If there is going to be a negotiated settlement in time to
save spring training, "the groundwork is going to have to be laid
this week" (Jayson Stark, PHILA. INQUIRER, 11/29). BACK AT IT
TODAY: The owners and players meet again today in Leesburg, VA,
but the session "may be nothing more than the players officially
rejecting the owners' tax proposal." The owners had expected the
players to use the tax plan as a "framework for a new agreement"
(I.J. Rosenberg, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 11/29). There had been
speculation that the MLBPA would offer a counter-proposal to the
owners' tax, but sources familiar with the "union's thinking said
that the counter proposal will not be made until the executive
board has reviewed it during a meeting in Atlanta next Monday"
(Ross Newhan, L.A. TIMES, 11/29).
MLBPA General Counsel Gene Orza was quoted last night on CNN
responding to the owners' tax plan: "The more we analyze it, the
less possible it seems to be the basis for an agreement" ("Sports
Tonight," 11/28). However in Boston, Larry Whiteside cites
sources who say that MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr might resubmit
the owners' proposal in an "amended form" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/29).
FROM MANAGEMENT'S VIEW: Braves President Stan Kasten said
if the players return to the table "under a pretext of continued
negotiation" and make no counterproposal -- "that would be
distressing and really would pretty much dictate what the owners
have to do. Because we do need to go on with our business
whether the union feels like participating in the future or not"
("Sports Tonight," 11/28). "There is every indication that the
players will choose to stall until [December 5], which would put
the owners in the uncomfortable -- and perhaps untenable --
position of declaring an impasse while there is a union
counterproposal pending" (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 11/29).
POST-IMPASSE: If the owners do implement their system, "the
rift between owners and players will widen, making the start of
spring training in mid-February with anything but replacement
players unlikely." The union would be expected to file an unfair
labor practices charge with the NLRB (Hal Bodley, USA TODAY,
11/29). Phillies Owner Bill Giles said another option would be
to try to persuade the union to agree to a "freeze" on all
aspects of the current system -- including the December 7th free-
agent deadline and the December 20th deadline for tendering
contracts to all unsigned players. But both sides would
"probably wouldn't agree to that" (Jayson Stark, PHILADELPHIA
INQUIRER, 11/29). SIDEBAR: Owners' chief negotiator Richard
Ravitch's contract expires December 31 "and the owners apparently
don't expect him to remain on the job beyond then." Selig said
that Ravitch has given no "indication of his intentions" (Mark
Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 11/29).
"The fact 'urgent' negotiations between the owners and
players aren't expected to resume before Thursday -- the first
day of December -- doesn't leave much room for optimism," writes
Dave Fuller in this morning's TORONTO SUN. NHLPA Exec Dir Bob
Goodenow spent yesterday on the phone with as many as 50 player
reps and their assistants, "formulating what one agent described
as 'final positions' on three key issues that could make or break
a contract agreement." While some believe the season can still
be saved, one source "close to the players" is not so sure: "I
think [the season's] done. ... My worry is that the owners are
expecting certain things and they're going to be disappointed.
The thing is, where do the players go from here? There's no Plan
B in place for them. It's fine if they've got something set up,
but they've got nothing. This is going to change the NHL for
good" (TORONTO SUN, 11/29). No talks were scheduled, although
it is believed both sides will meet again later this week.
LOOKING FOR SIGNS: Also in Toronto, David Shoalts sees
"increasing signs" that the NHL could be back before Christmas:
1) Contact between the league and its officials regarding their
physical condition; and, 2) Reports of a message from Goodenow to
Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull and Marty McSorley that they had to be
back from their planned European tour by December 15. League
officials would not confirm the officials rumor. But, Goodenow
flatly denied any contact with Gretzky or other Team Gretzky
members. One source close to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, on
the contact between NHL Dir of Officiating Bryan Lewis and the
officials: "That's only to make sure our ducks are all in a row
in the sense that (the labor impasse) could be settled by a
certain date." NHL VP of Public Relations Arthur Pincus would
only say, "We believe there's every reason to make a deal
quickly, but right now that's not about to happen." Goodenow
said "there's no date" to start the season (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL,
ASK THE FRANCHISE: Mark Messier spoke out against the
owners' proposed free agency plan, whereby free agency would be
granted to all players over 28 years old or with eight years
experience, with the exception of a team-designated "franchise"
player. Messier: "That's just another way of controlling
salaries. And every team has a salary structure, whereby the
franchise player is supposed to be the top-paid guy. Everyone
else would be told they have to accept less than him, and he
can't go to the market to get what he should." The NHLPA is said
to be polling other top players on the idea (Mark Everson, N.Y.
WINGS WON'T FLY THE COOP: Red Wings Paul Coffey, Sergei
Federov and Steve Yzerman, all members of Team Gretzky, will not
play in the December 1 exhibition against the IHL Detroit Vipers
at the Palace at Auburn Hills, MI. Yzerman says it's "out of
respect" for Red Wings Owner Mike Ilitch. Coffey: "You've got
to draw the line somewhere." The NHLPA reportedly "wasn't
pleased" with the trio's decision (Keith Gave, DETROIT FREE
PRESS, 11/26)....Several players from the Whalers, Rangers,
Islanders and Devils, as well as players with New England roots,
are planning a charity exhibition to benefit the Special Olympics
for December 18 at New Haven Coliseum (HARTFORD COURANT, 11/29).
At least one NFL team has asked the league's competition
committee to study the use of a penalty box -- similar to the one
used by the NHL -- "for players who deliver dangerous hits to a
quarterback." NFL Communications Dir Greg Aiello confirmed that
the proposal had been made, and noted that the idea has been
discussed in the committee before. "But it has never made it out
... for a discussion by the team owners." Aiello, on the latest
proposal: "It would be for flagrant hits on the quarterback, but
not for other penalties. It would have to be determined how long
a player would spend in the penalty box. Whether it's for a
specific amount of time or a certain number of plays." What is
not known, is whether a team would be allowed to replace that
player on the field, or play short-handed. Several quarterbacks
have missed all or part of games this season with concussions.
But only one player has been fined for a flagrant hit on a
quarterback (Timothy Smith, N.Y. TIMES, 11/29).
THE IMPLEMENTER? NFL Dir of Football Development Gene
Washington is profiled in USA TODAY. Part of Washington's job is
setting the amount a player should be fined for certain rule
violations (USA TODAY, 11/29).
Dick Moss, one of the main organizers of the proposed United
Baseball League, was in Vancouver Sunday for the CFL's Grey Cup.
Moss: "Vancouver is very important to us. There's the size of
the city and a wonderful community for the players to live in.
But the big thing is the domed stadium is here and ready for
baseball." B.C. Pavilion Corp. officials met with Moss and
partner Robert Mrazek on Monday about the possible use of the
facility for a UBL franchise. The facility has also been in
negotiations with the Mariners to lure the Seattle franchise
across the border for 8-10 games a year. Mrazek: "We think this
is a great business opportunity. But the real key is each team
will be a true three-way partnership between the city, the owner
and the players" (Lyndon Little, VANCOUVER SUN, 11/29).