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SERVICE TIME IN MIDST OF FINAL WRANGLING ON MLB LABOR DEAL
Published August 13, 1996
Representatives of MLB's players and owners did not meet until late last night as the pace of talks on a new collective bargaining agreement slowed. Multiple reports cite the issue of service time lost during the strike as being the major impediment to a deal at this point. In Philadelphia, Jayson Stark notes service time "has brought all the progress of the last few days to a standstill" (PHILA. INQUIRER, 8/13). USA TODAY's Hal Bodley notes the deal "is in jeopardy" over the issue (USA TODAY, 8/13). ENTER THE HARD-LINERS: A group of "hard-line owners," led by the White Sox's Jerry Reinsdorf, balked at a deal arranged by MLB chief labor negotiator Randy Levine which allowed for the players to be credited for time lost to the strike in return for "appropriate trade-offs," according to Jayson Stark. Other resisting clubs have players who would be lost to free agency (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/13). POSSIBLE TRADE-OFFS: Owners also seek to have MLBPA agree not to pursue any legal claims for actions taken during the strike, with some touting that as a possible trade-off for service time, according to the WASHINGTON POST. One union source: "Randy already knows that won't fly" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 8/13). One union attorney told the L.A. TIMES that the union cannot waive those legal claims "because people were wronged. Some of them were young. Some of them are out of baseball now" (Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 8/13). The two sides also debated the 2001 option year, which the union wants tax-free (Ronald Blum, AP/WASHINGTON TIMES, 8/13). Jayson Stark notes the owners may use service time to get the union to relinquish its option for 2001 (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/13). HOW DIRE IS IT? One source on the players' side: "We'll struggle through the day a little bit. But I think we'll come out of the woods" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/13). Red Sox CEO John Harrington: "Service time is a major issue but that should not be a deal breaker" (AP/WASHINGTON TIMES, 8/13). One N.L. owner: "We're not on the verge of getting it done. There has been a lot of talk but it's all illusory" (Jerome Holtzman, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/13). One management source said the hang-up over service time could lengthen talks by "as much as a couple of weeks." Another source described talks as being "in the emergency room" and the next 24 hours as "critical" (Jayson Stark, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/13). MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr, explaining the union's insistence on granting service time: "That's one of the things you do when you make peace, you put people back to where they would have been" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/12). TAXING MATTERS: The latest on the payroll luxury tax indicates that the threshold would be set at $51.5M for '97, the first year the 35% tax is in effect, about $54M for '98, and about $58M in '99 (WASHINGTON POST, 8/13). In New York, Murray Chass reports the two sides are about a percentage point apart -- 34% or 33% -- on the rate for the third year, and less than $200,000 apart on the threshold, which will be between $58M and $59M (N.Y. TIMES, 8/13).