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Original Issue


Sorry, America. We must take full responsibility for those
ridiculous trades last week. One fourth of the Chicago White Sox
pitching staff for six San Francisco Giants farmhands? Wea
culpa. The future of the Seattle Mariners for the present of two
shaky relievers? Our doing. The greatest home run hitter since
Babe Ruth for three Curt Young Award candidates? Shame on us.

We are the members of the original Rotisserie League, the band
of merry men (and one woman) who devised, promulgated and
promoted fantasy league baseball, first for our own amusement,
then in the vain hope that riches, or at least enough for
tuition payments, would come our way. Nowadays, we hang our
heads in mortification over the monster we have created.

We started by trying to imitate baseball pooh-bahs, and now
baseball pooh-bahs imitate us. We know what you're thinking,
White Sox fans: Jerry Reinsdorf is an idiot for agreeing in the
off-season to shell out $11 million a year for Albert Belle,
then throwing in the towel in midseason by trading starting
pitchers Wilson Alvarez and Danny Darwin, closer Roberto
Hernandez and icon DH Harold Baines. But the 'Dorf is only doing
what our own Michael Pollet used to do to his team, the Pollet
Burros, year after year: dump. Pollet would spend outrageous
amounts on superstars, then turn around at midseason, when he
was mired at the bottom of the standings, and trade them for
such future talents as Paul Householder, Marvell Wynne and Eric
Yelding. If we each got a nickel for every time Pollet made a
dumb trade, we might be rich. (Did we mention that we have made
next to nothing off our invention?)

As for me, I am not about to throw stones at Woody Woodward, the
Mariners' brain behind the Jose Cruz Jr. for Mike Timlin and
Paul Spoljaric trade last week. I once traded Jose Cruz Sr. for
Stan Bahnsen in the mistaken belief that Stan the Old Man would
bring my team, the Wulfgang, some relief.

Even if baseball owners and general managers don't play
Rotisserie League, they all know what it is. Heck, the 1994-95
work stoppage was over the owners' desire to impose the same
kind of salary cap essential to every Rotisserie League. (Go
ahead, blame us for the strike too.) Consciously or
subconsciously, front-office people long for the ease and
dispatch with which we make trades. They must answer to
fans--Rotisserians, probably--who demand action. Hence, they
have lately thrown caution to the wind, and some of them have
thrown reason along with it. We understand. But we also know
that the integrity of the game is at stake, that it's not fair
when the valiant and underfunded Pittsburgh Pirates now have to
stave off a Cardinals team fortified by Mark McGwire. Sure,
David beat Goliath, but Goliath didn't hit a home run about
every three games.

The trouble--all right, one trouble--with major league baseball
is that it has not evolved as far as Rotisserie League baseball
has. Over the years, we too have struggled with the dumping
dilemma. The first few years we thought an earlier trading
deadline would curtail the dumping, but teams just gave up
earlier. Just as Ford Frick did to Roger Maris, we attached an
asterisk to any player over a certain dollar value or in the
last year of his contract, then limited the number of asterisked
players each team could trade. But after a few seasons of
hearing "Is he an asterisk?" we tired of that rule.

Now we start the year with a sensible salary cap of 260 bottle
caps that can rise to 320 bottle caps to accommodate midseason
pickups (we can no longer afford to play for dollars). Real
baseball could adopt something similar by prohibiting teams from
stretching their payrolls beyond a certain point, so some rich
team like the Cardinals couldn't further upset the balance of
power by preying on a poor club not even in its league.

Come to think of it, the owners might want to emulate other
aspects of Rotisserie baseball. To attract a more youthful fan,
they could borrow our tradition of pouring Yoo-Hoo (a chocolate
drink once endorsed by Yogi Berra) over the heads of champions
instead of champagne. Our original league has a rule prohibiting
the ownership of a team by anyone who has a car dealership in
the Midwest, which would leave out Bud and Marge. The lords of
baseball might also want to consider a proposal to deny
membership to anyone who owns the Chicago Bulls.

And finally, the owners, like us, should always remember that
they're in it for the love of the game. We're certainly not in
it for the money.

Steve Wulf is a senior writer for TIME.

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: EVANGELOS VIGLIS [Drawing of large hands sweeping small baseball players from dustbin into garbage]