Notebook > Sports

Present is prologue

Sports | The NBA is headed toward a labor impasse similar to the one that shut down the NHL

Issue: "MS-13: Criminals next door," June 18, 2005

Take note, David Stern. The NHL's present could be the NBA's future. Professional basketball could learn something from big league hockey, whose labor dispute has dragged on and could threaten the start of a second season. Namely, basketball officials could learn how to twiddle their thumbs while watching their season waste away. Of course, the NBA's labor impasse isn't close to as damaging as the NHL's has become. Basketball's lockout would begin July 1 if a deal isn't reached by June 30. But the association does appear headed for a work stoppage.

The league shot down two proposals from players association director Billy Hunter in early June. League commissioner David Stern has countered with a plan to grant players 57 percent of revenues and raise the salary cap. If the labor struggle persists, it signals a disturbing trend: Leagues are increasingly unable to settle labor disputes and strikes. Basketball's current seven-year deal came after a brutal 7-month work stoppage in 1998. Baseball is tainted by strikes and lockouts. Even the NFL seems to have serious labor problems brewing. It raises the question: If the strikes and lockouts continue, will U.S. professional team sports take a hit? Does anyone know what channel professional bowling is on?

A good mind is hard to find

From the pitcher's mound, baseball's 2005 All-Star Game may resemble the old-timers' game. Could the American League and National League both start pitchers in their 40s in the midseason classic? If so, it could give new meaning to Senior Circuit. In early June, Texas Rangers 40-year-old left-hander Kenny Rogers led the majors with a 1.62 ERA. Second? Houston's 42-year-old Roger Clemens with a 1.67 ERA. Both seem like shoo-ins for the July 12 All-Star Game and either seems like a fit to start for their respective leagues.

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Mr. Rogers, a lefty, and the right-handed Mr. Clemens both were power pitchers more than a decade ago. Neither can match their old velocity but both have learned to compensate. How many miles per hour is the element of surprise worth? During a May 31 contest, former Texas teammate and dead-eye fastball hitter Ivan Rodriguez swung so late on a Rogers pitch, it seemed the aging lefty's velocity had neared triple digits. The radar gun clocked Mr. Rogers at 88 mph. Mr. Clemens doesn't need to rely on such trickery. But the righty rarely gets behind batters and employs a savvy aggressiveness perhaps unequaled in the league.

Years ago, baseball executives were wary of pitchers as they began to push into their mid-30s. But the recent success of older pitchers is proving a new baseball maxim: A good arm can last a few seasons, but a trained mind can turn a pitcher into Cy Young material well into what should be his retirement.

Around the Horn

· New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said the state's Public Authorities Control Board didn't realize what it was doing when it struck down plans to build the Jets a $2 billion stadium on Manhattan's West Side. Mr. Bloomberg said the board's refusal to foot $300 million of the bill would endanger not only the Jets stadium project, but also New York City's hopes of landing the Summer Olympics in 2012.

· Voluntary workouts generally seem mandatory. But not when you're facing weapons charges. The Washington Redskins gave safety Sean Taylor an excused absence for the team's workout sessions. Mr. Taylor was charged with a felony after police say he pointed a gun at someone. The charge carries a minimum sentence of three years in prison, putting Mr. Taylor's career in serious jeopardy. Mr. Taylor, 22, was Washington's first-round draft pick in 2004.

· Prime Time will return. Flash cornerback Deion Sanders re-signed with the Baltimore Ravens after what he felt was an encouraging return to football last season. According to news reports, Mr. Sanders, 37, signed a one-year deal worth $1.5 million with more available in incentives. Mr. Sanders was limited to only nine games last season after struggling through nagging injuries. Still he managed three interceptions.


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