As Sam Sees It

Larry Bowa of the Philadelphia Phillies had a great season in his first year as manager or the team, which finished second in the National League East. He deserves praise for his accomplishment. He does not deserve the Manager of the Year Award he was voted by the Baseball Writers of America. Neither does Tony LaRussa of the St. Louis Cardinals who finished second in the voting or Jim Tracy of the Los Angeles Dodgers who finished third (as did his team in the National League West).

Bob Brenly of the Arizona Diamondbacks deserved this award and should have gotten it. If there was any award that should have been a cinch for a Diamondback, this was it. Even the Cy Young Award won by Randy Johnson figured to be contested by teammate Curt Schilling and Jim Morris of the St. Louis Cardinals, both of whom had more wins than the Big Unit. There is no quarrel with Johnson, though, he is as deserving a selection as anyone, including Most Valuable Player Barry Bonds.

Brenly, however, was robbed. He guided a team that lost its closer early in the season and was plagued with injuries all the way to the World Series and won that greatest of all sporting events. One of the keys to Brenly’s success was his ability to juggle the line-up and get uncommonly productive use out of his bench players. The emergence of National League Championship Series MVP Craig Counsell from utility man to star is, in large part, due to Brenly’s giving him the chance to play. The other candidates, in fairness, had difficulties to overcome as well. This was especially true of Tracy whose pitching staff was decimated by injuries and disappointments.

I did not have a vote, but my guess is that many who saw the Diamondbacks on a regular basis would join me in complaining that voting Brenly in fourth place for this honor is a farce. Of course, he would much rather have the World Championship he won on the field rather than an award that looks to be mostly political.

Let me share a few thoughts with you about “contraction” as it applies to Major League Baseball. Simply put, this refers to the proposal adopted by the owners to reduce their leagues by two teams. The list of potential candidates for elimination always starts with the Montreal Expos and includes the Minnesota Twins. The Florida Marlins and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays also get some mention, but their names don’t have the ring of seriousness.

Montreal has earned its spot at the top of the “hit” list. The few telecasts you will see from Montreal treat you to acres of empty seats. Your chances of getting a ball hit into the stands there are probably hundreds of times better than they would be at Bank One Ballpark or Pac Bell Park in San Francisco.

Minnesota is another story. The fans have usually supported this franchise. The problem apparently is that the citizens of that area are not willing to use their tax dollars to build a new stadium for the team. They should not be blackmailed into doing so. Shame on baseball if it goes along with this form of extortion and on Congress for allowing it. It is well past time that the federal government step in and stop this give away of public resources to wealthy private businesses. (Don’t count on that one. We all know who feeds the coffers of the politicians.)

Finally, it looks very likely from here that “contraction” is not a viable issue at this time. The owners and players are engaged in hammering out a collective bargaining agreement. The players surely cannot agree to the reduction of two teams and, therefore, the elimination of the jobs of at least 60 of their members. There will be give and take on both sides, as is always the case in such negotiations. Look for one of the things the owners will "give" on to be "contraction".

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