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BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 189: 1-DAY SENATORS' HOMESTAND
Published February 16, 1995
During Wednesday's hearings before the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Business Rights and Competition, both sides had an opportunity to argue their case for keeping or amending MLB's antitrust exemption. ESPN's Keith Olbermann: "The usual suspects spoke the usual platitudes" ("SportsCenter," 2/15). In New York, Claire Smith notes that one theme of the hearings "was a groundswell of bipartisan anger toward all of baseball. That much was evident as supporters and opponents of bills seeking to change the exemption constantly painted the sport as one no longer fan friendly" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/16). "The congressional message to both sides about settling the strike was clear: You're on your own" (Brad Snyder, Baltimore SUN, 2/16). DEFENDING THE EXEMPTION: Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig "painted a bleak financial picture of major league baseball, suggesting that three or four teams were on the verge of financial collapse." Selig: "We have a significant number of teams that are, quite frankly, hanging on for dear life." Selig defended the use of replacements, saying that some of the clubs cannot afford to keep their stadiums idle (Bill McAllister, WASHINGTON POST, 2/16). MLBPA's Don Fehr on why the exemption needs to be lifted: "If you're going to help to end this dispute and prevent this thing from happening every three or four years from now until forever, you've got to do something about it." Fehr, asked if he has the votes to get some change in the exemption: "Eventually we will if we don't now" (THE DAILY). Sen. Bob Graham: "How can you justify a continuation of an exemption to a basic law that applies to all other professional sports and most commercial enterprises?" ("McNeil/Lehrer," PBS, 2/15). BINDING ARBITRATION: The players and owners stood firm on their feelings toward binding arbitration. Selig, on the owners;' opposition: "Everybody, even arbitrators think that's a short term solution." Fehr, on the players' consent: "They refuse arbitration because they do not believe the force of their own arguments is sufficient to sustain their position" (THE DAILY). WHAT ABOUT A LOCKOUT: Sen. Orrin Hatch, sponsor of the bipartisan bill that would lift the exemption in regards to labor disputes, pressed Selig on whether MLB would lock out the players: "That's a decision we would have to make." The players have agreed to end their strike if Hatch's bill is passed (Aaron Epstein, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/16). As USA TODAY's Mike Dodd put it, "Selig repeatedly refused to rule out a lockout" (USA TODAY, 2/16). FROM THE GRANDSTANDS: Sen. Alan Simpson: "Please spare me that you have to have this or that in order for baseball to survive. If one has to have millions to induce one to stay in this game -- to play it or own or operate it -- then baseball is better off without you" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/16). Sen. Joe Biden: "Neither one of you are very popular. You're getting into the category of those of us who hold public office" (Baltimore SUN, 2/16). Tommy Lasorda: "I'm disappointed because the two words that I have never heard mentioned is 'compromise' and 'fans'" (CBS, 2/16). BACK TO THE TABLE? Special Mediator William Usery hopes to resume negotiations as early as next week. He added that all has been "smoothed over" and both sides want him to continue (Hal Bodley, USA TODAY, 2/16). In this week's "Point After," SI's Michael Bevans suggests that Usery's proposal "might be the last chance to ensure labor peace in time for Opening Day" (SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, 2/20).