Thursday, October 23, 1997
Series left out in cold


BY TIM SULLIVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

CLEVELAND - Everyone talks about the World Series weather, but nobody does anything about it.

Day games are still doomed. Neutral sites are not yet under consideration. Baseball's championship is being contested under conditions more conducive to frostbite, and the game's alleged leadership remains frozen in place.

''Change in this business is very, very difficult,'' Bud Selig said Wednesday, ''even when to me it makes all the common sense in the world.''

In the wake of one of the worst World Series games in history - four hours and 12 minutes of misplays and miserable weather - baseball's acting commissioner was hard-pressed to promise improvements. What might be fixed faces stern resistance. What can't be controlled - specifically, Cleveland weather - appears to be an inadequate incentive for creative solutions.

Baseball officials recognize that their premier event has its problems, but they lack the consensus for significant change.

So we are left with a spectacle with declining ratings and diminished quality. Tuesday's Game 3, played before a house packed with parkas, included six errors, 17 walks and ended 14-11 as the pitchers struggled to get a decent grip on the ball. Even Selig, baseball's ranking apologist, admitted that he spent the night checking his watch.

''The Unfinished Symphony had a better chance of finishing before that game last night,'' he said.

Wednesday's Game 4 was less ugly, but no less of an imposition on participants and spectators. It began with a World Series record-low game time temperature of 38 degrees.

There were snow flurries at Jacobs Field, and the first-pitch wind chill was announced at 18 degrees.

Baseball is in no position to influence the climate, of course, but its current schedule fairly begs for temperature trouble. Between 1911 and the start of division play in 1969, the World Series always ended by Oct. 16. Now, with a third tier of playoffs, the series has stretched as late as Oct. 27.

Selig said he will raise the subject of shortening the regular season when the owners meet next month, but doing so would force clubs to get by on reduced revenues.

So would moving up the starting times, because of the impact on network rights fees. An alternative solution - moving the World Series to a neutral site - is not part of Selig's agenda.

''I've been thinking about that all day today,'' Selig said, standing in a heated hallway at Jacobs Field. ''A community builds a stadium with taxpayer money. It waits decades to get to a World Series and all of a sudden the World Series is in San Diego?''

Selig thinks he can achieve some of the desired results simply by leaning on umpires to keep hitters in the batter's box and enforcing the rule that requires pitchers to deliver the ball within 20 seconds.

''More than the time of the game,'' Selig said, ''(the problem is) the pace of the game.''

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