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"On a day of baseball-related maneuverings on Capitol Hill, the team owners put into motion their plan to open the 1995 season with replacement players" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 1/5). Meeting by phone, the owners' operations committee began examining the details on the use of replacement players during spring training games, "grappling with roster size, eligibility and other puzzling questions." The committee will have another session soon and is contemplating a formal meeting of owners to give the replacement plan a approval "later this month" (Tim Harper, TORONTO STAR, 1/5). In Milwaukee, Tom Haudricourt reports that, according to several Brewers players, the owners' plan to use replacements "is primarily a ploy to tempt striking major-leaguers to cross picket lines." Brewer Kevin Seitzer: "They're just creating this imaginary sense of satisfaction that everything's going to be OK. I'm not biting, and I don't think many guys will" (MILWAUKEE SENTINEL, 1/5). In the current issue of SI, Tim Kurkjian reports that two club sources predict that half of the Pirates, a "very young team with relatively low salaries, will report." Kurkjian also notes quotes from Astros pitcher Greg Swindell saying he will cross the lines (Tim SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, 1/9 issue). Tigers GM Joe Klein said his is moving forward with building a team: "We have to provide a ballclub and we'll do so" (WJR-Radio, 1/4). FEHR AND LOATHING IN WASHINGTON: While the owners were contemplating the use of replacements, MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr was in Washington updating Labor Secretary Robert Reich on the current state of negotiations. The Clinton Administration "still is pressing the sides to return to the bargaining table." Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig called for a resumption of talks: "I've said all along and I'll say it again, this thing has to be settled at the bargaining table" (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 1/5). ON THE HILL: Five baseball bills, ranging from complete repeal of the sport's antitrust exemption to binding arbitration to settle the strike, were introduced on Day 1 of the 104th Congress. Three of the bills, one from Sen. Pat Moynihan (D-NY) and two from Rep. Michael Bilirakis (R-FL), were expected, but two other House members also introduced bills. Rep. Pat Williams (D-MT) reintroduced his bill that would require the owners and players to submit to binding arbitration if they did not reach an agreement by February 1, although the date will most likely be pushed back a month. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) also reintrduced his bill, which had made it out of the House Judiciary Committee last term, proposing that any unilateral implementation of new work rules become subject to the antitrust laws. Conyers kept his bill narrow "rather than calling for complete repeal of the exemption" in the hope that the GOP would not see it as interfering with their "Contract with America" legislation. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, may introduce his own bill which would most "closely resemble" the Conyers bill. Paul Smith, a spokesperson for Sen. Hatch: "He did say he thought if his bill passed, the players would be back for spring training. That, to me, says he's going to do something fast" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 1/5). EFFECT OF A REPEAL: Selig: "Take away the antitrust exemption and you create a system that nobody can live with" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/5). Fehr on the owners' contention that labor relations are not affected by the exemption: "If the owners really believed it made no difference, they would not oppose this change in the law. They understand that it fundamentally changes the dynamic. They understand that it would hold the owners accountable to the law the same way everybody else is." MLB General Counsel Chuck O'Connor: "If congress simply repeals the antitrust exemption, it will not have any effect on this labor dispute, and it will have ... a bad impact on Major League Baseball's relationship with its minor leagues" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/4). Pirate Andy Van Slyke: "We have replacement senators and congressmen now, right? Well, it's time for them to do the right thing" (SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, 1/9 issue). SIGNING FREEZE: Union officials said they would ask players to maintain a signing moratorium until Fehr and staff have completed a 7-city series of meetings with players and agents beginning tomorrow (See yesterday's DAILY for the list of cities) (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 1/5).
The CBA All-Star Game has been the primary job facing Hartford Sports & Entertainment Group GM Casey Kahler since he signed on on August 17. Hartford Sports & Entertainment owns the CBA Hellcats and the AFL's Connecticut Coyotes. The Aetna CBA All-Star Classic will be held January 24 at the Hartford Civic Center. While Kahler hopes to break the attendance record, he admits that "little over 3,000" tickets have been sold. Kahler: "Obviously, we have to pick it up a little." The record is 11,382 set in 1993 in Oklahoma City (Roy Hasty, HARTFORD COURANT, 1/5).
The NHL Board of Governors will vote on Saturday on whether to accept the latest contract offer from the NHLPA. Acceptance of the proposal would mean that a 50-game season would begin on January 16. In Toronto, Paul Hunter outlines three potential scenarios: 1) The owners accept -- a "longshot"; 2) The owners reject and present the union with a "final" counter-offer; 3) The owners reject and negotiations continue. It was not known whether NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "supported or rejected the union's latest proposal, but his reaction will be crucial." If Bettman approves the deal, a simple 14-vote majority is needed from the Board. If he rejects the deal, 20 votes would be necessary to ratify (TORONTO STAR, 1/5). DETAILS: Since both sides continued to observe a news blackout, there was no official release on the details of the proposal. But nearly all reports this morning note that the offer does not include a luxury tax. In Toronto, David Shoalts reports that the players made a concession on free agency -- agreeing to 30 as the eligibility age for unrestricted free agency (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/5). On arbitration, the CP's Alan Adams reports that the players are offering to allow walkaway rights -- by which a team is not bound to an arbitrator's decision. Arbitration would be available to players at age 24 or with five years experience (Mult., 1/5). In Vancouver, Tony Gallagher adds that there is something "new and decidedly innovative" in the offer -- reportedly a mechanism which would kick in changes in the deal if salaries go up or down radically or players begin to "move around at a certain rate" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 1/5). PESSIMISM DEPT.: "Preliminary indications are that it doesn't look good for a settlement" (Jeff Jacobs, HARTFORD COURANT, 1/5). One GM said the offer is "not enough." Another GM: "This won't create the drag we need" (CANADIAN PRESS/Vancouver PROVINCE, 1/5). One NHL "insider": "It doesn't appear that very much has changed from their earlier proposals. I don't expect the governors will approve it" (Dave Fay, WASHINGTON TIMES, 1/5). In Toronto, Dave Fuller calls passage a "remote possibility since [the offer] doesn't include a luxury tax" (TORONTO SUN, 1/5). One management source: "I don't think we're going to have a deal" (Len Hochberg, WASHINGTON POST, 1/5). OPTIMISM DEPT.: The GLOBE & MAIL cites several NHL sources who said they "could not see how the owners would turn it down" (David Shoalts, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/5). "The NHL seemed yesterday to be a league that was getting ready to play more than it was bracing for cancellation" (Frank Brown, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/5). THE STAKES FOR THE COMMISSIONER: In Toronto, Al Strachan lays out the task facing Commissioner Bettman. "If he took the deal to the owners right now, he could almost certainly get the 50% support he needs for approval. But he probably wouldn't get much more. Looking ahead past the return of the game, Bettman is concerned for his own job security if he can't raise that percentage appreciably. It's one thing to get a new collective bargaining agreement with a 14-12 majority. It's another thing to try to run a league with 12 owners holding a grudge" (TORONTO SUN, 1/5). One "moderate" NHL Governor told the N.Y. POST: "It's all in how he sells it. ... If he comes in and recommends a deal without a payroll tax; if he wants to position it, 'Look, we have enough,' it will pass" (Larry Brooks, N.Y. POST, 1/5). WILL NO MEAN NO? "Many believed a rejection by the owners Saturday won't necessarily spell the end of the season" (Joe Gordon, BOSTON HERALD, 1/5). Bruins President & GM Harry Sinden: "I am pretty certain this is it, but you never know. Maybe they have another final offer" (Alan Adams, CP/VANCOUVER SUN, 1/5). Should the owners reject the players' proposal, talks could continue with the prospect of saving a 45- or 40-game season. "However, Bettman must be careful not to be perceived as the boy who cried wolf too many times" (Kevin Paul Dupont, BOSTON GLOBE, 1/5).
In today's WASHINGTON POST, Leonard Shapiro examines the "dark clouds hovering on the horizon" for the PGA Tour as it begins its 1995 season today in Carlsbad, CA. Those "dark clouds" refer to the four-year investigation by the Federal Trade Commission of tour rules regarding conflicting events and TV appearances and the proposed World Tour. Results of the FTC investigation are expected "any day now" with the ruling expected to say that the rules "constitute a restraint of trade and are anti-competitive" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/5).