BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 161: REPORT BLASTS EXEMPTION
In this morning's ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, David Dahl examines
a report likely to "increase baseball's woes on Capitol Hill."
The non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) said the
antitrust exemption "isn't justified and may have led" to the
players' strike. From the report, written by CRS economists
Dennis Zimmerman and William Cox: "It is not clear what economic
benefits are provided by the antitrust exemption." Among other
things, CRS says the exemption allows team owners to impose labor
restrictions such as a salary cap "without fear of an expensive
damage award in court. Consequently, CRS speculates, team owners
may have decided it was cheaper to let players strike than to
meet their demands." CRS also questions whether "market failure
exists," noting that MLB seems to be "doing fine" even after free
agency helped salaries to rise because the value of franchises
has also continued to rise. CRS' recommendations include making
it easier for teams to relocate and further expansion (ST.
PETERSBURG TIMES, 1/19).
HE'S A USERY FAN: In a letter to MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr,
Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig responds to Fehr's comments
accusing owners of "lying" to members of Congress (WASHINGTON
TIMES, 1/19). From Selig's letter: "I and other club owners
told members of Congress that the strike will be resolved only
when both parties return to the bargaining table and address the
fundamental issue of labor costs." Selig goes on to remind Fehr
of the owners' meeting with Special Mediator William Usery, which
will be held today: "When Mr. Usery asks us to return to the
table, we will do so. ... Every other union in professional
sports has found a way to address the changed economics of the
1990s at the collective bargaining table. There is no reason why
we should not be able to do so in baseball" (MLB). Fehr does not
expect negotiations to resume any time soon, "probably not until
after the owners look at their teams of replacement players"
(Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 1/19). In Boston, Larry Whiteside
notes that Selig will not be present at the Usery meeting. Red
Sox CEO John Harrington will lead the owners' contingent (BOSTON
ANGELOS UPDATE: Orioles Owner Peter Angelos and AL Counsel
William Schweitzer will meet today to discuss Angelos'
"determination" not to field a replacement team. Schweitzer will
not say how the league might try to "force" Angelos to use
replacements, but according to the league's constitution, it can
fine the team as much as $250,000 a game, or take over the team
(Hal Bodley, USA TODAY, 1/19).
PHIL-LING THE VOID: Former pitcher/Silver Bullets Manager
Phil Niekro, who turns 56 on April 1, said he has been approached
about playing on a replacement team: "I don't really have any
reason to struggle with this because I haven't heard what they're
offering yet. Once I find out more about the deal, then I'll
start running it through my mind." Braves GM John Schuerholz on
signing Niekro: "What more natural development could there be?"
(Thomas Stinson, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 1/19).