SBD/9/Leagues Governing Bodies

BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 210: WHAT'S THEIR "BEST OFFER"

     Special Mediator William Usery addresses the owners today at
their meeting at The Breakers in Palm Beach, FL.  He is expected
to stick to his plan to call on the owners to put their "best
offer" on the table when talks resume next week, despite the
union's unhappiness with that plan.  Yankees Owner George
Steinbrenner called on Usery to take a more forceful role:  "He
has to aggressively try to get the two sides to reach a deal.
And if they can't, he has to call it like he sees it.  He needs
to say this side or that side needs to do more."  But Mark Masek
notes the union is unlikely to allow Usery to play a larger role.
They believe that the "best offer" plan opens the door for owners
to declare another impasse and unilaterally impose working
conditions, as they did in December (WASHINGTON POST, 3/9).
ESPN's Peter Gammons reports the owners are essentially being
told this week to "keep it in the room, not worry about what the
NLRB is going to do within the next 5-10 days and wait for the
players to crack" ("SportsCenter," 3/8).
     EXPECTED FIREWORKS PETER OUT:  Orioles Owner Peter Angelos
arrived at the owners' meetings, but the subject of the Orioles'
refusal to play replacement games was not discussed at either the
American League or full ownership meetings.  Angelos:  "I know
exactly where they stand, and they know exactly where I stand."
AL President Gene Budig:  "The Orioles understand our position,
and we understand theirs" (Thom Loverro, WASHINGTON TIMES, 3/9).
"The silence was deafening" (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 3/9).
     HARD-LINE NOT HARD ENOUGH?  Expos Owner Claude Brochu says
the owners will not soften their position, and, despite the fact
that the salary cap has been replaced by a luxury tax plan,
Brochu still believes the cap "is the best solution" to the
game's economic problems.  TORONTO STAR columnist (and former
Expos P.R. man) Richard Griffin notes the owners' revenue-sharing
plan, which was devised in '94, and is now approved by the
players, is contingent on a salary cap.  Writes Griffin, "The cap
has been removed from the table and some now speculate that
large-market gloves are coming off.  With 'salary cap' being
replaced by 'luxury tax,' look for some big-hammer owners to
threaten an attempted overthrow of the Fort Lauderdale plan
unless an on-field settlement is reached -- now" (TORONTO STAR,
3/9).     NLRB UPDATE:  David Parker, spokesperson for NLRB
General Counsel Fred Feinstein, "said a decision will not be
handed down before Friday at the earliest on the union's
complaint owners again bargained in bad faith" (Hal Bodley, USA
TODAY, 3/9).  Jayson Stark reports, "Several management sources
indicated privately that if the NLRB obtains an injunction
restoring the old economic rules and the union then calls off the
strike, owners are not afraid to lock out players.  Owners also
apparently were advised that while a lockout could lead to huge
financial damages in court, baseball attorneys believe they will
win any court challenges by the players" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER,
3/9).
     GET IT DONE, BY GEORGE:  Despite his ascension to the MLB
Executive Council, Steinbrenner said he expects to play no
greater role in the labor dispute other than speaking out in
favor of a deal.  But the N.Y. TIMES' Murray Chass notes that
Steinbrenner's silence "has puzzled many people."  Some theories:
He is repaying Bud Selig and Jerry Reinsdorf for their support
while he was on suspension for 2 1/2 years; he is protecting his
large revenue share from MSG cable; he would need the owners'
approval should he want to move the Yankees to New Jersey (N.Y.
TIMES, 3/9).
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