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Agent Dick Moss plans to announce the formation of a new baseball league on October 19 that he says will be operational this April. A similar project by Moss and NYC attorney David LeFevre fell apart in '89-90. But in the wake of the strike, Moss now says: "It's a very real thing. We have some very substantial people involved." Moss said the league would be comprised of 10-12 teams and play in cities "spurned" by MLB, including Buffalo, Mexico City, Tampa and Vancouver, as well as some smaller stadiums in MLB cities (Joel Sherman, N.Y. POST, 9/24). WILL MLBPA'S TRUST IN CONGRESS PAY OFF? Red Sox CEO John Harrington, who originally set November 1 as a deadline for settlement, now sees December as "realistic" given the recent House hearings on MLB's antitrust exemption. Harrington: "It's a major distraction and I hope the players aren't thinking they'd like to wait until January where they might think a ruling would be favorable for them" (Nick Cafardo, BOSTON GLOBE, 9/25). After seeing a copy of the bill to do away with the exemption, Braves President Stan Kasten said the players are "trying to become a special class of citizen. They are not asking for a level playing field. This is an outrage." Kasten stressed that, in the absence of an exemption, a court could not force the game back on the field (I.J. Rosenberg, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 9/24). In Richmond, Paul Woody writes on the players' promise to return to work and fight the issue out in court should the exemption be lifted: "That's a bluff worth calling" (RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, 9/25). Another paper's editorial board joins the players' cause. From Sunday's CINCINNATI ENQUIRER: "[The exemption] is as unsporting as a corked bat. It should be given the thumb" (ENQUIRER, 9/25). In Tampa, Neil Cote sees an upside for the owners in losing the exemption: "It would allow teams even greater latitude to shake down their cities. How? By adding teeth to their threats to move" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 9/26). BIG CITY, SMALL MEETING: Cal Ripken, Dave Winfield and Eddie Murray were among 22 players from 14 teams that attended the third of seven informational meetings planned by the MLBPA. Ripken, asked about the possibility of games played by replacement players ending his streak: "If replacement players play, it is not major-league baseball and I won't be playing" (Joel Sherman, N.Y. POST, 9/24). MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr "said he was not surprised at the low turnout, since most of the players live in other parts of the country." Fehr's "caravan" visits four other cities this week (Larry Whiteside, BOSTON GLOBE, 9/24). STRIKING THOUGHTS: The Cardinal's "fan appreciation day" open house at Busch Stadium drew 50,000 fans Sunday (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/26)....Former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suggests the trio that negotiated the Haitian settlement (Carter, Powell, Nunn) as baseball mediators (N.Y. TIMES, 9/25)....Agent Tony Attanasio says Japan is a "very real" option for many players should the strike continue into '95 (Jayson Stark, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/25)....Orioles Owner Peter Angelos and Fehr had lunch Saturday afternoon. Restaurant proprietor Naz Velleggia: "They were very quiet and congenial and never raised their voices" (Tom Keegan, Baltimore SUN, 9/25)....Bill Madden suggest that former MSG President Bob Gutkowski would be a better choice for Commissioner than retiring George Mitchell. "He knows the TV business inside and out with the MSG Network at the top of his resume. Shrewd, dynamic, personable ... but most important of all, Gutkowski made the Garden a fan-friendly place" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/25).
NFL owners meet in Dallas tomorrow for two days of discussions on stocking expansion teams and realignment. The league office is expected to offer a stocking plan in which each of the 28 clubs leaves seven players unprotected. The league plan allows for a maximum of three players to be taken from a team. Jacksonville proposed that each team leave at least one quarterback exposed, but the league office dismissed that proposal (Will McDonough, BOSTON GLOBE, 9/25). The owners are also expected to approve a plan in which Carolina and Jacksonville get only one first-round pick at next year's draft, and two picks in the later rounds (Vito Stellino, Baltimore SUN, 9/25). MORE CAP NEWS: In Boston, Will McDonugh comments on figures released by the NFLPA showing 18 teams over the $34.6M cap: "I submit that anyone who sees the results in basketball and football and thinks salary caps are bad for the players be given a dunce cap" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/24). OWNERS TO PROBE DEION DEAL: ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports that some owners have "demanded" a meeting with NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue this Friday regarding a possible third party -- "i.e., a corporate sponsor" -- involved in Deion Sanders' contract with the 49ers, In addition, they want to discuss the 49ers' tact of asking a free agent to take a pay cut and then re- sign in the spring. Mortensen: "There might be a penalty for that" ("NFL Game Day," 9/25).
ESPN's Linda Cohn followed up on speculation from last week that the NBA is considering a Thanksgiving lockout of players if a new collective bargaining agreement is not signed. NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik denied that would occur: "It is much too early to make any decisions about anything like that. We still have six weeks before the season starts" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/24). The possibility of a lockout is expected to be discussed at Wednesday's NBA Board of Governors meeting at which representatives from all 27 teams will convene. Before negotiating with the owners, the players reportedly want to hear the decision by a federal court panel on the validity of the NBA's salary cap, free-agency system and draft. A decision is expected in 4-6 weeks. NBPA Exec Dir Charles Grantham contends that the players "will stand firm" against any calls for a hard cap. Grantham added: "I want to make this clear: they [players] are not going to stand for the status quo" (Lawrence & Bunn, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/25).
"The art of compromise takes on a sense of urgency" today when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow resume talks in Toronto on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (Alan Adams, CANADIAN PRESS/Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 9/26). Bettman's negotiating team will be in Toronto through Wednesday. NHL Public Relations VP Arthur Pincus said the league has "no plans" to formally cancel games as of yet: "We'll be evaluating things day to day, but at some point a decision will have to be made about Saturday's games" (Lance Hornby, TORONTO SUN, 9/26). JUST IN CASE: NHL teams have booked their arenas for dates at least through the end of June in order to allow for a full regular-season schedule, followed by a full playoff. NHL teams reportedly plan to play the entire 84-game schedule by rescheduling postponed games at the end of the season (Larry Brooks, N.Y. POST, 9/24). WHERE WERE THEY IN JUNE? In New Jersey, Devils captain Scott Stevens "expressed disappointment" that there had been no negotiations between March and August: "We should have started long ago. There are so many time restrictions and now we face this time restriction. Both sides have to take the blame for that." But Bettman said his requests to meet with Goodenow over the summer were "rebuffed repeatedly": "I don't want to dwell on it because we are talking now, but there were numerous occasions we asked to meet and were turned down" (Larry Brooks, N.Y. POST, 9/24). NHL PROPOSAL JUST ISN'T GOOD 'ENUFF: In St. Louis, NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow met with Blues players on Saturday and updated them on the negotiations. Goodenow: "There's a lot of work left on both sides of the table. We'll try to reach an amicable solution in the appropriate time frame" (ST. LOUIS POST- DISPATCH, 9/25). VANCOUVER SUPPORTS OWNERS: Last week, the Vancouver PROVINCE conducted an unscientific poll in which 261 respondents were asked: "Do you support the players in their salary fight with NHL team owners?" The response was "resounding": 90% No. Kent Gilchrist advises the poll "not be dismissed out of hand" by the players (PROVINCE, 9/26). ARE PLAYERS READY TO DIG IN? In Washington, Capitals Player Rep Don Beaupre: "Right now we're prepared for a three-, four-, five-month lockout" (Mark Asher, WASHINGTON POST, 9/24). But in Tampa Bay, Lightning Player Rep Danton Cole said he "wasn't sure" how strong the union is: "We're strong like a family, but I don't think anyone can say for sure how long either side could hold out" (Tom Jones, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 9/24). Mighty Ducks Player Rep Bob Corkum called Bettman a "hired gun": "He definitely came here to get a salary cap and he's not going to fold up easily" (CP/VANCOUVER SUN, 9/26). COLUMNISTS VOICE OFF: In Toronto, Jim Hunt writes that Bettman "has done his damndest to provoke the players," and if a lockout occurs, "it's Bettman who will have blood on his hands" (TORONTO SUN, 9/26). In Boston, Kevin Dupont writes, "Try to remember what the players have forgotten: It's Bettman's side that owns the show. ... Hockey players have no choice now but to accept what's before them" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/25). In Philadelphia, Bill Lyons writes, "There is a decidedly mean edge to the way the league has operated recently. It seems to be bristling for a fight" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/24). In Washington, Dave Fay writes, "The players don't trust Bettman because he is an outsider and not a hockey man. Put Wayne Gretzky on one side of the table and Boston GM Harry Sinden on the other and this thing might be settled in 15 minutes. Half an hour, tops" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 9/25). In Tampa Bay, Roy Cummings advises hockey fans to "aim your angst" at Goodenow. While a possible lockout is one week away, "Goodenow sits, like Nero amid Rome's burning embers. He may negotiate, he may not, but apparently only when it's convenient for him" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 9/25). COMEDIANS AGAINST THE CAP: At the end of the season premier of "Saturday Night Live," Mike Myers was front-and-center showing off his "NHLPA" sweatshirt (NBC, 9/24).