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Three separate reports this morning note some owners are unhappy with MLB General Counsel Chuck O'Connor's legal advice. According to one AL owner, a "considerable number" of clubs have begun a "review of the record" during MLB's long affiliation with O'Connor's firm, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and supposedly, the Tribune Co. (owner of the Cubs) is "pressing for removal" of O'Connor in favor of one of their own reps, Robert Ballow of King & Ballow of Nashville. One union lawyer, referring to Ballow's "union-busting reputation," said bringing him in "would be an act of nuclear war" (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 2/7). MLB spokesperson Rich Levin said it is "absolutely untrue" that the owners have any plans to replace O'Connor. Levin did say of Ballow: "He's been consulted for a number of months, but [O'Connor's firm] remains our main lawyers" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 2/7).
Special Mediator William Usery will deliver his recommended solution to end the strike to President Clinton at 3:00pm ET. While Usery "deferred" on announcing his recommendations yesterday "saying he 'simply ran out of time' to prepare them fully," Jayson Stark reports there were indications that Usery "had, in fact, drawn up his plan and that the deadline was extended because the White House discovered it might not have the political muscle to back up the President's show of force." Senate Judiciary Chair Orrin Hatch "made it clear" that Clinton would have a "difficult battle on his hands trying to get a bill of that sort through Congress": "I don't think it's our role to impose any plan on anybody" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/7). I.J. Rosenberg also reported that the reasons for the delay "appeared to be political" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 2/7). TROUBLE FOR CLINTON? A senior White House official admitted that if Usery's recommendation is rejected by both or either sides, Clinton may not be able to impose a settlement (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 2/7). Rep. John Boehner, the 4th ranking House Republican, suggested that the House leadership is against intervention: "Disputes between labor and management ought to be resolved between labor and management" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 2/7). REUTERS' Robert Green reports, "Clinton's options for imposing a settlement were limited, and indeed, the parties' failure to meet his deadline underscored his political weakness" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 2/7). White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta: "The president's alternative is to make a strong recommendation to the Congress either with regards to binding arbitration or trying to impose the settlement that Mr. Usery is working with." NBC's Jim Miklaszewski: "The best the President can do really is to use the bully pulpit, to try to convince Congress, the players and the owners to end this thing. But ... at this point it looks like that may be the only opening pitch the President makes all season" ("Today," NBC, 2/7). CLINTON UN-PLUGGED: NEWSDAY's Mike Lupica interviewed Clinton over the weekend and mentioned to the president that his intervention could be an act of what a commissioner would do. Clinton: "Maybe that's a positive impact, somebody acting like the commissioner" (N.Y. NEWSDAY, 2/5). THE USERY PLAN: As for the terms of any settlement offered by Usery, "splitting the differences in half would not fly with the union." MLBPA General Counsel Gene Orza: "That would be rewarding the owners for going backward and penalizing the players for going forward" (Tom Keegan, N.Y. POST, 2/7). Braves Player Rep Tom Glavine said the players do not want the government to get involved: "It's in our own best interests to get an agreement ourselves" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/7). Orza said the union submitted a "narrative" on nine crucial areas to Usery: a payroll tax, salary arbitration, free agency, the length of the agreement, governance/"industry growth fund," pension, revenue-sharing, non-economic issues, and strike settlement issues (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 2/7). Rockies owner Jerry McMorris, on Usery's recommendation: "I hope that it's one that we can live with. We can't destroy the game, we can't make the game unaffordable, we can't take the game to where it's not accessible to people or to where it's not competitive. So, it has to meet certain criteria for us" ("Sports Babe," ESPN Radio, 2/6). ESPN's Peter Gammons: "The owners have to abide by the proposal, eventually. I think that even though they may not end up getting what they want, it's going to be very hard for them to fight the president" ("SportsCenter," 2/6). NLRB FIGHT: The union re-filed its unfair labor charge against the owners with the NLRB over management's signing freeze. In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck questions why MLB issued a freeze after the union lifted its freeze: "Management sources said that [MLB General Counsel Chuck] O'Connor did it simply to delay the reimplementation of the old economic system, hoping that the issue would become moot when a new settlement is reached. He apparently was shocked that the union took such offense" (Baltimore SUN, 2/7). BUSINESS OF BASEBALL: In a full-page examination of the economics of the sport, the WASHINGTON POST's Charles Babcock and David Hilzenrath report that owners and players "are worlds apart in their assessments of the game's economic condition and neither side's position reflects the complete picture of baseball's finances." They do note that numbers provided by management run counter to the owners' claims of "spiraling salaries." According to the POST's analysis, player pay in relation to revenues was projected to decline 3% in total dollars in '94. MLB's Rich Levin: "How can that be?" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/6).