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Many reports over the weekend focused on the coming spring training report dates. Pitchers and catchers for the Yankees, Mariners, Cardinals and Giants report this Thursday, while the rest follow throughout the weekend. Most clubs will not reveal who their replacement players are and which of them are minor league prospects. Reds GM Jim Bowden: "If it gets into middle to late March, then we'll make the announcement of who the substitute players are. At the end of March, we'll have them play more, so they'll get a chance to play together" (CINCINNATI POST, 2/12). CACTUS LEAGUE PREPARES: While MLB and Cactus League sites make security preparations, Giants GM Bob Rose said that problems surrounding the strike and the use of replacement players are not expected. Rose: "Our club and Major League Baseball, in the interest of acting responsibly in a possible strike situation, are making preparations for any possible scenario, as remote as it may seem." MLB Security Dir Kevin Hallinan acknowledged that plans are in place for FL and AZ. He called it a routine process, although the plan is a "few pages longer this year" (Mark Shaffer, ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/11). Friday afternoon's PHOENIX GAZETTE led with two stories on the economic impact of the strike to Cactus League cities. The GAZETTE's Glen Creno cites winter weather in the East and a stronger economy, and writes, "The good news is that no matter how fouled up baseball is, it probably won't be an economic disaster for local tourism." The Cactus League's eight teams generate an estimated $265M for the state. Jeff Metcalfe reports that the Cubs joined the A's in cutting their spring ticket prices (PHOENIX GAZETTE, 2/10). A piece in the REPUBLIC notes that two Japanese baseball teams are using Phoenix as a spring training site -- the Chiba Lotte Marines and the Chunichi Dragons (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/11).
One day after Lenny Dykstra suggested that he might cross a picket line in April, Mets pitcher John Franco conceded that some players are "starting to get antsy": "Both sides need to give in a little." When asked if he would cross a picket line, he first said, "No way," but added: "I'm not going to be one of the first guys to cross. Who knows? Maybe two, three, four months down the road. Hopefully, I'm not crossed with that dilemma." Last October, Franco felt differently: "If someone crosses the picket line, once we get back in I'll be the first one to kick his [butt]." Franco said his October comments got "blown out of context": "At that time, they asked me about minor-leaguers coming in. I should have worded it a little better" (Jon Heyman, N.Y. NEWSDAY, 2/11). MLBPA'S ANGELOS? MLB General Counsel Chuck O'Connor downplayed Dykstra's comments: "It's obvious that there are individuals in each group, clubs or players, that are going to express dissatisfaction with the approach their side is taking. They have Lenny Dykstra. We have [Orioles Owner] Peter Angelos" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/12). Free agent Rob Dibble: "If 10 or 15 guys cross the line, that's 10 or 15 we don't need in the union. ... I might never pitch in the big leagues again. But I believe in the union" (ESPN, 2/11). PUBLIC OPINION WAR: Sunday's N.Y. TIMES ran opposing op-eds from MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr and Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. Both gave their explanations for why talks broke down at the White House. Selig: "We do know that the clubs played by the rules throughout the long process. Unfortunately, just as we were about to reach the end, the rules were changed on us." Fehr: "All the players have ever wanted from the government is equal protection under the laws, specifically the antitrust laws" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/12). Meanwhile, Fehr has scheduled two player meetings for late this week in Tampa and Phoenix. IN WASHINGTON: Senate Judiciary Chair Orrin Hatch and Sen. Pat Moynihan tomorrow will introduce a bipartisan bill dealing with MLB's antitrust exemption. In a letter to Hatch, Fehr said that he will recommend to the players that they end their strike if the legislation is enacted (Maske & Swoboda, WASHINGTON POST, 2/11). Fehr and Selig will be in Washington tomorrow to testify before the Judiciary Committee on the exemption. As Murray Chass notes, even if the players end their strike with the passage of this legislation, it is likely the owners would lock them out (N.Y. TIMES, 2/12). Peter Gammons notes that "the only thing the union and owners agreed on" is that Labor Secretary Robert Reich is "an amateur" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/12).
BALTIMORE: Orioles Owner Peter Angelos told a local TV station that he thinks the strike will be settled within the next two weeks. Angelos: "The two sides are closer than they realize. ... If the two sides get together and look at [Usery's proposal] as a starting point, this thing can be worked out in two weeks" (Baltimore SUN, 2/13). Oriole Player Rep Mike Mussina said there is restlessness among the players: "I'm not dumb enough to believe there's 100 percent solidarity" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/13). BAY AREA: A sampling of A's and Giants players revealed mostly solidarity. "None supported Dykstra's feeling that the union should consider" Usery's proposal (Michael Martinez, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 2/12). BOSTON: Red Sox' Mo Vaughn said he wishes the union would take a secret ballot to determine whether to end the strike to prove the solidarity of the players: "I'm not necessarily frustrated with the fact we're not playing, but how we look to everybody on the outside. ... There's a professional way of going about things, regardless of how you feel inside." Vaughn thinks more players will speak out in the days ahead (Nick Cafardo, BOSTON GLOBE, 2/12). CHICAGO: Jerome Holtzman critiques Fehr's efforts but does not call on him to step aside: "Had Fehr been willing to absorb a small setback, the strike could have been avoided. And now ... perhaps as many as 30 or 50 percent of the union's members appear anxious for him to make a deal" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/12). CINCINNATI: CINCINNATI ENQUIRER's Paul Daugherty writes, "When Dykstra says that players are 'running out of time' to cut a deal, I am thinking what he means is, players are 'running out of money' and 'running out of patience'" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 2/13). COLORADO: Rockies Owner Jerry McMorris was very surprised President Clinton did not support William Usery's suggestions for a settlement: "Somebody got to him. ... I was stunned, and I'm still stunned" (Baltimore SUN, 2/11). FLORIDA: MIAMI HERALD's Ed Pope writes, "Something infinitely worse than a stalemate is developing in baseball, something vastly more powerful than love for the game or hatred for those who have brought it this far down. Sheer indifference" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/12). MONTREAL: The Expos announced their replacement player ticket plan. The club cut prices by 50% across the board (except for opening day) until the resolution of the strike, or a representative number of Major League players join the roster. Fans who purchase single game tickets have to pay full price and are eligible for the refund after the game is played (Montreal GAZETTE, 2/11). NEW YORK: Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner was interviewed by N.Y. TIMES' Betsy Billard. On the failed negotiating process: "I'm embarrassed by it. ... The only people that are coming out of this with anything to date are the lawyers." On Peter Angelos: "Peter Angelos is okay. He's a very smart man. I don't think he's doing the right thing by not, up to a certain point, staying loyal to the rest of his co-owners" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/12).
"Worried about losing its top Olympic Prospects to the pros, the International Skating Union probably will start offering prize money in the events it runs," according to John Powers of the BOSTON GLOBE. The ISU is worried that amateurs will go for the money in made-for-TV events "now instead of later." ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta: "A market is a market. If a (professional) skater has better conditions, then we will have to work out things to give more money to stay with us" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/12). SKATING UNDER THE SCOPE: ESPN's Jimmy Roberts reported on the increased popularity and money in figure skating one year after the Harding-Kerrigan incident. The money for professional figure skaters has increased substantially due to additional exposure through made-for-TV events. Professional skating promoter Michael Burg called the Nancy-Tonya affair a "catalyst": "It stimulated the chemical reaction a lot faster than what naturally would have happened." Paul Wylie, who was considering giving up pro skating to attend law school, says the Harding- Kerrigan has propelled the sport's growth: "There's no way I could go to law school now, it just wouldn't make sense." USFSA President Claire Ferguson reports recreational rink usage is up 200-300% (ESPN, 2/12).