As many of you know, I stopped following major league baseball in 1994, when the players went on strike mid-season and basically killed my enthusiasm for the sport. Luckily I had my Statis Pro season, video and audio tapes of old games, and the minor league Lake Elsinore Storm to quench my thirst, but I would never again be a fan of baseball—current baseball—after that season.
Of course, someone had to pay the price for this indiscretion, and when I saw a newspaper photo during the strike of Lou Whitaker emerging from a limousine, smartly dressed with several gold chains hanging from his neck as he headed for a players meeting, he became that someone, and I immediately suspended him for the remainder of my SP78 season. Fair or not, he became my scapegoat, and since that day he’s missed 62 games of the Tigers season, and with Detroit in a tightly-contested AL East pennant race, he’ll not only miss the remainder of the regular season, but possibly some post-season games as well.
It’s now been twenty-five years since the players went on strike and—along with the owners—ended the ’94 season; obviously it’s also been that long since Whitaker last played an SP78 game (his final appearance was on June 10, 1978). Until he was suspended, Whitaker was batting .303, with six errors in 48 games played. During his absence, utility infielders Mark Wagner and Steve Dillard have platooned at second, batting a combined .276 with only five errors over 62 games; for the month of August, however, they’re both hitting under .200, and have turned just 33 double plays with shortstop Alan Trammell since June, compared to the 31 that had been turned by Whitaker and Trammell before the suspension, in a fewer number of games.
I’ve been asking myself this question for the past several years now, and figured it was time to ask my legion of SP78 followers as well: what should I do with the conundrum that is Lou Whitaker? Should he finally be returned to Detroit’s active roster, and be allowed to play again after having paid his dues for the past twenty-five years? Or should I honor my commitment and continue punishing him, as well as the Tigers, for what baseball did to me a quarter century ago? Is it fair to Wagner and Dillard to suddenly oust them from their starting roles, after they’d worked so hard to fill the void left by their teammate, and throw Whitaker back into a starting mix? And though it may be too late for him to do so, should I give Whitaker a chance to earn the Rookie of the Year award for the SP78 season that he’d actually won for the American League in 1978?
Click your preference of these possibilities in the polling box below, and help me decide how to handle Sweet Lou’s situation. I can’t say the final results will outright determine his fate, but they will help to steer me in one direction or another. The poll will close in one month, on October 9th; feel free to discuss your decision in the comment area below. And as always, thanks for taking part!