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BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 210: WHAT'S THEIR "BEST OFFER"
Published March 9, 1995
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Expos Owner Claude Brochu says the owners will not soften their position, and, despite the fact that the salary cap has been replaced by a luxury tax plan, Brochu still believes the cap "is the best solution" to the game's economic problems.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).