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BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 207: RAZING ARIZONA
Published March 6, 1995
Talks between owners and players broke down with no resumption in negotiations expected until after the owners' meeting in Palm Beach, FL, this week. Both MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr and Rockies owner Jerry McMorris, the owners' chief negotiator, left Scottsdale, AZ, on Sunday. McMorris said, barring a "miracle," the season will open with replacements players. Fehr: "We're back to square one" (Mult., 3/6). THE NUMBERS: The two sides left with the following tax proposals on the table: The players propose a 25% luxury tax on payrolls above 133% of the average ($54M). The owners propose a 50% tax above the average ($40.6M). Management attorney Chuck O'Connor indicated one of the reasons owners were disappointed with the union's Saturday proposal was because of an ESPN report that it would place the threshold at $47M. O'Connor: "That would have not been a level of settlement for us, but it might have promoted negotiation" (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 3/6). ENTER THE HARD-LINERS? A union source said the owners' last offer was a "clear sign" that the hard-liners had taken over: "All I can say is, there weren't many centrists in Scottsdale" (Jayson Stark, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/6). Those on the players' side believe that White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf and Tribune Co. attorney Robert Ballow "have already assumed command of the owners' bargaining strategy" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 3/6). The future of McMorris and O'Connor as head and lead counsel of the owners' negotiating team will be discussed at Palm Beach, "with some owners believed to favor a change" to Reinsdorf and Ballow (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 3/6). Reinsdorf continues to claim he has no interest in taking over (L.A. TIMES, 3/5). O'Connor addressed a possible switch, saying that if the owners went with Reinsdorf, he and Ballow "probably would be the right combination." While O'Connor said his approach is to focus on negotiation, Ballow's strength is "keeping employers running with replacement workers." Reinsdorf said he wished he had the influence attributed to him by the union, but that acting Commissioner Bud Selig is "the only one who has power" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 3/5). One management source, on Reinsdorf and Ballow taking the lead role: "That's not going to happen" (Tom Keegan, N.Y. POST, 3/5). WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? Agent Tom Reich: "Huge pressure is building on both sides: for the players, starting to miss more big paydays, for the owners, the replacement-player scam failing miserably and the huge potential legal damages to be paid becoming clearer." Reich predicted an "arduous journey" to a negotiated settlement (John Helyar, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/6). In Philadelphia, Jayson Stark outlines the NLRB scenario for ending the strike: The NLRB rules against the owners on Tuesday or Wednesday; the court upholds the ruling on Friday or the following Monday; the players end the strike; the owners meet to vote on whether to lock the players out. The owners would need 21 votes to impose a lockout, and Stark cites "many baseball people" who don't believe that they have the votes (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/5). But USA TODAY's Hal Bodley lists six owners -- Reinsdorf, Florida's Huizenga, Seattle's Ellis, Minnesota's Pohlad, Houston's McLane and Kansas City's Glass -- "who want the players to stay out forever" (USA TODAY, 3/6). Reinsdorf, claiming the union is prepared to wait for the NLRB's ruling: "We'll deal with it if and when it happens" (Bob Verdi, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/6). In New York, Bill Madden reports owners don't expect Fehr to "start negotiating seriously until the real pressure point -- April 15 -- draws near." That is when players miss their first paychecks, and is also tax day (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/5). ANY SIGNS OF HOPE? ESPN's Peter Gammons: "The two sides are still 10,000 light years from home, but it's a start" ("SportsCenter," 3/4). Peter Schmuck: "The luxury tax remains the overriding issue in the negotiations, and despite the reservations of the union -- both sides finally are on the same wavelength" (Baltimore SUN, 3/5). O'Connor: "These breaks can be viewed as a cause for great alarm or a cause for reflection and opportunity" (L.A. TIMES, 3/6). OTHER NEWS & NOTES: A nationwide poll conducted by Michigan pollster EPIC/MRA (1,000 people surveyed from February 20-24; margin of error +/- 3%) found that of the 59% who said they attended a baseball game last year, 43% said they won't go to replacement games (EPIC/MRA)....The union is considering filing another unfair labor practices charge with the NLRB over the issue of inducements to minor-leaguers to play in spring games (WASHINGTON POST, 3/5).