Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Attendance Jostles Labor atop Baseball's Worry List

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Attendance Jostles Labor atop Baseball's Worry List

Article excerpt

Big-league baseball keeps blowing tires.

"We started as an industry facing labor problems," Cardinals President Mark Lamping said. "Now, we have labor and sales problems. I'm more concerned with the sales problems in many ways."

Owners didn't ignore labor talk at their three-day meetings this week in Minneapolis. But Lamping returned home stimulated by discussions that recognized and tried to address some of the other major leaks.

The owners sought to speed up the game. They conferred on attendance and stadium woes.

"We could focus on all the labor issues, because those are the most important issues facing the game right now," Lamping said. "We didn't talk only about those things, though, and that's one of the things I'm most encouraged by. There is some foresight that we have to work on some things other than getting a labor agreement."

In particular, owners adopted some recommendations that could chop a half-hour from the average game time. It's the first significant action taken to speed the pace of a game that has slowed by more than 30 minutes per game since 1978.

Granted, the dragging tempo of big-league baseball is only one of a long list of reasons often cited as causes of the game's sagging popularity. Lamping took heart in that the owners finally tried tackling at least one problem.

Lamping wants to see average game time return to a range of 2-2 1/2 hours. Through Tuesday's games, this season's average was about three hours. He has hope for the new rules. One allows an umpire to penalize a batter a strike for routinely stepping out of the box. Pitchers already can be assessed a ball for repeatedly stepping off the mound. Another change shrinks the half-inning break.

Lamping wouldn't mind if owners adopt former umpire Steve Palermo's speed-up recommendation to eliminate the designated hitter. "The people in the National League were for it," Lamping said.

He wouldn't be surprised to see the height of the pitcher's mound raised from 10 inches to 12 or 13 inches. …

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