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January 20, 2000

Today wasn't any better than any other day this week, with one exception. The sun came out. I'm still buried under a mountain of paperwork that keeps growing even as the deadline draws closer and closer and each day's fresh crisis makes its new demands on my time. The phone still interrupts any modicum of momentum I manage to muster. The walls around me still seem to be getting higher, brick by brick. And yet...

A morning that doesn't seem like night makes it so much easier to get out of bed and get moving. A window looking out on a blue sky is so much friendlier than the endless monochrome days we've seen lately. I can't be the only one who senses the difference, because I can hear laughter carried on the afternoon breeze, and the people walking by have a livelier gait. Why, I do believe I even saw two strangers smile at each other today.

Every winter I try to get through the dark days without feeling oppressed and disheartened. I know that spring always emerges out of the gloom. And this year has been mild here, even during the last week of rain. Still, it takes a luminous day like this one, bestowed as an unexpected gift, to remind me that any tomorrow could be brighter, and it takes just one to chase the grays away.

And then tonight, the pièce de résistance, a blood red moon. Yowza! I don't know what the ancient legends say about this, but I choose to take it as a sign that the future is rosy.

Speaking of spring, I'm trying to be optimistic about the new powers that the baseball team owners have given to the commissioner. He's now allowed to do almost anything he believes is in the "interest of the game." That's why the office of commissioner was originally established. Until a few years ago, when the owners took control of the game themselves, commissioners always maintained the integrity of baseball.

Restoring the power of the office is a good thing if (a) Bud Selig has the best interests of the game at heart, which I believe he does; (b) Bud Selig knows what's good for the game, which I'm not so sure about; and (c) the owners don't fire him as soon as he does something they don't like, which would not be unprecedented.

The main reason, apparently, that the commissioner's office is being strengthened now is that the owners want Selig to make some tough decisions that they can't. Specifically, they want more competitive balance, even if it means robbing from the rich to give to the poor. If all the money is in New York and Los Angeles (and Atlanta and Cleveland), should all the quality players be there? No, not if you want to keep people interested enough to keep buying tickets and watching the games on television. And the new TV package is lining the owners' pockets like never before, so they have a lot to lose if the quality of the game suffers.

I'm a traditionalist. The current regime in baseball hates my kind. I never liked the designated hitter, because it diminishes the concept of nine players who perform on both offense and defense. Although I'm resigned to it now, I was against interleague play, because it weakens the World Series if the two league champions have met during the season. The two-league structure is meaningful because of the tradition it represents.

Each game played during a baseball season is unique, but each game also is a part of a the history of baseball. Out of each game come players and stories and statistics that are part of the whole. This is why Bud Selig's pet project, realignment, would disrupt the historical thread of the game. Suddenly the future is incompatible with the descriptions and accounts that generations of fans have shared with both their parents and their children. In the name of progress, much of what is so endearing about America's national pastime would be lost.

I don't think I take baseball too seriously at all. Just think how society has deteriorated since football has become dominant. But that's another discussion entirely.

By the way, on the subject of football, I'm pulling (without much hope) for Tampa Bay to upset St. Louis. No dome teams! No wonder Kurt Warner did so well this season — he's still playing in an Arena. Maybe he thinks he's still with the Iowa Barnstormers. (Come on, Bucs, surprise me.)

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