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"The final hours of the attempt to reach a negotiated settlement in baseball's four-month-old bargaining dispute turned out to be long and contentious ones Monday night," writes Ross Newhan in this morning's L.A. TIMES. In what management officials said was an "often venomous meeting" in Rye Brook, NY, that ended at 1:15am (ET) this morning, the owners gave the MLBPA an extension until 10:30am (ET) this morning to "accept or reject their Sunday night tax proposal that the union continued to characterize as a salary cap" (L.A. TIMES, 12/13). Red Sox CEO John Harrington said the players had not "formally rejected the offer and anticipated more discussion" this morning. MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr "declined to characterize the developments as cause for optimism" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 12/13). CNN's Mark Morgan cites one management official who said that "the players have not rejected the owner's proposal outright and the discussions are continuing within the framework of the owner's proposal right now" ("Sports Tonight," 12/12). CHICAGO HOPE? Several members of the owner's negotiating committee stressed earlier in the day that they couldn't see postponing their meeting Thursday in Chicago, where they are expected to vote for implementing the salary cap. The owners already invited GMs to Chicago to discuss how to run their clubs under a cap. "There is word they will immediately look into who will serve as replacement players" (I.J. Rosenberg, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 12/13). "There apparently are plenty of teams willing to risk months or even years of litigation for the potential rewards that would spring from the successful imposition" of a cap (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 12/13). Rockies owner Jerry McMorris on delaying implementation: "We're literally out of time. With the holidays staring at us, it would be very difficult to move that date again" (PHILA. INQUIRER, 12/13). THE DISPUTES: In their latest offer, the owners called for a tax similar to the flat 5% payroll tax cited in the last player plan. "The sides do not have a problem there." It is in what the owners describe as their "secondary" tax plan that the "troubles arise." That system would kick in should the flat tax fail to create a "drag" on salaries that management says it needs. There would be a threshold payroll limit. If a team exceeded that threshold, it would be charged an additional tax that would start at 1% in the first year and double every season thereafter that the club stayed about the threshold (Joel Sherman, N.Y. POST, 12/13). One player called the owners' new plan a "Rube Goldberg contraption" (Joe Giuliotti, BOSTON HERALD, 12/13). A PLAYERS' MANAGER: A's Manager Tony La Russa says he does not know if he would manage a team of replacement players: "If they have minor league players playing, what do you lose by have the (minor league) staff handling them? Any decision has to be based on what you think is best for the game. You have a relationship with (veteran) players. At some point they will be back, and you've got to be able to explain why you did what you did." La Russa has talked about his concerns with A's CEO Wally Haas. Haas: "I can see where Tony's coming from. I hope things never get to that point" (John Hickey, OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 12/11).
The NHL Board of Governors voted unanimously to reject the latest offer from the NHLPA, but directed NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the negotiating committee to continue the collective bargaining process. In addition, Bettman was given the authority to cancel the season if no CBA is reached in time to play a 50- game regular season and Stanley Cup playoffs by July 1 (NHL). Bettman: "This is not about a league fighting with the union. This is about a league fighting for its future" (Mult., 12/13). REAX: Bruins GM & President Harry Sinden: "You don't get 26 owners to shut down a business if it's healthy" (Nancy Marrapese, BOSTON GLOBE, 12/13). Oilers Owner Peter Pocklington: "Baseball had a drop-dead date, and look what happened. It dropped dead" (Mult., 12/13). Lightning GM Phil Esposito, on a "drop-dead date": "There's no reason for it. Sooner or later, the day will come when we can't go any further, and that decision will be made by Mr. Bettman" (Roy Cummings, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/13). "It's almost certain there will be no season unless either the players or owners are prepared to make a 180-degree turn. Yesterday, neither side seemed interested in compromise" (Fuller & Hornby, TORONTO SUN, 12/13). "If the season is indeed cancelled, the blood will be on the gloves of Gary Bettman" (Gare Joyce, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 12/13). "There is no Dove owner willing enough or powerful enough to pull the switch that will allow either side to gracefully avoid a collision of potentially thunderous and long-ranging impact" (Kent Gilchrist, Vancouver PROVINCE, 12/13). NHL Senior VP & Dir of Hockey Ops Brian Burke: "The owners are the ones who will cancel the season, but the players are the one who won't agree to a deal that makes sense" (Mark Everson, N.Y. POST, 12/13). "If 50 is really the minimum number of games required for an NHL season to happen, then lots of time still remain to cut a deal -- maybe more than two weeks" (Damien Cox, TORONTO STAR, 12/13). ESPN's Al Morganti: "It could very well be that this is just another phase in the posturing by either side in these negotiations. But if they are playing a game of chicken, they are getting dangerously close to the deadline" ("SportsCenter," 12/12) NEXT SESSION: Talks could begin again tomorrow, possibly in New York (Joe Gordon, BOSTON HERALD, 12/13).
In a stock sale agreement yesterday, MLS acquired the San Francisco Blackhawks from owner Daniel Van Voorhis. The agreement not only allows MLS to acquire the team, but also the long-term rights to Spartan Stadium in San Jose. In exchange for the sale, Van Voorhis becomes a limited partner in MLS. The Blackhawks join the league after having last played in the American Professional Soccer League (APSL) in '92. San Jose is one of eight cities already designated to be site of inaugural MLS play in '96, joining Boston, Chicago, Columbus, OH, Los Angeles, New York/New Jersey, Tampa and Washington, DC. MLS Chair Alan Rothenberg was pleased about the agreement: "I am gratified the MLS and Mr. Van Voorhis have agreed to work together. The Blackhawks have done a good job in helping focus attention on the need for a Division I outdoor league in America and we know that soccer fans in that region will support MLS" (MLS).
The NBA is seeking to add something to its All-Star weekend in Phoenix in two months. "Now the league and its players are seeing if they can add peace to the agenda." Officials from the NBPA and the NBA got together last week in New York and are scheduled to meet the rest of this month and through January to "hammer out a new" collective bargaining agreement. "Never one to pass up a well-lit stage," NBA Commissioner David Stern "would absolutely love to make the announcement with sponsors and media in heavy concentration." NBPA Exec Dir Charles Grantham: "We want to see if there is a way we can reach an agreement around the All-Star game if possible. ... It's clear there's a sense on both sides that we would like to get a deal." The sides are still "rather distant." The players will "give" on a rookie wage scale, and the league is ready to give more of the "lucrative licensing pie and even raise the percentage of defined gross revenues that go to the players" from 53 to 57%. But the owners want to "tighten the cap rules and restrict the tap dancing around the spirit of the system. There is also talk of a four- year limit on player contracts" (Steve Bulpett, BOSTON HERALD, 12/11).