BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 130: SELIG'S OLIVE BRANCH
Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said yesterday that the
Friday deadline for a deal between the players and owners "may be
flexible if the talks show progress toward an agreement." Owners
voted last Thursday to give MLB's Executive Council the authority
to declare an impasse and impose their salary cap system if there
is not a deal by midnight, December 22. Talks resume in
Washington today (AP/Baltimore SUN, 12/19). Special Mediator
William Usery said low-level technical meetings will be held
today, with a joint session possibly held tomorrow (USA TODAY,
IS THERE A DEAL TO BE MADE? The players are expected to
have a new proposal, "basing it on some of the things they heard
from the owners' group last week" (AP/Baltimore SUN, 12/19).
There is some talk that "perhaps the union is softening somewhat
as far as wanting to sit down and negotiate seriously" (I.J.
Rosenberg, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 12/18). The owners "expect the
players to only slightly amend their last proposal" by increasing
the flat payroll tax from 5% to 6% and to offer more money from
their licensing fund (Bill Madden, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/18).
ESPN's Peter Gammons said there "is a deal to be made," if: 1)
The owners scale back the tax rates and make them less punitive.
2) Give money only to the needy teams; and 3) Employ the players'
partnership concept (ESPN, 12/18).
PLAY BALL! Many owners "apparently believe that the union
will end the strike in February or March if a salary cap is
implemented, and have players play" while matters are settled in
court. One management source: "The players will play. It
doesn't make any sense for them to stay on strike and lose more
money while the legal fight takes place" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON
A RICH PROPOSAL: Credit was given to MLBPA counsel Lauren
Rich for convincing owners to delay implementation for a week and
return to the bargaining table. After talks broke down last
Wednesday, "there was a flurry of midnight phone calls" from Rich
to management attorneys. The union wanted more time (Jerome
Holtzman, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12/18).
OWNERS MEETING FALLOUT: Expos Owner Claude Brochu
"disagreed with a suggestion from some quarters" that the owners
backed off from implementation "because they are concerned about
possible legal action." Brochu: "I hope that is not what the
players or the union think. They are misreading things badly if
that's what they think" (Ian MacDonald, MONTREAL GAZETTE, 12/17).
In Toronto, Stephen Brunt writes that what "ought to have rung
out loud and clear were those three voices of sanity" that voted
against implementation: the Orioles, Blue Jays and Mets. "By
extension, the three clubs were saying that some slightly
modified version of the status quo would suit them fine, and
would suit baseball fine" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 12/17).
FROM THE OWNERS' BOXES: According to one owner, former
MLBPA Exec Dir Marvin Miller has been advising the players as of
late. The owner: "Which means we can't expect anything in the
way of a proposal that significantly addresses cost control"
(N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/18). One NL owner on the Orioles' Peter
Angelos: "He's a good speaker, but nobody listens to him. He's
just out of step" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12/18). In New York, Dave
Anderson relates a conversation with two unnamed owners. The
first called White Sox Owner Jerry Reinsdorf "the maestro of this
labor problem. Reinsdorf hates Fehr" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/18).