Joe Conason's Journal

Readers send in races to watch. Plus: Hope for baseball.

By Salon Staff
Published August 29, 2002 5:19PM (EDT)

Hicks Takes Licks
Here's a fair-minded, hopeful overview of the baseball talks -- by the New York Post's Jay Greenberg, who unlike me really knows what he's talking about. An additional delight is the columnist's digression comparing reviled Cubs owner Jerry Reinsdorf to the high-roller who bought the Texas Rangers from the Bush syndicate: "This year's Reinsdorf wannabe, Tom Hicks, is an even more transparent hypocrite, signing Alex Rodriguez to his last-place Rangers for at least $5 million more than necessary, then shouting that the industry needs to be cleaned out."

Utah Gerrymander Failing
Many helpful responses to my request for local newsfeeds about Senate and congressional races have arrived; please continue to send polls and other useful stuff. Today a political reporter in Salt Lake City drew my attention to the race in Utah's Second District, where the Republicans are struggling to take out Jim Matheson, the only Democrat in the state delegation. First the GOP gerrymandered his old district into Republican rural areas, and since then they've been sending in national figures like Dennis Hastert and Dick Cheney to promote (and raise money for) his conservative opponent John Swallow. While the latest statewide poll shows Republicans picking up the open seat in Utah, which was not unexpected, the same survey shows Matheson ahead by nine points.
[2:20 p.m. PDT, Aug. 29, 2002]

Bad GOP omen
What may well be a bad omen for Republican hopes of holding the House has turned up in South Dakota -- where the GOP and its allies have spent heavily already to influence the tight U.S. Senate race (and to demean Majority Leader Tom Daschle). The state's single open seat wasn't expected to be a marginal one, but the contest between Democrat Stephanie Herseth and Republican William Janklow has been too close to call this summer. Now the latest independent poll shows Herseth starting to pull ahead -- only two weeks after her own poll showed her a few points behind, and four weeks after the National Republican Congressional Committee released a poll showing Janklow up by eight points. The 31-year-old Democrat, granddaughter of a former governor, is running a populist-style campaign against conservative Janklow, who is vacating the statehouse after four terms as governor himself. If nearly every incumbent in both parties is reelected as usual, it will be open seats like South Dakota's that determine control of Congress.

For the players
An attorney who is intimately familiar with the baseball negotiations told me Wednesday evening that he believed there was reason for hope, if not optimism, that a strike can still be avoided. The unionized players, being more accessible to fans and journalists, are as usual taking the brunt of public dismay over the prospect of another ruined season. The alleged greed of the players is never far from consciousness, but what about the hypocrisy (and greed) of the owners? It is surely strange that the capitalists in the major league oligopoly insist on socializing profits, restricting competition and regulating wages -- and that otherwise ardent "libertarian" pundits agree. At least the players earn their salaries with sweat and sometimes blood. And in my view, the Players Association has ventured proposals and concessions more than halfway to meet the owners' demands. What I always find puzzling about this situation is that so many fans fail to understand how collective bargaining could improve their own wages and conditions, just as the MLBPA has done for their diamond heroes.
[10:30 a.m. PDT, Aug. 29, 2002]

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