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"With yet another doomsday deadline rapidly approaching, there continued to be the faintest signs of hope Tuesday" that players and owners were close to finding a resolution (Joseph Reeves, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12/21). Rockies Owner Jerry McMorris, MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr and Special Mediator William Usery -- who, by the way, turns 71 today -- met alone late last night. "And while there was speculation that this might mean some sort of breakthrough was near," one union official said the two sides needed to determine "whether there is reason to get together as a group" (Jayson Stark, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 12/21). McMorris: "It's time to make a deal if we want one. There will be compromises reached. There will be give and take on various parts" (AP/Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 12/21). While most reports note that McMorris and Phillies Exec VP Dave Montgomery have been given the authority to make a deal, acting Commissioner Bud Selig denied that McMorris was sent as the "designated deal-maker" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 12/21). McMorris will meet again with Fehr this morning and the owners' full negotiating committee will arrive later in the day for joint talks (Hal Bodley, USA TODAY, 12/21). IN DISPUTE: Again, it appeared the "potential basis for a settlement" could be a two-tiered tax that features a relatively small tax on all 28 teams' payrolls, and a 2nd tax assessed against teams who exceed a certain payroll level (Jayson Stark, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 12/21). IS THERE A DEADLINE? While the owners have a self-imposed deadline for implementation at midnight tomorrow, many reports note that they may decide to hold off on declaring an impasse. "The union is winning the paper chase, but it remains to be seen whether a couple of unfavorable government rulings will discourage the owners" (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 12/21). MLBPA General Counsel Gene Orza said he thought "owners were becoming aware making a deal was their best option": "There are more and more people uncomfortable with the system they would implement" (USA TODAY, 12/21). But McMorris said owners are still working under the premise of a Thursday deadline (Thom Loverro, WASHINGTON TIMES, 12/21). ANOTHER NLRB LOSS FOR OWNERS: The NLRB dismissed an unfair labor practice charge against the MLBPA by the owners concerning alleged threats against potential strikebreakers. A week ago, the NLRB said it would issue two unfair labor practice complaints against owners over their failure to make a $7.8M contribution to the players' pension fund (I.J. Rosenberg, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 12/21). MLB plans to appeal the NLRB's dismissal of the threats complaint (MLB). NEWS & NOTES: In an interview with ESPN that was made available to the ASSOCIATED PRESS, incoming Senate Judiciary Chair Sen. Orrin Hatch said he believes that some owners are trying to break the union: "If I get the impression that the owners are going to break the players union, then I'm not going to sit idly by." In a statement, Selig responded to Hatch's comments: "I'm disappointed that Sen. Hatch made such inflammatory remarks at this critical stage" of the negotiations (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 12/21)....The Blue Jays have not decided when to put tickets for the '95 season on sale. Jays spokesperson Mark Leno said the team will wait and see what happens with the strike before asking for season ticket renewals (TORONTO STAR, 12/21).
Following yesterday's meeting of 26 player reps in Toronto, the NHLPA expects as many as 200 players to convene for a briefing on the state of talks with the league. "The morning line is that today's meeting will not be a stormy affair," writes Bob McKenzie of the TORONTO STAR. "If the players are as like- minded on the issues as we've been led to believe it will turn into a rally" (TORONTO STAR, 12/21). NHLPA spokesperson Steve McAllister: "There'll be an update on negotiations, but there won't be a vote. There's really nothing to vote on" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 12/21). NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow "said the only vote would be the ratification vote after all the cards are on the table and the final offer is made" (Lance Hornby, TORONTO SUN, 12/21). After yesterday's meeting, the player reps were adamant in their public opposition to a tax. The Penguins' Larry Murphy: "If they insist on the tax, it'll kill the year. So, really, it's up to Gary Bettman whether he wants to shut the season down or not" (Paul Hunter, TORONTO STAR, 12/21). THE PLAYERS' CHOICE: According to Roy Cummings in this morning's TAMPA TRIBUNE, Goodenow will inform the players that they "miscalculated" regarding the owners' resolve and have only two options to save the season: 1) Make major concessions on arbitration to convince owners to drop their luxury tax. The players would probably have to agree to non-binding arbitration after five years. 2) Accept and negotiate a tax and "fight for the status quo in salary arbitration." Notes Cummings, "This may be their best option. ... There will no doubt be plenty of support for [standing firm and losing the season] from the players, but the bet around NHL circles is that Goodenow will talk his players out of it" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 12/21). In New York, Mark Everson writes, "In order to avoid a tax, it appears the players may have to give up almost everything else they've gained in the past 20 years" (N.Y. POST, 12/21). ON THE OWNERS' SIDE: The CANADIAN PRESS is reporting that sources say the owners have two proposals on the table -- one with a tax and one without (VANCOUVER SUN, 12/21). In Toronto, Paul Hunter reports sources say there was "serious talk among some owners Monday centering around presenting an offer without the tax. However, the word on the management grapevine yesterday was the tax is still very much on the table and will remain there. The only way that it will be removed is if the players drop all demands for salary arbitration and extended free agency." Adds Hunter, "That won't happen" (TORONTO STAR, 12/21). NEWS & NOTES: Red Wings Owner Mike Ilitch, to a Detroit radio station earlier this week: "Why not just come right out and say 'cap' now? I mean, it's a cap. That's what we're after here. They're using other fancy terms, but that's what it boils down to" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/21)....The AHL is facing its own labor problems. In yesterday's editions of Quebec's LE SOLEIL, one AHL player said that talk of a pre-playoffs walkout is growing. AHL players have been without a contract since August (AP/TORONTO STAR, 12/21).... Canucks President Pat Quinn suggested the NHL season might be shortened to 40 games (TORONTO SUN, 12/21)....Capitals center Dave Poulin came away from a phone conversation with Goodenow confident there will be a deal after Christmas. But Bruins GM Harry Sinden said: "There isn't a damned thing to agree on" (Joe Gordon, BOSTON HERALD, 12/21).
The State of Connecticut is expected to announce today that the WTA Tour Players Association is moving its headquarters to Stamford, CT, in February. Officials of the WTA Tour, which has been headquartered in St. Petersburg, FL since '90, said CT offers a "better business environment." The Tour will continue to maintain some offices in St. Petersburg. WTA Tour spokesperson Toni Woods said the move is part of an effort to restructure the WTA Tour through a merger with the Women's Tennis Council. Woods: "Because of this integration, we're streamlining the tour. It's more like the NFL now. There's never really been a league office in women's professional tennis. This makes it easier" (Roberto Gonzalez, HARTFORD COURANT, 12/21).