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After a day highlighted by the union's response to the owners' latest offer, there is no clear indication of how this critical week will play out for both sides in the baseball dispute. Some views from the baseball media: In New York, Murray Chass writes that despite the owners' new offer, the looming decision of U.S. District Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor on the NLRB's injunction request "appears to be paramount," particularly because the owners seem less likely to vote for a lockout (N.Y. TIMES, 3/29). For more on a possible lockout vote. In L.A., Ross Newhan focused on the expected MLBPA counter-proposal and the players' stated hopes that "there was room for negotiation within the framework of management's offer" (L.A. TIMES, 3/29). In Denver, Tracy Ringolsby notes several players and agents "were encouraged by the owners' offer and contacted the union to make sure it followed up on the negotiations" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 3/29). In Boston, Larry Whiteside reported that any optimism from Monday night "was obliterated by the players" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/29). In Philadelphia, Jayson Stark noted "mixed signals": while talks "appear to be going nowhere," several teams were ready to re- start spring training (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/29). In San Francisco, Glenn Dickey writes, "Basically, the bargaining comes down to this. The owners are afraid they can't lock out the players, and the players are afraid they can" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/29). On ESPN, Peter Gammons said, "If [the two sides] can find something in the 40% at $45-$46 million range, find some way to ensure that it's closer to 100% of the revenue when they raise the tax rate three years into the deal, then it's at least a possibility -- a 50-50 possibility -- that they can get a deal before they put the replacements on the field Sunday night" ("SportsCenter," 3/28). But later, Gammons said the owners "are a lot harder line than a lot of people realize" and questioned whether this is a deal that can be split "down the middle" ("Baseball Tonight," 3/28). CNN's Mark Morgan: "It is now apparent that it will take a minor miracle for an agreement to be reached by Opening Day" ("Sports Tonight," 3/28). WHAT'S NEXT? ESPN was reporting that the players will respond with a counter-offer of a 30% tax on payrolls above $49M. But ESPN's Keith Olbermann also noted the owners "have reintroduced the one demand that single-handedly caused the 50- day strike in 1981 -- compensation for free agents" ("SportsCenter," 3/28). MLBPA attorney Lauren Rich and management attorney Rob Manfred will hold a "technical" meeting today on the owners' plan. Sources close to the talks predict a 35% tax on payrolls above $46-47M "might produce an agreement" (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 3/29). QUOTE BOARD: MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr: "It is fair to say that the series of suggestions we have received represents some movement by the clubs. I think it would be incorrect of me to suggest it was substantial" (Mult, 3/29). A's Player Rep Terry Steinbach called the owners plan "definitely a serious move on their part and a real step in the right direction" (John Hickey, OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 3/28). Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner's advice to Fehr: "He should listen, embrace it, and then see where we go from within that structure, because it's a very definite come-down from where we were before" ("Sports View," CNBC, 3/28). Reds GM Jim Bowden, noting the $1M plus bonuses per club that will paid to replacement players if they start the season: "If there's no settlement by Opening Day, there's really no incentive for owners to settle for about 30 days" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 3/29). Phillies President Bill Giles said if the players reject the latest offer, "then I'm full-bore for replacement ball" (Frank Fitzpatrick, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/29). Mets President Fred Wilpon: "We never said this is a final offer. We said this is, and I think the other side knows this, this is a stretch for us. A real stretch for us" ("CBS This Morning," 3/29). Braves Player Rep Tom Glavine: "We want to get a deal and we understand there's going to be some compromises made. But, there's a difference between compromising and selling everything you've gained over the last 27 years as a union" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/28). ESPN's Gammons: "Saturday is the big negotiating day, because nobody ever does anything in this business without a crisis point, and the crisis point is about Saturday midnight, or Sunday noon" ("Baseball Tonight, 3/28).
According to a "high-ranking" management official, and union official and an outside labor lawyer with knowledge of the proceedings, Robert Ballow, a key legal adviser to the owners, "has recommended that the owners not lock out the players if they offer to end their seven-and-a-half-month strike and return to work." The management source: "I understand he suggests there should not be a lockout because it's too dangerous" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 3/29). USA TODAY's Hal Bodley writes acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is likely to recommend against a lockout, and lists ten teams (Red Sox, Indians, Rockies, Dodgers, Mets, Yankees, Padres, Blue Jays, and possibly the Rangers) that are opposed (USA TODAY, 3/29). Rangers President Tom Schieffer said his club is still undecided on the lockout issue: "This is not a simple, fill-in-the-blanks order that a judge would issue" (Simon Gonzalez, FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 3/29). Indians Owner Dick Jacobs told the PLAIN DEALER on Tuesday that he would "probably" vote for a lockout (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 3/28). In Atlanta, I.J. Rosenberg reports the Braves are among several clubs making "contingency" plans for an extended spring training (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 3/29). But ESPN's Gammons predicts "if the players get the injunction and try and come back, the owners are going to lock them out. ... I'm told it's very solid at 23-5. They can throw Cleveland and Florida around and Detroit as possible teams that would vote against it -- no way in any one of those three cases" ("SportsCenter," 3/28).