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BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 229: DAY-NIGHT DOUBLEHEADER
Published March 28, 1995
Joe Foss, the Orioles Vice Chair for Business and Finance, summed it up: "This could be the most important week in the history of baseball" (USA TODAY, 3/28). With Opening Day looming on April 2, the week opened with events moving at a quickened pace. While U.S. District Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor was selected to consider the NLRB's request for an injunction against the owners early in the day, the owners spent the evening placing a new offer on the table. TAKE-IT-OR-LEAVE-IT? Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig presented the owners' latest offer: -- 1995 would be played under the terms of the old CBA. -- The players would have the choice of keeping the old system, or exchange it for unrestricted free agency for players with four or more years, in which case arbitration would be phased out after 1996. -- The Ft. Lauderdale Revenue Sharing Plan would go into effect, with a "stricter minimum club payroll that would insure that revenue sharing dollars transferred to small market clubs are spent on players. -- A luxury tax of 50% on payrolls above $44M. -- The agreement would run through the year 2000 (MLB). REAX FROM KEY PLAYERS: While Selig declined to refer to the owners' plan as a final offer, Rockies Owner Jerry McMorris said, "This is it." Union leaders offered no public statements, but officials "privately said the owners' offer is not likely to lead to an agreement" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 3/28). MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr, last night: "I'll get back to Bud tomorrow." Red Sox CEO John Harrington: "Once we start with replacement players, this offer is off the table" (Jerome Holtzman, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/28). Harrington: "We don't have a vote amongst the clubs on this so it's going to be very difficult for us to convince them to accept this. But I think it's a fair proposal for both sides" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 3/28). WHAT WILL IT TAKE? ESPN's Dave Campbell cited a "source deep within the union" about what it would take for a deal. "Some of the parameters" would include: a 5-year deal; the first three years with a 40% tax at $45M, "so they're only off 10 percent and $1 million"; no arbitration and three-year free agency after '95; and a review of the tax after three years, "by either a panel, or the right to reopen negotiations again" ("Baseball Tonight," 3/28). According to sources on both sides, the union's desire for a three-year reopening on the tax "still could be a major hang-up" (Jayson Stark, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/28). In L.A., Ross Newhan notes that 12 clubs would be taxed under the new plan, compared to 15 under the owners' previous proposal. But union officials "said it still represents a significant deterrent to free agent spending." One MLBPA official: "It takes money from the high-revenue clubs, which drive the market." Sources say a tax of 35% or 40% on payrolls above $47M "would produce a union compromise, but it's not certain the owners will go for it" (L.A. TIMES, 3/28). CNN's Mark Morgan: "If you read between the lines in the way Selig was talking, you really see there is very little room to negotiate." Morgan added: "You can bet that if you think about it, especially with the 50% tax rate, that it's not a proposal that the union can accept right now" ("Sports Tonight," 3/27). ESPN's Chris Berman: "The owners made, what appears to be a big deal" ("Baseball Tonight," 3/28). The players have until the weekend to deliver a response. "A no vote means the 1995 season will open with replacement players" (Larry Whiteside, BOSTON GLOBE, 3/28). In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck writes, "The trouble is, the package still would cause free-agent salaries to crash, something the union will never willingly allow to happen" (Baltimore SUN, 3/28). KENNESAW MOUNTAIN SOTOMAYOR? Judge Sotomayor, who said that all she knows about the dispute is what she reads in the New York Times, told owners to submit their brief by 5pm EST Wednesday and the union and NLRB to respond by 5pm EST Thursday. Sotomayor will hold a hearing Friday, with a decision possible before Sunday. The MLBPA Executive Board meets tomorrow in New York and is expected to approve a resolution calling for an end to the strike should Sotomayor grant an injunction (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 3/28). In a hearing yesterday, management attorneys "clearly indicated no interest in having a ruling by Sotomayor before the start of the season, or anytime for that matter" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 3/28). ESPN's Grace Lee Nikkel said Sotomayor "has put the decision on a fast track paving the way" for a decision by Opening Day ("SportsCenter," 3/27). CHANCES OF A LOCKOUT: If the players end the strike, the owners would be faced with a lockout decision. Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner: "If I were a betting man, I don't know, I might bet that we would not lockout. But as I say, that's just me sitting here right now" ("CBS Evening News," 3/27). Jayson Stark reports the "buzz throughout baseball yesterday" was that the hard-line owners couldn't get the 21 votes necessary. Stark adds that "there are reasons to believe that even some of the owners would prefer a decision that resolves this mess one way or the other, before opening day." He notes even one day of replacement ball will cost at least $800,000 per team and the "growing" impression among a number of owners that the current losses will lead to lower salaries (PHILA. INQUIRER, 3/28). WAIT, AND WATCH: In Atlanta, I.J. Rosenberg writes, "It is doubtful the union will make any type of deal until a judge rules on its injunction request" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 3/28). In New York, Bill Madden writes, "It is hard to imagine ... either side taking its best shot until Sotomayor rules" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/28).