If umpires' union chief Richie Phillips wants to do
something for the people he represents, he should resign. Phillips cost 22 men
their jobs with his lame miscalculations.
Phillips has shown no remorse for his poor judgment, and actually sounds as if
he wants to keep on fighting. But in reality, the battle is over.
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Considering that about 40 percent of the umpires now oppose Phillips, his
departure is inevitable. Still, he'd make things easier by leaving quickly and
After giving away the house, the umpires were fortunate to negotiate continuing
paychecks through the end of their current contract, which runs through the
end of this year. But of course, Susan Davis handled those negotiations, not
Phillips' big plan to have his umpires quit to try to force baseball's hand was
such a fine idea that all the umpires who resigned eventually took back their
resignations. Too late, as it turns out, in 22 cases. Phillips made it worse by
explaining that the resignations were only a ploy, which surely would not have
played well with a judge or arbitrator. Baseball executive Sandy Alderson gave
the umpires fair warning by saying their proposed plan was "either a threat to
ignore or a promise to accept." As promised, baseball accepted.
Phillips said baseball was wrong to accept the resignations even though it was
the umpires' idea to resign. Nothing Phillips said ever made any sense during
this whole episode.
Some folks had called upon baseball to show unheard-of compassion toward the
ousted men, but baseball had waited for years for the chance to excise some of
its worst umpires. Before Phillips threw the game, only four new umpires had
been hired in the American League in the past 14 years. So it's no wonder
baseball was anxious to make changes. It's only the sport's good fortune that
the umpires saved it the trouble of a hard fight.
The umpiring is not likely to get worse, as some fear, because many of the
ousted umpires were among the least regarded (competent Drew Coble and Frank
Pulli are two exceptions). On average, the new guys are almost certain to be
better, given time. Mark Hirschbeck, one of the wise umpires who never
resigned, said he believes there will be no discernible difference in the
overall quality of umpiring when it comes to calling "balls and strikes, and
outs and safes."
Hirschbeck also said Phillips provided "bad leadership and a flawed strategy .
. . It's a shame, it really is."
Several umpires have called for Phillips to step aside, but some are standing
by him, even some who lost their jobs. When players go on strike, their leader,
Donald Fehr, does not draw a paycheck during that period. Given that Phillips
cost 22 men their jobs, he should lose his, as well. They all handed in their
resignations. Where's his? People compared it with Jim Jones and his misguided
followers taking the poisoned Kool-Aid at Jonestown. But at least Jones took
the Kool-Aid himself.
Stepping aside would be the right thing for Phillips to do. That's why we can
be pretty sure he won't do it.
Stan's the man
Reds reliever Stan Belinda has become one of the great stories of the year by
continuing to pitch after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He only
briefly considered retiring. "It ran through my mind. But I've never been one
to give up," Belinda said.
His type of MS can go into remission, and he hasn't felt any symptoms recently.
But emotionally, it's another story. He doesn't know when the symptoms might
recur, and there is no cure. "It takes its toll mentally," Belinda said. "It
stresses you out. You've got to say, 'What's important?' Family and friends and
leading as good a life as you can every day."
Before MS was disgnosed and treated with medication, Belinda felt tingling up
and down his legs, and eventually all over his body. Medication has halted the
symptoms. "Life's a roller- coaster ride. As long as you stay on the ride,
you're going to have ups and downs," Belinda said. "God's blessed me a couple
of times with some good things. Unfortunately, I've had a couple of bad things
happen to me. I'm not going to just fall over dead. I'm going to go out and
Belinda, 33, has allowed five home runs in his last seven outings. His contract
runs out after this year, and he doesn't know whether he will get another one.
"Cincinnati has been great. I got struck, and they've been patient with me,"
he said. "But I understand. It's a business."
Cablevision talks slow
Sales talks between Cablevision and Mets co-owners Fred Wilpon and Nelson
Doubleday are said to have slowed in recent days. It's quite likely now that
nothing will be finished until after the season. It is believed that Wilpon and
Doubleday don't want any distractions during the Mets' fun run. The sale is
expected to go through, but one wonders whether they might have second thoughts
about selling if they're having that much fun.
Word is there's tension between Dodgers manager Davey Johnson and general
manager Kevin Malone. Johnson has been telling people he'll need to have more
input in player moves this winter, implying that last winter's mistakes were
not his. Malone tried to set the record straight, telling the L.A. Times that
Johnson signed off on all the winter moves . . . It doesn't help matters that
Johnson probably knows that Malone would have selected a different manager had
Fox not made it clear that Johnson was its choice. Malone might have tried
Kevin Kennedy after failing to lure Felipe Alou, Tom Kelly and Dusty