SBD/20/Leagues Governing Bodies

BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 131: MORE TALK, LESS ROCK

     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).
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