Baseball owners and players will meet again at the bargaining table again Tuesday. "The question is whether they have anything serious to discuss." Union officials would not say yesterday whether they will have a counter-proposal ready for the session, which will take place at a conference center outside of Washington, DC. At the last session, nine days ago, the owners put an escalating payroll tax plan on the table that the players have already said "is impractical in its present form." The two sides are to meet separately today with Special Mediator William Usery (I.J. Rosenberg, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 11/28). The Tuesday session could be brief "because the players are expected to reject the tax proposal the owners made last week and they will not have the counterproposal the owners hope to see" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 11/26). DECLARING AN IMPASSE: It appears the owners are close to declaring an impasse and imposing their salary cap. They have a meeting for all 28 owners scheduled for December 5 in Chicago, where such a move would likely take place (Mult., 11/25-28). In a memo dated November 22, MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr warned the players of the owners' intentions (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 11/26). Braves President Stan Kasten said some system either agreed by both sides, or implemented by the owners, has to be in place by Dec. 6, because the next day is the deadline for clubs to offer arbitration (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 11/28). In Baltimore, Tom Keegan predicts without a settlement by spring training, the new Congress will repeal the labor portion of baseball's antitrust exemption (Baltimore SUN, 11/27). BAGWELL OF GIFTS: Both Phil Rogers (Dallas) and Tracy Ringolsby (Denver) note that the signing of Jeff Bagwell by the Astros may give a clue to what baseball's economics will look like post-settlement. Rogers notes that the owners are offering a new tier of restricted free agency for five- and six-year players in both proposals on the table. "Some believe owners eventually will sweeten the deal by taking away the right-of- first refusal to match offers for those players, rolling back the threshold for free agency from six years to four years." Bagwell was at the end of his 4th year (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 11/27). Ringolsby notes that Houston is one of the teams in "financial limbo." Astros owners Drayton McLane has projected losses of more than $22M for '94, and Astros GM Bob Watson has been "ordered" to get the '95 payroll below $30M (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 11/27). REVENUE SHARING: The N.Y. TIMES obtained a copy of the so- called revenue sharing plan the owners agreed upon in Ft. Lauderdale last January. Fifteen teams would have to pay into the fund in proportion to their revenue: Yankees, Blue Jays, Braves, Orioles, Dodgers, White Sox, Red Sox, Mets, Rangers, Indians, Phillies, Cubs, Giants, Tigers and Athletics. And 11 teams would receive pay outs from the $22.957M fund: Cardinals, Astros, Reds, Angels, Royals, Mariners, Brewers, Twins, Expos, Pirates and Padres. The two expansion teams are exempt. Figures are based on '94 pre-strike projections (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 11/25).
Leagues Governing Bodies
After a somewhat optimistic outlook entering the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, the NHL labor talks ended the weekend with a shortened session on Saturday and no communication between the two sides on Sunday. NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow has spent the past few days sounding out players and agents on three main issues -- free agency, salary arbitration and a rookie cap. League negotiatiors "have left it up to the [NHLPA] to make the next move." The two sides are expected to resume talks later this week, probably back in Boston (Alan Adams, CP/Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 11/28). ROOKIE CAP: NHLPA spokesperson Steve McAllister confirmed that a rookie salary cap had been agreed to in principle, but that Goodenow was working on the monetary "parameters" (Len Hochberg, WASHINGTON POST, 11/27). The two sides are far apart on the limits. The owners want the rookie average at about $750,000, but the union would prefer a level closer to $1.5M (Helene Elliott, L.A. TIMES, 11/27). RETURN OF THE TAX: Union officials have threatened to walk away if the owners bring back their luxury tax. But a management source says the players are bluffing: "They know it is coming, so why don't they leave now" (CP/Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 11/25). While some owners are "willing to discard" the payroll tax in return for other salary drags, sources say the players, "if threatened with no season, would accept a payroll tax that peaks at 30% if it's coupled with a gate tax" (Helene Elliott, L.A. TIMES, 11/27). "Simply put, [the tax] is going to allow for or rule against commencement of the 1994-95 season" (Larry Brooks, N.Y. POST, 11/26). SCENARIOS: In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont predicts that, following a Goodenow rejection of any CBA with a cap/tax included, Bettman will let the owners vote on the package "as it exists without the cap (rookie cap, more liberal free agency, changes in arbitration, "franchise" players). With a non- recommendation from Bettman, the deal would need a 3/4 vote for approval -- which is not likely. "The pressure would then be cranked high on Goodenow. ... Unless the hawks suddenly become cooing doves, ultimately it will be the players left to decide whether they want to come in and accept the wage-and-benefits package -- cap included -- that owners will offer. Stalemate? Perhaps. But there could be a key middle ground." Dupont floats the idea of a mechanism built in the new CBA that could trigger a luxury tax at a certain inflationary percentage (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/27). SOLIDARITY CHECK -- PLAYERS: Some NHL sources say the likely deal "probably won't be much different from one the [NHLPA] could have made in August." One NHL exec: "Now (Goodenow) is going to have to explain to the players why they had to take two months off work to get it" (David Shoalts, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 11/26). "The players haven't cracked, but at least they've bent" (Red Fisher, MONTREAL GAZETTE, 11/26). Sources say the NHLPA is "not a model of solidarity at the moment." There were reports over the weekend of a split "over whether the negotiatiors gave up too much to get a tentative agreement on a rookie salary cap" (Dave Fay, WASHINGTON TIMES, 11/28). One player, reporting that calls to the union weren't returned last week: "For the first time, I actually started to wonder, you know, about Bob (Goodenow). What was he doing? And I know I wasn't alone. ... It was a pretty good test of our faith in him. But we just had to keep it. I mean, we knew he wouldn't sell us down the river. At least, we were pretty sure" (Roy Cummings, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 11/27). SOLIDARITY CHECK -- OWNERS: In separate interviews, Penguins Owner Harold Baldwin and Flyers Owner Ed Snider showed two vastly different attitudes towards a settlement. Baldwin: "I feel very strongly we should play over the holidays, and I'll have a much different attitude if we don't play." Snider: "I don't care if we never play. I don't want to come out of a painful lockout and not have anything to show for it" (Joe Lapointe, N.Y. TIMES, 11/27). SAME BAT TIME: Maple Leafs President & GM Cliff Fletcher, leaving Boston on Saturday: "See you at the next secret location" (Mike Shalin, BOSTON HERALD, 11/27).
The Federal Trade Commission is expected to recommend that action be taken against the PGA Tour for "certain restrictive policies," according to sources close to the investigation. The 4-year-old inquiry by the FTC is coming to an end, "but it is uncertain whether sanctions will ever come to pass, as the matter may continue in various stages of department and judicial processes for a year or more." Since '90, the FTC has been gathering depositions from players, sponsors, tourney organizers and TV officials focusing on the competitive effects of the tour's "conflicting events and television release rules." Should a complaint be issued by the FTC, several possibilities exist, "including a negotiated settlement." But if the parties do not agree, then they may appear before an administrative law judge (Chuck Stogel, BRANDWEEK, 11/28 issue). MORE WORLD TOUR REFLECTIONS: In Chicago, Bob Verdi notes that the proposed World Tour has created "an epidemic of sponsor shock." He wonders, "if you're a sponsor" and 30-40 of the top players are not participating in a PGA Tour event, "do you love golf or leave it? And if corporate angels disappear, the PGA Tour would be in the throes of nothing less than a depression" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/27). NBC Sports Senior VP Jon Miller on the proposed World Tour that would be televised on Fox: "All the networks with relationships to the current structure have a lot to lose. The PGA Tour has been the best run and best managed sport for individuals" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/25). Larry Dorman notes that after a week of research, he could not find one ranked American player "who will stand up" and say that he is prepared to sign on with the World Tour (N.Y. TIMES, 11/27).
"The recent profusion of professional and amateur competitions, pro-ams, exhibitions and made-for-TV events has thrown figure skating into chaos." The Int'l Skating Union (ISU) allows skaters to make millions as pros, then lets them return to amateur status. "Everyone's confused over who's eligible for what. Which is why pressure is growing on the ISU to end the hypocrisy and open the Olympics to everyone in 1998." Skater Paul Wylie: "The line is pretty bogus between pro and amateur. In the end, the best scenario for skating is to open it up." For example, Oksana Baiul has turned pro, but wants to defend her Olympic gold. She can make as much money as she wants as long as she declares amateur status by next April (John Powers, BOSTON GLOBE, 11/27). In New York, Jere Longman examines the skating world: "If this dizzying expansion has meant money for skaters and promoters, ratings for the networks and viewing opportunity for fans, it has also resulted in a byzantine, contradictory and confusing jumble of rules and eligibility requirements" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/27). WRESTLING ON ICE? U.S. Figure Skating Association President Claire Ferguson -- who is a member of the ISU -- calls pro competitions (such as CBS' recent "Ice Wars") "bogus" because they lack uniform rules. "Without these controls, she said, figure skating could lose its legitimacy as a sport and devolve into theater, as professional wrestling has done." Ferguson believes the threat will fade "once the current set of champions" such as Brian Boitano and Katarina Witt retire from competitive skating or once TV audiences "wearied" of seeing essentially the same performances week after week (N.Y. TIMES, 11/27).