BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 125: CAN USERY STEP IN AGAIN?
For the second day in a row, talks between the owners and
players went into the early morning hours. "That they were still
at it seemed amazing considering that the union had responded to
the owners' deadline and fundamentally rejected their escalating
tax plan during a joint meeting Tuesday morning" (Ross Newhan,
L.A. TIMES, 12/14). "There were no indications from either side
that anyone had proposed a brilliant last-minute idea to end this
endless strike. Yet still they talked" (Jayson Stark,
PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 12/14). "Neither side wanted to be the
first to say goodbye" (TORONTO STAR, 12/14).
USERY TO THE RESCUE: It had appeared yesterday afternoon
that talks would break off, but Special Mediator William Usery
convinced both sides to keep talking. A smaller group from each
side continued to meet (I.J. Rosenberg, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION,
12/14). For the owners: Red Sox CEO John Harrington, Phillies
Exec VP David Montgomery and management lawyers Chuck O'Connor
and Rob Manfred. From the union: MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr,
Fehr's brother Steve Fehr, MLBPA General Counsel Gene Orza and
players Jay Bell, David Cone and Tom Glavine (Mult., 12/14).
A CONCESSION BY ANY OTHER NAME: Many reports note that at one
point during last night's talks, Fehr offered to "rid baseball of
salary arbitration in exchange" for earlier or unrestricted free
agency. But the owners rejected that offer. "For months, people
in baseball and out speculated that if the players agreed to
eliminate salary arbitration, the owners would drop their demand
for a salary cap" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 12/14). With the
rejection of that concession, this dispute is clearly about the
salary cap. "No more, no less" (Claire Smith, N.Y. TIMES,
THE VOTE TO IMPLEMENT: The owners' negotiating committee is
expected to leave Rye Brook, NY for Chicago this afternoon.
Tomorrow, the owners are expected to declare an impasse and vote
to impose their salary cap system. Twenty-one of the 28 owners
need to approve the plan. In Washington, Mark Maske writes, "It
appears that the hard-line owners will have little or no problem
getting the 21 votes" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/14). But ESPN's Peter
Gammons hints that the vote may be close and predicts the meeting
will be "very interesting day of discussion." In addition to the
Blue Jays, who may not vote to implement because of the Ontario
labor laws preventing the use of replacement workers, other teams
oppose implementation ("SportsCenter," 12/13). Orioles Owner
Peter Angelos is expected to vote against implementation
(WASHINGTON POST, 12/14). Harrington again stated that the
owners would not delay their vote (BOSTON HERALD, 12/14).
EXPANSION: In Chicago tonight, the owners will discuss
expansion. The Orlando group has yet to present its bid, but is
expected to either tonight or tomorrow morning. For more on
Orlando's expansion effort.