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BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 179: LOOMING 5 O'CLOCK SHADOW
Published February 6, 1995
While President Clinton has set a 5:00pm EST deadline for a settlement, no new negotiating meetings were scheduled as of last night, according to Mark Maske in this morning's WASHINGTON POST. Clinton has asked Special Mediator William Usery for a recommendation if an agreement is not reached by the deadline. Owners and players "remain so far apart they spent much of yesterday preparing suggestions to present to Usery, not each other" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/6). While there was talk of a "late- night push ... tempers flared and negotiations appeared to break down" when the players lifted their signing freeze and the owners countered with a freeze of their own (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 2/6). MORNING UPDATE: At 10:05am EST, CNN's Mark Morgan reported that Usery will first meet with Clinton about the "finer" points of his recommendation. He then will meet with player and owner reps to "possibly make a few changes" that both sides can agree on, and then continue talks from there. Morgan notes that Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig joins the talks this morning. Morgan said if Clinton can come up with terms of a recommended settlement and both sides can agree to continue talks from that point, then "that is obviously meaningful progress. ... But as far as a settlement today, that's highly unlikely" (CNN, 2/6). Labor Secretary Robert Reich appeared on "Good Morning America" to discuss the basbeall situation. While he stressed that the Clinton administration's desire that the two sides settle the dispute without the need for Congress or President to get involved (ABC, 2/6). Orioles Owner Peter Angelos appeared on "CBS This Morning." On the possibility of a deal by 5pm: "I believe it's possible. Will it happen? I believe there's a 50/50 chance" (CBS, 2/6). USERY'S PLAN: Usery conducted separate meetings with players and owners, asking them for their "bottom-line positions on the critical issues." From that, he will draw up a settlement and submit it to Clinton (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 2/6). ESPN's Peter Gammons: "There are some definite hammers over the owners. First of all, if they don't make a deal right now, they're likely to have to go back to the old system, which they said they would never live another day under. I got the distinct impression that the players were a lot happier with their preliminary meetings with Reich and Usery than the owners were" ("SportsCenter," 2/5). In Denver, Tracy Ringolsby writes, "An eventual settlement can be expected to include a salary tax along the line of what the owners have been seeking, although at a lesser rate, with concessions to the players that could include expanded unrestricted free agency to replace arbitration, involvement of the union in such matters as selection of a commissioner, and possibly a waiver of the owners' antitrust exemption in regard to labor matters" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 2/6). In New York, Murray Chass reports that the players "have gridgingly accepted the idea of a tax, but they have no desire to see it be so high that it would inhibit clubs from spending freely on salaries" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/6). Mike Lupica: "I don't think [both sides] want the president to settle it. But I think they're afraid of what the president might do if they don't settle it" ("Sports Reporters," ESPN, 2/5). The largest stumbling block appears to be the percentage of taxation on payrolls (Jayson Stark, PHILA. INQUIRER, 2/6). There is speculation Usery will include a tax of approx. 25% above a payroll threshold of $37M (WASHINGTON POST, 2/6). LIFTING THE BAN: MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr said management's signing freeze "represented collusion under terms of the old agreement," and there are a "multitude of legal avenues the union can pursue and will, starting with the NLRB." MLB General Counsel Chuck O'Connor said management was acting as one: "This action is taken at a point in time when clubs do act in concert -- it's called collective bargaining" (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 2/6). REEBOK TOUR: Peter Gammons notes the players' barnstorming deal is close to being done. "They have 90 percent of their insurance in place. ... They have four spring training sites in place, and by the middle of this week hope to have completed their barnstorming venues across the country and announce a schedule" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/5).