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Thursday, August 15
Updated: August 17, 1:15 PM ET
Strike would be catastrophic for baseball

By Dave Campbell
Special to ESPN.com

Because of 9/11, the owners and players know they must find common ground and avoid a baseball strike. People across this country -- baseball fans included -- won't tolerate another strike. Post 9/11, the climate in this nation is drastically different than in 1994. Some Americans have lost their life's savings in the stock market. Do you think anyone will feel sympathy for baseball players who strike despite an average salary of $2.38 million?

Given these realities, a strike would be a disaster for baseball.

How can you not compromise on a way to divide $3.5 billion? That won't fly with fans anywhere.
While the average salary is $2.38 million, the median salary is closer to $450,000 -- still far more than any middle-class worker makes. And the minimum salary is about to increase to $300,000. But the $2.38 million is the number that will stand out if the players strike.

Drug Testing Complexity
It appears there are two key issues that must be hashed out for an agreement to be reached. First, the new deal will include some kind of drug testing, attempting to satisfy the concerns of many. But in reality the testing will be cosmetic. Testing for steroids won't mean much, because the drug of choice has become human growth hormone. This hormone -- which builds muscle mass, eliminates fat and makes bones stronger -- can't be detected by conventional drug tests.

In fact, I read a report recently that said the U.S. Olympic Committee has acknowledged it won't be able to test for human growth hormone until after the 2004 Olympics. The drug is a synthetic form of a hormone naturally produced by the pituitary gland, so it can't be detected. It's injected at a cost of $2,000 per month (more than affordable at that $2.38 million salary). One doctor estimates there are 300,000 to 500,000 users nationwide.

So while the percentage of players taking steroids is probably minimal, if you count human growth hormone, the numbers would rise. But since there's no way to prove who's taking it, drug testing is almost a moot point.

Art of Negotiation
The art of negotiation is that both sides compromise. From what I hear, the sides are $70 million apart. I don't think the owners ever thought they would get a 50 percent luxury tax, and the players didn't really expect to sign a deal with a 22 percent tax. But the negotiating room is there, and there's a compromise to be found and an agreement to be reached.

If the sides can't agree, it will go down as one of the worst moments in the history of labor negotiations. How can you not compromise on a way to divide $3.5 billion? Especially when the average worker makes $2.38 million! That won't fly with fans anywhere.

If a strike occurs, players and owners alike would get scorched in the press and the net result would likely be a mass exodus among baseball fans. This time, fans would be even angrier because of the approaching anniversary of 9/11. If there's no settlement, it would be catastrophic for the game.

Keep An Eye On These Baserunners
There's a difference between being fast and being a good baserunner. There's even a difference between being a good baserunner and a good basestealer. For example, Larry Walker is one of the game's best baserunners but is not a prolific basestealer.

A good baserunner has an aggressive mindset. When he goes from first to third, once he knows he has third, he's thinking about going home -- he'll make the third-base coach stop him. A good baserunner is never content with the base he's going to, because he's always thinking about the next base.

To be a good basestealer, a 75 percent success rate is the benchmark. In this day and age of high-octane offense, you're running your team out of innings if you're less successful than that.

Following are my lists of the five best baserunners and basestealers and the five fastest guys in baseball (in alphabetical order):

Five Best Baserunners
Darin Erstad
Derek Jeter
Ichiro Suzuki
Omar Vizquel
Larry Walker

Five Best Basestealers
Carlos Beltran (29 SBs, 87.9%)
Luis Castillo (MLB-leading 39 SBs, 76.5%)
Johnny Damon (26 SBs, 83.9%)
Derek Jeter (27 SBs, 93.1%)
Dave Roberts (32 SBs, 80%)

Five Fastest Guys
Luis Castillo
Rafael Furcal
Cristian Guzman
Alfonso Soriano
Ichiro Suzuki (fastest from home to first)

Move to Rotation Could Help Foulke
Chicago White Sox closer Keith Foulke is experiencing what Derek Lowe experienced last year. Foulke had 42 saves in 2001 but has struggled this year, and the White Sox are considering moving him into the starting rotation. Lowe had 42 saves in 2000, but stumbled as the closer in 2001 before making a successful transition to a starter this year.

Starting could be something of a safety net for Foulke. He needs to regain his confidence. And it isn't as if the White Sox have five lights-out starters. They could use September to give him several starts to see how it goes. If it doesn't work, he could always return to the bullpen in the spring.

There's a financial aspect to this, too. Starters usually have longer careers and make more money. Mariano Rivera is baseball's best-paid closer at $44 million over four years ($9.45 million this year). But that's far less than the contracts of starters like Kevin Brown ($15.7 million this year), Greg Maddux ($13.1 million) and Pedro Martinez ($14 million).

If I Were The Skipper...
The Situation
The Chicago Cubs have said they will limit rookie starter Mark Prior's innings as the season winds down. They reportedly want to keep his innings at about 185 for the season, including his time in the minors, which means he has about 40 innings left this year. If you were the skipper, would you want Prior to pitch more than that?

Campbell's Call
Prior has had a tremendous year (6-3, 3.24 ERA) and is a candidate for rookie of the year. But for a 21-year-old arm, 200 innings is a heavy load. So I agree with limiting his innings to 185. From the team's perspective, Prior is only in his first year, and the Cubs have made a tremendous investment in him as a star of the future. So why take a chance when Chicago is out of the pennant race anyway?

This reminds me of Kevin Millwood's situation in 1999, his second full year with the Atlanta Braves. Counting the '99 postseason, Millwood pitched 70 more innings than he'd ever pitched before, which deadened his arm for the past two-and-a-half years. The statistics bear this out: In '99, Millwood was 18-7 with a 2.68 ERA. But his numbers in 2000 (10-13, 4.66) and 2001 (7-7, 4.31) reflect a dead arm. This year, his arm has bounced back (11-6, 3.38).

So more power to the Cubs for protecting Prior.

Ballpark Focus: Edison Field, Anaheim Angels
Edison Field was formerly known as Anaheim Stadium. After a $115 million facelift, the Angels got a jewel of a park. Most seats have excellent views of the field, with most down the lines and only a few beyond the outfield fence.

Edison Field is more of a pitcher's park earlier in the season and more of a hitter's park as the season progresses. The ball carries better in July, August and September than earlier in the season, when the air is heavier.

Likewise, from April through early July, the field is somewhat spongy because of the damp night air. But as the summer heats up with its 90-degree days, it bakes the field and makes the infield clay harder. A similar phenomenon occurs at Dodger Stadium.

There are no real idiosyncrasies that I'm aware of. It's essentially a symmetrical park. Balls coming off the wall in right-center can take an occasional crazy carom, but that's about it.

Edison has a comfortable feel to it. The Angels took the old ballpark, put $115 million into it and made it a fan-friendly park.

Editor's Note: All statistics are through Wednesday's games. Dave Campbell, who was an infielder for eight seasons in the major leagues (1967-74), is an analyst for Baseball Tonight and ESPN Radio.

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