What a joke that would be, playing the American League schedule without one or two of its teams—but it could happen. The law in Ontario, which applies in the Blue Jays' case, is strict: No worker can replace one who's on strike. And the Blue Jays have said they won't challenge that law. Toronto president Paul Beeston has also said his club, still baseball's reigning champion by virtue of its 1993 World Series victory, won't play home games in Buffalo, Syracuse or anywhere else, nor will it play all its games on the road.
Angelos, who made most of his fortune as an attorney representing trade unions, says the Orioles will not field a scab team. "This is a major league franchise—that doesn't mean Triple A or Double A or rookie ball," he says. "To expect major league fans to accept less than major league baseball is unrealistic and, I believe, will ultimately prove to be foolhardy. These are the best players in the world. There are no replacements. That's a hallucination."
What's more, if Baltimore played replacement games without shortstop Cal Ripken Jr., his streak of 2,009 consecutive games would end just 122 short of breaking Lou Gehrig's record. Ripken says he has no intention of crossing a picket line, and Angelos wants no part of a plan that would jeopardize the streak.
Under terms of the American League constitution, the league supposedly can force the Orioles to play. "And how is it going to do that?" Angelos asks defiantly.
Will union players cross the line?
Some will, but Major League Baseball Players Association boss Don Fehr says, "Anyone who thinks there will be an appreciable number is wrong." The owners are counting on many players' breaking rank, but Kansas City Royal reliever Jeff Montgomery doubts that will happen, saying, "What has been forced on us is not right. That strengthens our resolve."
Astro pitcher Greg Swindell, who makes $4 million a year, is the rare exception who has indicated publicly that he may be wavering. "I have very few friends in baseball right now that I'm close and personal with anyway," he told KRIV-TV in Houston. "I've got house payments, I've got ex-wife payments, I've got a five-year-old, a three-year-old and a seven-week-old. So it's a tough decision." Two club sources predict that half of the Pittsburgh Pirates, a very young team with relatively low salaries, will report. It's unlikely, however, that very many veterans from around the majors will cross, especially during spring training. The first paycheck isn't due until April 15.
Any major leaguers who do report and any others who serve as replacements will have to answer to their peers after a settlement is reached. At the very least, scabs figure to be ostracized by poststrike teammates, with whom they spend nearly eight months a year. Any player, especially a marginal major leaguer, will find it difficult to stay in the game when he is an outcast on his own team.
Will ticket prices be reduced for replacement-player games?
They had better be. The fans have already taken a terrific beating from the game, and even the owners admit that charging major league prices for a minor league product would be idiotic. Acting commissioner Bud Selig, who owns the Milwaukee Brewers, is among the owners who have said they will slash prices, and the rest of the clubs are sure to do so. While they're at it, owners should consider cutting the prices of concessions and parking.