BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 173: BACK TO THE FUTURE
Members of the MLBPA and the owners' negotiating committee
are all headed back to Washington. Separate meetings with
Special Mediator Bill Usery are scheduled for today, while face-
to-face talks begin tomorrow. President Clinton has set a
February 6 deadline for a settlement, or something close to it.
If not, then he will ask Usery to recommend a solution. The
MLBPA will also hold an executive board meeting where they "could
vote to lift the month-old freeze on signing contracts." There
is the possibility that an extended freeze on signings "could
disadvantage players by creating an instant talent glut when it
is lifted" (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 1/31). Meanwhile, the
owners are expected to draw up a new proposal for the Wednesday
talks. Brewers VP/General Counsel Wendy Selig-Prieb: "I'm not
going to speculate on what we may or may not do. We've had some
general discussions, but we'll use the best part of (Tuesday) to
work that out" (MILWAUKEE SENTINEL, 1/31).
REFINED OFFER: In Denver, Tracy Ringolsby speculates that
the owners are expected to extend unrestricted free agency to any
players with five years of service, but eliminate arbitration by
creating right-of-first-refusal free agency for players with more
than four years of service but less than five (ROCKY MOUNTAIN
DON'T RUMINATE, LEGISLATE! Rep. John LaFalce (D-NY),
introduced a measure that would establish a national commission
with the authority to settle the strike and regulate baseball.
It would be called the National Commission on Professional
Baseball (Mult., 1/31). NY Assemblyman Richard Brodsky will
introduce a bill today to prevent the Mets and Yankees from
playing games with replacement players in Shea and Yankee
Stadiums, bar the teams from advertising replacement games as
"major league," and require cable companies to refund money for
replacements games televised (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 1/31).
ECONOMIC IMPACT: CNN's "Moneyline" profiled the economic
impact of replacement players on Florida spring training cities.
CNN's Lou Dobbs said both FL and AZ stand to lose $300M if the
regular players don't take the field. One example: Yankee ticket
sales for spring training in Ft. Lauderdale are down 80% from one
year ago. Fort Myers Mayor Wilbur Smith on the estimated $30M
his city will lose with replacement baseball: "It's something
that Florida's very dependent on at the tail end of the tourist
season, so even if they open with replacement players, it's going
to take a big bite out of the economy" ("MoneyLine," CNN, 1/30).