"Baseball's owners have set a doomsday deadline for the
sport to settle its labor problems" by scheduling a meeting in
Chicago on December 5. The owners will likely use the date to
declare an impasse in negotiations and vote to impose their
salary-cap plan on the players. "The negotiating committee will
present the options and then the owners will vote," according to
MLB spokesperson Rich Levin (Colin Miner, N.Y. POST, 11/22). The
meetings place an "added sense of urgency" on the talks next
Monday, when players will respond to the owners' luxury-tax
proposal. Red Sox CEO John Harrington indicated that the
arbitration deadline on December 7 might "force the owners into a
decision on implementation" (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN,
11/22). MLBPA General Council Gene Orza was "not surprised"
(N.Y. POST, 11/22). Keith Olbermann said one union source told
ESPN the owners' luxury tax plan "is the same old idea with a
'new cover on it'" (ESPN, 11/21).
"This could be D-Day in the NHL as make-or-break talks
between the league and its players' union move toward a climax in
Boston," writes Dave Fuller in this morning's TORONTO SUN. While
the AP was reporting that a breakthrough was "imminent," sources
warn that the talks "could just as easily fall apart today when
the owners' contentious luxury plan goes back on the table"
(TORONTO SUN, 11/22). Relating reports from Al Morganti, ESPN's
Keith Olbermann reported that the owners had cut their maximum
rate in their payroll tax from 122% to 60%, and that much of the
night was spent discussing an NFL-like franchise player system.
Issues such as a rookie salary cap, arbitration, two-way
contracts and a gate tax "have already been pretty much settled
on" ("SportsCenter," 11/21). The owners' plan also includes
raising the eligibility age for the entry draft to 20, with
provisions for 18- and 19-year-olds. In addition, the draft
would be shortened to six or eight rounds (Helene Elliott, L.A.
TIMES, 11/22). Bruins President & GM Harry Sinden: "It's
reached the point where we'll know pretty well after these two
days" ("Sports Tonight," CNN, 11/21).
JUST A MINUTE: Bob McKenzie writes, "The evidence suggests,
at best, [the rumors] are rather premature and, at worst, just
plain wrong. ... We are only on the verge of playing hockey if
the players returned from their recess last night and said
they're prepared to": Accept the rookie salary cap; new terms &
conditions of free agency, including the franchise-player clause;
agree that a luxury tax (rate to be negotiated) will be part of
any new CBA. "Quite frankly, that doesn't seem plausible"
(TORONTO STAR, 11/22). ON THE SHELF: While several reports
note the owners' luxury tax will be reintroduced or offered up in
exchange for major changes in the arbitration, this morning's
N.Y. POST indicates that owners may be willing to open the season
without an agreement on their tax plan if the two sides settle
the "systems issues" (arbitration, rookie cap etc.) and the NHLPA
is open to negotiating a tax by a summer '95 deadline. In
addition, the NHL "now is exploring more palatable alternatives"
to its tax, including: a tax on free agent signings only; a
capped tax; a bell curve instead of a progressive tax; or a tax
triggered by "certain, defined economic conditions." Larry
Brooks reports that the "cornerstone" of a restructured system
would be greater movement for free-agents, with the "fascinating"
development of the league advocating more freedom (N.Y. POST,
11/22). QUOTES: Islanders GM Don Maloney: "Both sides are now
starting to find solutions rather than focusing on problems."
Penguins Player Rep Larry Murphy: "There is compromise in the
air" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/22). Agent Mike Barnett: "The consensus
is that when things start to move, they will move very quickly"
(WASHINGTON POST, 11/22).