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Baseball owners are expected to make the "first move when talks resume" Wednesday in Washington, possibly by making a new proposal. "But don't expect major movement." Braves President Stan Kasten: "Thus far, the union has been resolutely unwilling to address the economic problems of our game. ... If that doesn't change, nothing is likely to happen" (Ronald Blum, AP/CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/29). According to Peter Gammons, the moderate owners have convinced the hawks to offer up a new proposal, "one without the salary cap and with an offer based on what the owners walked away from in Rye Brook and Washington." It may be "something akin" to a 25% secondary tax triggered at a particular payroll figure. The players' starting point was $64M, but, more logically, the number rests between $35-40M, with fifth year unrestricted and fourth year restricted free agency. Gammons concludes by asking if MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr is "too preoccupied" with the NLRB and the antitrust exemption to listen to this offer (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/29). In New York, Tom Keegan also notes the likelihood that the owners will offer a proposal without the cap (N.Y. POST, 1/30). Rockies Owner Jerry McMorris: "There's a sense of urgency now that if we don't get something done, somebody else is going to do it for us" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/28). FROM THE PLAYERS' POINT OF VIEW: The union will hold a meeting of its executive council in Washington tomorrow. The agenda includes whether to lift the player signing freeze, the question of who among minor league players should report to spring training, a possible schedule of games under Reebok's sponsorship, and the status of managers, coaches and trainers as recipients of union benefits (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 1/29). MORE ON FALLOUT FROM THE NBA CASE: In Denver, Tracy Ringolsby reports that MLBPA staff had helped prepare the NBPA's case before the 2nd Circuit, in which Judge Winter ruled that antitrust laws do not prevent teams from imposing work rules, such as salary cap. "And Fehr told players and agents he was confident of victory the NBA players, which he said would strengthen the challenge of baseball's exemption" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 1/29). Harvard Law Professor Paul Weiler notes that an NFL case in the DC Circuit will soon produce the opposite decision, and sees the issue heading to the Supreme Court (Peter Gammons, BOSTON GLOBE, 1/29). NIGHTLINE FOCUS: ABC's "Nightline" examined the possible use of replacements by MLB. ABC's Jeff Greenfield traveled to two camps to talk with players trying out for replacement teams. Braves 3B Terry Pendleton: "This time it seems like they're just playing hard ball and saying 'This is the way it's going to be. I don't care how many compromises the union makes, this is the way it's going to be.'" NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Columnist John Harper, who tried out at a replacement camp, on when a possible settlement: "They won't go long with these replacement players. ... If a couple of big names cross, it's easier for the little guys to justify coming in, so that's the key" (ABC, 1/27). NEWS & NOTES: Looking ahead, Peter Gammons notes some of the new owners such as Red Sox CEO John Harrington, Rockies Owner Jerry McMorris, Giants Owner Peter Magowan, Astros Owner Drayton McLane and Padres Owner John Moores will step into positions of leadership in MLB when the strike is over (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/29)....Baltimore city councilman Joseph DiBlasi has introduced an ordinance to would make it illegal for replacement players to play games at Camden Yards. MLB would be fined $1,000 for every game that violated the ordinance (Mult., 1/28).
ABC's "Wide World of Sports" featured a video version of Phil Taylor's "Bad Actors" article in SI's January 30 issue. Taylor interviews Bulls Coach Phil Jackson, Former player/radio talk host Norm Van Lier, as well as NBA Commissioner David Stern. Stern: "So, you've got three players missing practice. The same number have been missing practice for the last fifty years of our existence, but you need something to write about. ... Each of those acts that make you wince, also make news in an incredible way. And that's the price of having the kind of coverage we have. None of it is excusable, if you are paid to play and you are paid to practice, then you should show up and you should play and you should practice" (ABC, 1/28). TWO PLAYERS RESPOND: In the wake of the SI story, the Nets' Derrick Coleman released a statement "vowing to stay a Net, pledging full support" for Nets Coach Butch Beard and promising to become a team leader (Shaun Powell, N.Y. NEWSDAY, 1/29). Coleman insists the timing of his statement had nothing to do with the story, which prods Ailene Voisin to write, "Uh, huh" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 1/29).
The results of a poll conducted by Peter Hart Research for the Orioles surveyed 500 of the club's "most ardent -- and financially committed -- customers." On the use of replacements, 80% OPPOSE, 16% FAVOR. Replacement baseball as "major league baseball": 88% WOULD NOT CONSIDER it "major league baseball," 10% WOULD. On the team's decision not to use replacement: 82% FAVOR, 13% OPPOSE. Asked whether they would have interest in replacement baseball, 42% said they WOULD, 27% said "VERY LITTLE," 20% "JUST SOME," 7% "QUITE A BIT," and 3% A "GREAT DEAL." On feelings toward MLB if replacements are used, 47% would be "MUCH MORE NEGATIVE," 26% would be MORE NEGATIVE, 21% would have NO CHANGE, and 4% would be MORE POSITIVE (Baltimore SUN, 1/29). REACTION: Not only does the poll "firm" Orioles Owner Peter Angelos' position that Baltimore fans are against the replacement concept, "but it also may provide some ammunition if the Orioles are forced to defend that position in a court action against Major League Baseball." The latest MLB poll results "are expected to be released by the commissioner's office" today. MLB spokesperson Rich Levin notes: "Our polls and all of the polls we've seen contradict the Orioles' poll." Orioles Owner Peter Angelos: "What's significant about our poll is that it is season- ticket holders. They are the financial foundation of every major-league franchise. I would hope that it would alert owners all over to the very negative consequences of using unqualified players" (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 1/29).
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue addressed the media Friday in his "State of the NFL" speech. Excerpts and reactions follow: ON LABOR ISSUES: "Under this agreement, we are paying more money to the players than any other sports league, we are paying a higher percentage of the revenues than any other sports league. ... If you look at what this agreement provides, I don't think you don't have to worry about court cases, I think you have to worry about common sense and keeping this thing going in a way that is beneficial to the teams and the players. This agreement is clearly the most beneficial to players in all of professional sports." ON THE RAMS MOVE: "If I find that the Rams move doesn't satisfy the guidelines we have in place, I'll recommend against it. ... Certainly, no decision has been reached in one way or the other as to whether the Rams move is in the league's best interest or satisfies the guidelines which we have in place." ON FUTURE EXPANSION: "We don't have a timetable in considering the next expansion. ... We'll take a look at future expansion sometime in '96, and try to get a timetable if one can be developed. ... Those areas in Canada and Mexico will certainly be viable candidates." ON THE BUILDING OF STADIUMS: "We're going to have to work very closely with cities and states in partnerships. That's been done in most parts of the country, it's being done not only in football but other sports." ON THE BUCS RECORD SALE PRICE: "What it reflects is the strength of the league. ... A group of teams bound together with revenue sharing, bound together with pooled television, bound together with a licencing and marketing company that works for all 30 teams. The values of all the franchises are supported because of the television revenue and the strength of the league. ... No team is out there left on its own in economic terms to fend for itself" (ESPN, 1/27). REACTIONS: Most reports focused on Tagliabue's statements that the league is reconsidering the use of instant replay. But others used it as an opportunity to review Tagliabue's tenure in the job. Mike Lupica writes, "Nobody ever gives Paul Tagliabue a call in the World's Smartest Commissioner Contest, and his league probably runs smoother than all of them" (N.Y. NEWSDAY, 1/29)....Wallace Matthews writes Taglaibue was "spinning harder than an industrial washing machine on rinse" (N.Y. POST, 1/28).