agreement "historic." Donald Fehr said the game has been repaired, even enhanced. It appears neither one polled the fans.

Are baseball's problems solved?

MIKE GILBERT, METS FAN- Absolutely not. Absolutely not. I'll tell you right now, I came to this game because I got free tickets, but I wasn't going to pay for a ticket today. Absolutely not. I'm a professional. I got a college degree. I make a lot of money. My wife makes a lot of money. But I don't make enough money to come here.

SAM PAM, PIRATES FAN- The tickets go higher. The seats haven't gotten any better. So I think people are still against the players. They're against the owners, too. Everybody thinks everyone's a crook.

SCHWARZ- The owners came away with a luxury tax, the players a guarantee that there'd be no contraction for four years. But what did the fans get out of this deal?

TROY PERCIVAL, ANAHEIM ANGELS- I don't think there's anything we can do, as far as talking to the people. I think we just have to go out and show our love for the game.

CORY BARKER, ANGELS FAN- A lot more player interaction, I think, with the fans would help out, let the fans get to know them a little bit better and let them know that they're real people, not just players.

SCHWARZ- On Thursday, the fans fired coins and baseballs onto the field in Anaheim. It was appalling, but it was real.

SCOTT SCHOENEWEIS, ANAHEIM ANGELS- I would hope that our fans would have a little more class than what they showed a little bit tonight with throwing stuff on the field.

UNIDENTIFIED ANGELS FAN- He said that they lacked class. My first reaction was they lack class the owners and the ballplayers, just by -- at least this guy. But I mean, this whole thing is -- leaves another bad taste in your mouth.

MIKE SCIOSCIA, ANGELS MANAGER- I don't think that we need to see the fans throwing baseballs on the field to know they were upset. I think everyone was frustrated with it. We were frustrated. The players were frustrated. I know the fans were frustrated.

SCHWARZ- On Friday, the hostility was no longer apparent. The reverence had returned.

BARKER- This is what it's all about -- I mean, watching them warm up, just being here. It's doesn't get any better than this.

DARIN ERSTAD, ANAHEIM ANGELS- I don't play for other people's approval or appreciation. But no, it's definitely nice to see them cheering for you instead of booing you.

UNIDENTIFIED FAN- Hey, you know, you -- these guys, they got to make their money when they can, so...

SCHWARZ- You don't begrudge the players one cent.

UNIDENTIFIED FAN- Maybe a couple cents.

SCHWARZ- Sure, there's anger. There's resentment. There's cynicism. But there's an even more powerful emotion you feel at the ballpark. It's the fan's love of baseball and the things they did to get to a game that when deadline day began was no sure thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FAN- We got great seats tonight, and I'm psyched because, like -- I was, like, looking at the seats, I was, like, "Oh, no! The strike's going to happen tonight," but Bud came through. So it was really cool.

NEIL SMITH, BRITISH BASEBALL FAN- Very pleased. We traveled here from England last week just for the week, and we wanted to take in a Mets game while we're here, so we were very worried up until we found out at lunchtime that the game was on.

MORGAN- I've had our tickets for about two months, got our plane tickets two months ago, as well. And that's the whole reason we came to Chicago was to actually come to this game.

SCHWARZ- Ex-Dodger Brett Butler said the players and owners finally realized it wasn't about them anymore, that they had to put their differences aside and think about America.

SPIEZO- I think the main priority this year was the fans. I think both sides knew that we could make a huge mistake here if we didn't do the right thing. And I think that's why we both bent over backwards trying to get a deal done.

LEY- And now the deal is done.

John Burkett is in his 13th year as a major league pitcher. His rookie season, the owners locked out the players in spring training. The season after he won 22 games, the players struck, leading to the cancellation of the '94 World Series. John is with the Red Sox this morning in Cleveland.

Gregg Zaun is the Houston Astros player representative. He is in his eighth season. His rookie year was '95, at the end of the last players' strike. He joins us this morning from Houston.

Guys, good morning.



LEY- John, if I can begin with you? You said something last week to the "Providence Journal-Bulletin." You said, "They, the owners, pretty much won the negotiation. They pretty much got everything they wanted." Do you still feel that way?

BURKETT- I do, but I don't want my comments to be misinterpreted to think -- have people think that I'm upset at the union, by any means. I just think that the owners dug this thing out, you know, too long. We basically were giving things to them, and I think it damaged the game again, even though we didn't have a work stoppage. I just feel like it damaged the game and made fans bitter toward us again. And I just say it came down to the end, to where the players wanted to be on the field and give the game to the fans, you know, this year and the next four years.

LEY- Gregg, part of that settlement, of course, hundreds of millions of dollars will change hands, with luxury tax and revenue sharing. What is in this agreement to compel the smaller market teams, the smaller revenue teams, to put that money, Gregg, into player development and to player salaries and to becoming more competitive?

ZAUN- Well, obviously, you have, you know, a lot of money changing hands. It gives opportunity to teams that are on the bubble, like Minnesota, to go out there and get that one or two extra players to help put them over the edge. I mean, they came up a little short last year, and obviously, they're playing great this year. They're the prime example. They go out there and pick up that one good arm or that one big bat in the off-season, it puts them over the edge, and now, all of a sudden, they're a pennant contender every year.

LEY- But what's going to make a small market team, a small revenue team, do that?

ZAUN- Well, obviously, there's no way to force them to do that. You know, we've had revenue sharing in the past and, you know, teams like Minnesota haven't spent the money on players. So you have to just go about and try to believe that people are going to do the right thing and try to make themselves a better ball club and give their cities a team that they can be proud of. But if they don't do the right thing, then there's really nothing that we can do about it.

LEY- Well, John, what do you believe of some of these smaller-revenue owners and getting this increased revenue sharing and the luxury tax revenue -- what do you think they will do with it?

BURKETT- I don't know. I sure hope they spend it on players and...

LEY- Will they?

BURKETT- Well, we'll have to wait and see. I mean the whole deal here was for competitive balance. You know, that's what they kept claiming, that they needed money to be competitive. And hopefully, you know, the money that changes hands here in these four years -- those teams will spend money on players and player development. But only time will tell.

LEY- Well, John, what do you think the effect of the luxury tax will be? What class of players do you think -- will there be an impact on salaries? And if there is, what class of players is going to feel it this coming winter?

BURKETT- Well, I mean, I think it's definitely going to affect free agency. You know, when you have guys that are changing teams, you know, and salary structure and, you know, payrolls are cut, I mean, those guys are going to be affected, for sure. I mean, it just limits your possibilities, as far as what team you're going to go to and you know, it puts a strap on some of the teams, as far as paying players.

LEY- Gregg, what do you think about the impact of luxury tax?

ZAUN- Well, obviously, you know, you have teams like the Yankees, who aren't going to be able to afford that, you know, fourth number-one starter like they always have. Whether or not that guy's going to end up on a team like Minnesota, getting paid what he deserves to get paid, is yet to be seen. I think that there's a framework for, you know, the system to work, but it's going to be up to the owners to do the right thing.

Now that they've, you know, cried about competitive balance and said, "Well, we don't have a chance to win because we can't afford to go out and get the kind of players we need to win," they're going to have some money laying around now. And whether or not they go out and spend the money is up to them. And you know we're going to find out exactly what this was about, whether it was about competitive balance or whether it was about putting a drag on player salaries and breaking the union. That's what we're going to find out.

LEY- John, you were pretty sure there was going to be a strike. You had packed up, right, and prepared to move on home.

BURKETT- I definitely thought there was going to be a strike. You know, it happened the last eight times, and I felt like these things -- this negotiation was going to, you know, pretty much the same, except for the last time, and that seemed like there was no talk at all. So there was some talk this time. It may be a little bit optimistic, but I still felt there was going to be a strike.

LEY- What do you think the image of Major League Baseball players is among the majority of fans?

BURKETT- Well, you know, I hate to see the fact that the fans -- it seems they blame it on the players. But you have other people making the kind of money that we do. We're professionals. You know, we're in the entertainment business. We have, you know, the Oprah Winfrey's out there on talk shows, and we have actors and actresses, you know, making a lot of money. And I think players just fall in that same category.

But it's -- I think we're -- we mostly come from middle-class families, you know, baseball players. And I really feel like we earned our money. I mean, it's definitely a lot of money. We make a lot of money, but I think we definitely earn our keep.

LEY- Gregg, what happens in 2006? It'll be at least 11 and 12 years since the last work stoppage. Will it be tougher to keep this union militant and together, solidarity, looking at the end of the next contract? In other words, you'll have a whole class of players now who haven't been through what you and John have been through.

ZAUN- Yeah, you're right. It's going to be difficult, I think, because, you know, we made so many concessions in this round of the collective bargaining, I really have a sneaky suspicion that they're going to go for broke next time. You know, there's been situations in our -- in our history where they've actually been more about breaking the union than anything else.

And I really feel like all the concessions that we made, at this point, it may have been good for the game, but I think it could be really ugly for the group of players that are going to have to negotiate the next agreement.

LEY- OK. That'll be in four years. John Burkett, Gregg Zaun, thank you very much, guys, for being with us this morning. We appreciate it.

ZAUN- OK, thank you.

BURKETT- Thank you.

LEY- OK. And when we come back, we will see the joy that this game can engender and just how far some adults will go to take it.

One reason the potential of a baseball strike transfixed and angered so many fans was the bond that people feel with the game, the game in all its forms, from Little League to elderly softball games. Lisa Salters now looks at the manic hold one variation from our childhood still has on a hearty band of players who take their love of the game to the max.

LISA SALTERS, ESPN CORRESPONDENT- On a Saturday morning in Trenton, New Jersey, they come with bats, balls and dreams. Like their major league counterparts, they, too, are professional ballplayers -- wiffle ball players.

UNIDENTIFIED PLAYER- Whoa! Nice shot, Mike!

SALTERS- It's that same game you played with your friends as a kid, only these guys aren't kids anymore.

BRUCE CHRYSTIE, "IN THE BOX"- It's the best. It's absolutely the -- it's your youth. It's being in the back yard, pretending, in my instance, Carl Yastrzemski hitting one out in the 7th game of the World Series. And I think everybody who plays here has the same feeling.

TOM LOCASCIO, "IN THE BOX"- Love wiffle ball. I've loved it since I was a little kid in my back yard, and now I get to show my skills on a huge venue like Summer Showdown today.

SALTERS- The Summer Showdown is one of a growing number of competitive wiffle ball tournaments.

MIKE PALINCZAR, PRESIDENT, NEW JERSEY WIFFLE BALL ASSOC.- As far as the ground rules are concerned, we have a base hit line here...

SALTERS- Mike Palinczar has been running the Showdown for 12 years. This year's competition drew 65 teams from around the country.

PALINCZAR- We call the tournament the Summer Showdown, and the reason why we call it that is because most of the best teams from the East Coast and beyond are here, and it's a real showdown. If you win this tournament, you have bragging rights to last a whole year.

DERECK ANDERSON, "GUNNERS"- What appeals to me most is it's harder than baseball. I've played baseball all my life, and it's a little more of a challenge.

SALTERS- What makes it such a challenge is that ball with all those holes in it. Remember how hard it was to hit a wiffle ball when you were a kid? Well, the whiffing part is still very much a part of the game.

LOCASCIO- They have incredible breaks, not like a baseball, where you're having maybe a foot break, max. You're getting six-foot breaks, five-foot risers, four-foot drops. This is challenging ball.

PALINCZAR- You can play in a tournament like this, and you could literally pitch 400 pitches in one game. And throwing a wiffle ball is very tough. It's not like throwing a baseball. There's no weight to it. So if your muscles are -- or the right muscles, I should say, are in shape, you pretty much can go the whole day. And you'll feel it the next day, though. Believe me.

SALTERS- But wiffle ball doesn't tax every muscle. At many tournaments, outs and hits are determined by where the ball lands on the field, not by running the bases.

PALINCZAR- We have the field separated, where there's lines for singles and doubles and triples. So you get the guy, the big softball player, who can hit the ball a ton but can't make it around the bases as fast anymore. And he comes out and says, "Wow, there's no base running? Sign us up!" You know, "We love this game."

SALTERS- Throughout the summer, wiffle ball tournaments are held just about every weekend somewhere, complete with trophies and prize money. But these players say it's about much more than that.

CHRYSTIE- We'll spend almost as much money as we can afford to play the game. The guys around here, we'll do every -- I spend thousands of dollars every year to play.

PALINCZAR- They might win $500 or $1,000, but they kill themselves, literally, out here. And I've seen guys out here throw their arms out just to win this tournament. It's in their heart. You know, they love this game, and they're so competitive.

SALTERS- It's that same obsession with the game that motivates players here in Southern California to play wiffle ball. In fact, it's what drove one man to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars just to build his very own wiffle ball field of dreams.

Forty-six-year-old Rick Messina is a talent manager for comedians by trade but a wiffle ball player at heart.

RICK MESSINA, COMMISSIONER, STRAWBERRY FIELD- We realized we were too old and broken-down to play basketball anymore, so we started playing wiffle ball. And what happens is, we put up a net, we start playing wiffle ball in the driveway, like any kid in America, and we start thinking about "Wouldn't it be great if we had the distances on the wall? Wouldn't it be great if the walls were green, like the Green Monster at Fenway?" And we just kept doing it.

SALTERS- For Messina, it's all about the details, down to the seats from the old Angels stadium and the Meadowlands.

MESSINA- I'm kind of a perfectionist. Like, if something's worth doing, don't just do it, do it so people go, "Holy mackerel! I've never seen it done so well." I mean, that's why some of these monitors have stadium views and pitcher/hitter. They have that classic camera behind the pitcher, like you see in a skybox.

Left field, we've got a fair screen on the foul pole. The dugout phone is a real baseball dugout phone. The bat racks are modeled right after Shea. Everything is -- it's just detail stuff.

SALTERS- "Just details" included spending $700,000 to buy his neighbor's house. Why, you ask?

MESSINA- To move home plate back. We needed at least 85 feet to center to really be a legitimate park, so I bought the house, and that got us the right field bleachers that we're sitting in now, and it enabled us to close them out with that press box. And it really completed the park.

SALTERS- What does this stadium and this field mean to you?

JON MANFRELLOTTI, ASST. TO THE COMMISSIONER, STRAWBERRY FIELD- It means never getting old. It means -- I mean, being 40 and hitting a ball into the stands when people are still watching.

MESSINA- I'd rather sit out here, watch a wiffle ball game or play a game than do anything. You'll find a lot of guys like being boys, and they don't want to ever let it go.

SALTERS- But for every adult wiffler who doesn't want to grow up, there's a little kid who is discovering the game for the first time. The next generation of wiffle ball players finds inspiration at Pupque Park, this scaled-down replica of Fenway Park in Kirk Carapezza's front yard.

RYAN MCCARTHY, PUPQUE PARK ASST. BUILDER- We drive up, and usually there are little kids out here, and it's very unorganized. You know, there are never any parents. It's just kids playing ball. There aren't many sand lot games anymore, but out here, it's very much like sand lot baseball.

KIRK CARAPEZZA, PUPQUE PARK FOUNDER- Some of them think they're actually at Fenway, looking out at the wall. And it's just -- they have a thrill trying to hit it over the Monster and being able to run around the bases.

DAVE MARKS, KIRK'S FRIEND- Wiffle ball's all about the basic roots of the game. No money's involved, no umpires, no outside influences. It's all, you know, basic fun. No frills, no strings attached.

MCCARTHY- At the heart of wiffle ball is just a bunch of boys out here playing ball, and I think that's what Major League Baseball should be and aspires to be but isn't right now, obviously. But definitely, it's that at Pupque.

LEY- Next we'll sample the considerable reaction to last week's consideration of just how large a piece of the pie Major League Baseball players deserve.

ROBERT SMITH, RETIRED FROM NFL AFTER 2000 SEASON- I don't think most of the population understands about most of the things that they talk about. There's a fascination with celebrity in this country.

People talk about salaries, and they don't understand. You're watching this on TV all the time. You're sitting in front of your TV all day on Sunday and Monday night. That's what people talk about. That's what people do. And you can't have it both ways. You can't spend that much time paying attention to something and your culture being so fascinated with it and putting so much emphasis on it and not have those people compensated well.

Look at -- look at actors. I mean, I played for eight years, all the surgery, all the things that happened to me, and I -- it was about $20 million I made playing the game, which is what John Travolta will make for one movie, or Jim Carrey. But do I think that they're overpaid? Hell, no.

LEY- Robert Smith's observations sparking a voluminous e-mail reaction. From New Jersey, "It's a shame that Robert didn't come to grips with the fact that it is because of the good graces of the American sporting public that he looks down upon that he can retire at 28 and get up at the crack of noon and ride his expensive sui-cycle. It's amazing how money can make people think they are smarter than they really are."

From Florida, "I'm an avid sports fan, and I agree 100 percent with Robert Smith. In a free-market economy, salaries are determined by what the market will bear. Player salaries are simply indicative of our culture's enthusiasm for sports. My great passion for sports contributes to this huge economic market, and therefore, I cannot justify complaints about players' salaries."

Man from Austin, Texas -- "You failed to mention that Robert Smith was injury-prone and one of those clubhouse lawyer-type players. He used the oldest trick in the world for a defense attorney -- When all else fails, muddy the water with the race card."

Then finally from Oakland, "Robert Smith is completely correct in his assessments of the economic/social problems in American sports. The racial component he mentioned, contrary to George Will's utopian psycho babble, was right on the money."

We're online at ESPN.com, keyword OTLWeekly, transcripts and streaming video of our Sunday morning programs. And we look forward to your thoughts on baseball's done deal and even the joys of wiffle ball. Our address, OTLWEEKLY@espn.com.

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