SBD/16/Leagues Governing Bodies

BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 189: 1-DAY SENATORS' HOMESTAND

     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).
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