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BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 231: HELL WEEK CONTINUES
Published March 30, 1995
As expected, baseball's players voted yesterday to end the 7 1/2-month strike should U.S. District Judge Sonja Sotomayor grants an injunction restoring the previous economic system. But while "the best chance for the strike ending soon seems to be through the injunction process," the players will make a counter- offer to the owners' latest proposal. In Washington, Mark Maske refers to the talks as "virtually a one-issue dispute" -- the luxury tax. Possible "stumbling blocks" include a phase-in period and a "sunset provision," by which any new tax would expire after three years. In fact, MLBPA General Counsel Gene Orza says: "There are some people who believe the sunset is more important than the tax itself" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/30). BACK TO THE TABLE: Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig returns to New York today. Asked if the owners' proposal is, indeed, their final offer: "I was as sincere as I could be when I said the clubs had stretched as far as they could in making that proposal, but let's see how the union responds" (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 3/30). Orza: "We're definitely on the same planet. We're even on the same continent." But in Philadelphia, Jayson Stark adds, "It's still a long way to the same zip code." The union counter-proposal is expected to contain a 30% tax on payrolls exceeding $49M. Also, the union "reacted very positively" to the owners' offer to maintain the current free agency/ arbitration system. The union has the option to trade it for unrestricted free agency after four years -- "but it seems to be leaning against that option" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/30). In Denver, Tracy Ringolsby notes "growing unrest among players and agents over the union's failure to react quickly." Blue Jays Player Rep Paul Molitor: "The owners' offer warrants a counterproposal. We're too low and they're too high" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 3/30). GREAT LOCKOUT DEBATE: Most reports echo yesterday's N.Y. TIMES report that the owners are unlikely to vote for a lockout should the players return under an injunction. But ESPN's Peter Gammons said that Selig told him the owners will worry about a lockout vote "after the injunction." Still, Selig is confident that -- with the exception of the two New York teams, the Dodgers, Blue Jays and Orioles -- "basically everyone will go along with the lockout if that's what they think they need to do." Gammons said the Tigers, Indians and Marlins, all reportedly leaning against, will vote yes ("Baseball Tonight," 3/29). One union official: "They won't lock out. I wish they would, because we'd have a great time calculating the (legal) damages" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 3/30). In New York, Murray Chass reports that Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner "has spearheaded" the anti-lockout movement (N.Y. TIMES, 3/30). SEE YOU IN COURT, COUNSELOR: Gammons, on the likelihood of an injunction: "From the players standpoint, they think it's a slam dunk" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/29). But Clark Griffith, a former Twins exec who has argued before Sotomayor, believes the judge won't issue an injunction: "There has been no irreparable harm. It just isn't there" (Jerome Holtzman, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/30). Management's lawyers filed their brief yesterday, in which they argued that the union's offer to end the strike "should have absolutely no bearing" (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 3/30). REPLACEMENT HELL: In Boston, Larry Whiteside notes "growing concern among the ownership group that replacement ball would be a financial and historic disaster" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/30). Gammons says that the start of replacement games would "absolutely going to lead to a war." The union feels that the players "will never forgive" owners for using replacements, "that there's absolutely no way they can form a partnership" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 3/29). QUOTE BOARD: Yankees pitcher Steve Howe now says that he won't cross the line. Howe to the N.Y. POST: "I've been able to take a better look at the issues" (Joel Sherman, N.Y. POST, 3/30)....Former Expos pitcher Dennis Boucher, presently in the minor leagues, said the team hasn't asked him to cross, but if they do, "there has to be some incentive." Boucher is seeking $150,000 guaranteed to pitch the Expos' opener (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 3/30)....Dodgers Exec VP Fred Claire left camp in Vero Beach, but without any luggage. Claire: "I left my clothes here, because I know I'll be back" (Bob Nightengale, L.A. TIMES, 3/30)....Expos GM Kevin Malone: "I'm not optimistic because I had to look at Donald Fehr on TV last night, and I did feel nauseous to a degree. Not just from looking at him but thinking about what he's done" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 3/29)....Selig has a letter to fans in a full-page USA TODAY ad: "We believe the clubs' offer goes a long way toward reaching our principal goal: keeping the Game affordable, accessible, and competitive for years to come" (USA TODAY, 3/30).