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BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 120: EARLY FREEZE THIS WINTER?
Published December 9, 1994
In a gathering yesterday with union officials, a group of 40 player agents "said they may consider a freeze on signings of their clients if the owners impose their salary cap next week. That would throw the sport into even more turmoil." Currently, there are more than 150 free agents, and there will be another 80 restricted ones, if the owners go ahead with their plan. Already, some players who would be free agents under the owners' salary cap "have said they won't sign a contract under those conditions" (I.J. Rosenberg, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 12/9). The agents left the final decision on a freeze up to the union, but any freeze "would be mostly cosmetic since the players will resume their strike next spring if the owners implement and attempt to open the camps with replacement players" (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 12/9). In Washington, Mark Maske notes that many agents have "put considerable pressure" on MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr to reach an agreement at various times during the strike. "But there apparently was a show of solidarity today, much as there was during the players' meetings" this week (WASHINGTON POST, 12/9). "There was no dissent" (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 12/9). THE PLAYERS' PLAN: The union spent much of yesterday working on details of the counterproposal they will present to the owners Saturday morning in Rye Brook, NY. There were differing accounts on the contents of the players' plan. While ESPN and others reported that it includes a flat payroll tax, there was uncertainty over the percentages. The proposal also calls for joint marketing and revenue-generating projects. Agent Craig Fenech: "It should provide a basis for satisfying them. But I think they have an agenda. A number of owners want to try replacement players. I expect they're going to implement" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 12/9). Royals Player Rep David Cone: "The owners have been talking about a partnership, well here it is. Let's do it under these circumstances and make it a true partnership." ESPN's Bob Sirkin on prospects this weekend: "The viability of the players' counter-proposal could be measured by just how long the two sides keep talking" ("SportsCenter," 12/8). Rockies owner Jerry McMorris "claimed management would be receptive to players having a voice in running the game if the numbers in their new proposal are acceptable" (Joel Sherman, N.Y. POST, 12/9). AROUND THE LEAGUE: An AP poll conducted November 30- December 6 of 615 adult baseball fans found that 51% say they would attend the same number of games next season even if replacement players are used; 63% said they would watch just as many games on TV. The number of people identifying themselves as baseball fans dropped to 26% now from 33% in July. Asked generally about the possible use of replacement players, 49% of fans were in favor, 40% opposed (AP/ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 12/9)....MLB is sending former major leaguers and current coaches Dave Duncan, Jim Lefebvre and Frank White to Europe to conduct a series of baseball clinics next month. Some 1,200 European coaches and trainers are expected to participate (MLB).