BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 110: TALKS TODAY COULD BE SHORT
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).