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BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 131: MORE TALK, LESS ROCK
Published December 20, 1994
The MLBPA returned to the table with a written proposal yesterday, "hoping to develop a foundation on which union and management negotiators can begin serious bargaining" (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 12/20). Small contingents from both sides met for more than seven hours. The only member of the owners' negotiating committee present was Phillies Exec VP Dave Montgomery. Rockies Owner Jerry McMorris is expected to join the talks today, while Red Sox CEO John Harrington is not due until tonight or tomorrow. In New York, Jon Heyman calls the addition of McMorris "potentially positive": "He at least has received deal-making authority" (N.Y. NEWSDAY, 12/20). McMorris is the committee member MLBPA negotiators "seem to trust most. So it's possible that keeping the group small actually could enhance the chances of making a deal." Montgomery's presence is meaningful "because he understands the nuances of the various tax plans better than anyone else on the committee" (Jayson Stark, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 12/20). Paul Molitor was disappointed that more owners did not show: "You wonder if all they're doing is posturing, preparing themselves for legal battles" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 12/20). THE PROPOSAL: Yesterday's discussion focused on the revenue-sharing proposal from the players. "Basically, the ideas are the same ones the players presented to the owners 10 days ago, including a way of sharing ticket revenue between the home and visiting clubs." But the "crux of the problem continues to be the payroll tax" (I.J. Rosenberg, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 12/20). Sources on both sides suggest that while they did not "exactly narrow the gap at that session, they did narrow their focus. And that focus seemed to be on a new, double-edged tax plan that each side might be able to live with." The plan features two taxes -- a minimal tax on payrolls that all 28 teams would pay, and a second tax that would penalize teams for execceding a certain payroll limit. It is the "nature" and size of the second tax that "apparently holds the key to settlement." (Jayson Stark, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 12/20). ARBITRATION: There also was some discussion on free agency and arbitration. The players are willing to give up arbitration if free agency is moved from six to three years. The owners want restricted 4-year free agency. Fehr: "If you want to get rid of salary arbitration, you have to make everybody unrestricted free agents all the way down" (I.J. Rosenberg, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 12/20). RAVITCH SPEAKS OUT: Richard Ravitch, outgoing chief labor negotiator for the owners, was interviewed for Monday's N.Y. NEWSDAY. On media coverage of the talks: "I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of sportswriters who have ever attempted to contact me to ask about what's going on. ... This crisis has usually been covered in newspapers and on radio and television as a sports story instead of a business story. ... It would be a lot more appropriate for understanding if the issues were analyzed in the business context they require." On other sports' labor problems now: "The issues are the same: Competition for the entertainment dollar within the pressing need to split incremental revenues in the future more equitably" (N.Y. NEWSDAY, 12/19).