"The search for answers in baseball's labor dispute
apparently reached the desperate, last-gasp phase" (Mark Maske,
WASHINGTON POST, 12/22). The two sides did not meet face-to-face
yesterday, but met at separate locations with Special Mediator
William Usery. "The atmosphere was painfully similar to the dark
circumstances that existed just before the players struck"
(Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 12/22). Rockies Owner Jerry McMorris
and MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr met Tuesday night and made "slight
progress on some peripheral issues, but the obstacle that has
separated them for the past six months was still firmly in place.
Cost control" (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 12/22). Fehr: "The
gulf that separates us remains essentially what it once was"
(N.Y. POST, 12/22). McMorris was unable to sell the players on a
luxury tax (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 12/22).
THE IMPASSE: With less than 24 hours to go until the owners
deadline to declare an impasse, the owners "were insisting the
only thing holding up progress was a proposal from the union."
Blue Jay Paul Molitor hinted the players may present a proposal
today. "But he was quick to say he doubted the move would lead
to any last-minute breakthrough" (Joseph Reaves, CHICAGO TRIBUNE,
12/22). Braves President Stan Kasten said owners are planning to
implement a salary cap at 12:01am Friday: "This can't go on
forever" (Baltimore SUN, 12/22). ESPN's Peter Gammons: "Each
side is focusing on what is going to happen after implementation
-- not focusing on a deal trying to prevent implementation"
("SportsCenter," 12/21). MLBPA Gen Counsel Gene Orza calls
implementation "inevitable" (AP/Vancouver PROVINCE, 12/22).
COMPLAINT DEPT.: The NLRB filed a 7-page complaint accusing
the owners of unfair labor practices when they refused to make a
$7.8M payment to the players' pension fund. A hearing before an
administrative law judge in New York has been scheduled for March
14, 1995 (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 12/22). Orza, noting
that the MLBPA will file an NLRB complaint if the owners impose
their cap: "Once the NLRB issues a complaint, it's out of the
union's hands. It will then become The People vs. Major League
Baseball" (N.Y. POST, 12/22). Kasten: "If I'm 0-2 in exhibition
games, it doesn't bother me. If I'm 0-2 in complaints filed, it
doesn't bother me, either" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/22). THE
EXEMPTION: ESPN's Bob Sirkin reported that a couple of the
players met with soon-to-be House Speaker Newt Gingrich in
Atlanta. Gingrich says that he has the support of Braves Owner
Ted Turner in revoking MLB's antitrust exemption status. Sirkin:
"The players have long said they would end their strike the
moment the anti-trust exemption is lifted" ("SportsCenter,"
12/21). Sports attorney and writer Lester Munson: "I don't
really see how there can be a settlement now unless the owners
have actually realized how appalling the idea of replacement
players are in spring training. Maybe the owners are also
beginning to worry about the new Congress because they have a
good chance of losing their anti-trust exemption when this new
Republican Congress comes in" ("Market Wrap," CNBC, 12/21).
After a meeting of more than 200 members of the NHLPA,
players emerged unanimous in their belief that there will be no
deal unless the owners drop their luxury tax demand.
IS THE TAX OFF THE TABLE? ESPN's Jimmy Roberts, noting
reports that there have been discussions on a plan that does not
include a tax: "It would be big news -- if it were true." NHLPA
President Mike Gartner: "Everything that I've seen has a tax
involved in it" ("SportsCenter," 12/21). Despite public denials
from both sides, the reports of a no-tax plan continue this
morning. But one league official confirmed to the N.Y. TIMES
that such discussions "took place on a conceptual level without
an official proposal being formulated." That official added that
the league "remains willing to continue to discuss a settlement
without a tax because the league thinks it is important 'not to
draw a line in the sand and paint ourselves into corners'" (Joe
Lapointe, N.Y. TIMES, 12/22). Another management source told the
BOSTON GLOBE that a plan without a tax "would've been discussed
in purely hypothetical terms and likely would've been broached by
those 'most moderate.'" Bruins President & GM Harry Sinden
called the reports "absolute and total fiction" (Nancy Marrapese,
BOSTON GLOBE, 12/22). One NHL Governor puts odds of a deal at
50-50 and said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "has to come up with
a proposal that does the same thing as a tax but can still be
sold to a majority of the owners" (Dave Fuller, TORONTO SUN,
WHAT IF IT IS? Sources told the TORONTO STAR "that the
possibility of a deal without a tax exists if the union will make
other concessions that will provide an appropriate 'drag' on
salaries. Those concessions, the source cautioned, would have to
be significant enough that the league's board of governors
wouldn't be fractured by the those hardline governors still in
search of a tax" (Cox & Hunter, TORONTO STAR, 12/22). The
CANADIAN PRESS' Alan Adams reports that the players "are willing
to move on salary arbitration as a way of saving the season."
But NHLPA attorney Bob Riley said the union wouldn't surrender
arbitration completely. Riley: "When we speak about the
importance of the needs of our middle class, we are obviously
speaking of the need of salary arbitration" (OTTAWA CITIZEN,
12/22). NHLPA VP Ken Baumgartner: "We're prepared to negotiate
but we're not willing to give away arbitration for a tax the
owners never possessed but only asked for" (Gare Joyce, Toronto
GLOBE & MAIL, 12/22).
THE OLD BAIT-AND-SWITCH? In New York, Larry Brooks writes
the only question facing Bettman and the owners is: "How one-
sided a victory do they need to score over the players in order
to open the '1995-95' season?" It was clear from the union's
meeting that the players are "willing to concede, concede,
concede on virtually every freedom and systems issue imaginable
in order to avoid negotiating a tax" (N.Y. POST, 12/22). In
Vancouver, Tony Gallagher asks, "Will [Bettman] try to grab just
a little more early next week and then declare it enough and let
the game proceed? Or, must he insist on the grand slam homer and
take the game away?" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 12/22).