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In Baseball and Politics, Get Ready for “Small Ball”

February 4th, 2022 by dk

Next time Sen. Ron Wyden visits Eugene, somebody should take him to see the renovations at PK Park and emphasize the importance of keeping the ball in play, whether it’s baseball or politics.

On Tuesday, Wyden was talking to a gaggle of reporters on Capitol Hill, exuding confidence that the Democrats will surely rally around a scaled down but still substantial version of Biden’s Build Back Better legislative package. At that same moment, Sen. Joe Manchin was announcing that BBB is “dead.” Not virtually dead — dead dead.

Manchin seems to be leaving Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer no other choice. Bring the pieces of BBB up for individual votes. That doesn’t sound like a bad idea —many of those pieces are very popular with the public. But the Senate has so many tools for delaying votes, it will require arduous effort.

A small ball strategy might be all that’s left to the Democrats, but that doesn’t mean they can’t turn it to their advantage. They swung for the fences but couldn’t connect with the force of all 50 players swinging the same direction at the same time. Better now to make reliable contact, keep their runners moving, and wear down their competition.

Home run derby is over. Small ball season has begun.

If there isn’t a breakthrough soon between franchise owners and the players’ union, there may be no Major League Baseball this summer. Baseball played at the University of Oregon’s PK Park may be the only (ball) game in town. Returning fans will notice several changes on the playing field.

PK Park has been a pitcher’s paradise, but that’s changing a bit. The outfield wall is now 78 inches tall all the way around, but the wall is being brought in 10 or 15 feet near both foul lines. The goal is to see more doubles and triples as long balls careen into those corners.

Oregon coach Mark Wasikowski described it this way to The Oregonian: “More triples in the ballpark or scoring a guy from first base on a ball that goes to the wall. That’s a pretty exciting piece of the baseball game. The three-base play is the most exciting play in the game. We tried to maximize that.” More base-running means more strategy and more discipline on details.

Wasikowski could teach Schumer to embrace a strategy that keeps more balls — or bills — in play for longer. Large legislative bills should be replaced with a steady stream of small ones. For example, many senators endorse the concept of a child tax credit, but they don’t agree with sending $600 to all families with young children.

Schumer should call a vote for sending those families $100 each month. Still too much? How about $10 each month? One dollar? For too long, the devil has remained hidden in the details. A small ball strategy would at least expose those who claim to support the concept but really don’t.

Force senators to go on record opposing embarrassingly small moves. Voters deserve to know who is playing the game in good faith.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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