Lenny Dykstra went before 260 of his fellow union members to address the comments he made last week disapproving of the union's stance and hinting that he might cross a picket line. According to Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore SUN, "He expressed his doubts and asked his questions and then generally submitted to the will" of the MLBPA membership in attendance (Baltimore SUN, 2/17). Some MLBPA members "hammered him during the meeting, they said, not for the views he had expressed but because he spoke without being informed on the issues he spoke about" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 2/17). On ESPN's "Up Close," Dykstra claimed he had been contacted by 20 other "premier" players who wanted to meet with union leaders to force a settlement. Frank Fitzpatrick writes, "There is now widespread belief, among players and agents, that no such conversations ever took place" (PHILA. INQUIRER, 2/17). OTHER REAX: "One agent said the union hierarchy was less interested in changing Dykstra's mind than it was in having Dykstra's arguments picked apart in front of the other players" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 2/17). "By the time Lenny Dykstra stood before his peers, he had been chastised and ridiculed into submission" (Bob Nightengale, L.A. TIMES, 2/17). "If there were dissenters in Thursday's group, they apparently kept quiet" (John Lowe, DETROIT FREE PRESS, 2/17). One player accused Dykstra of having the "backbone of a nerfball" for leaving later through a rear exit (Bob Elliott, TORONTO SUN, 2/17). Andy Van Slyke: "It was like a Christian going into the lion's den and 400 lions with fangs sticking out who haven't eaten in five hours" (Mult., 2/17). In New York, Tom Keegan writes the union was "so confident" of its members' unity that "they roped off the area within hearing range of the ballroom and posted a palace sentry out front" (N.Y. POST, 2/17). Brett Butler, on what he said to Dykstra: "Lenny, you set us back two or three weeks. It irritates me, if you want to be involved, if you want to know the issues, then you get your butt on a plane" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 2/16). FEHR SAYS NLRB DECISION WOULD END STRIKE: MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr said for the first time that if the NLRB rules that it will seek an injunction to restore the old system, the players would end their strike. But Jayson Stark notes that the owners "are likely to respond to such a ruling by locking players out" (PHILA. INQUIRER, 2/17). CNN's Jim Huber reported the players' other list of conditions necessary for their return: a new CBA; owners accept arbitration; one year of fact-finding followed by bargaining; passage of Hatch-Moynihan bill; or a return to the previous economic system ("Sports Tonight," CNN, 2/16). POLITICS, POLITICS: The White House announced that President Clinton will not throw out the first pitch of any game played by replacement players (Mult., 2/17)....The American Federation of Teachers called on its membership to boycott all replacement baseball games (AFT). ON THE TUBE: CNBC's "Sports View" profiled the situation on the first day of spring training for the first team to report -- the Yankees. Sports finance attorney Lawrence Swift: "The pessimist scenario is that replacement players will be hired and baseball, at least for the time being will go on being played in that fashion" (CNBC, 2/16). The "CBS Evening News" profiled the Dodgers' return to Vero Beach with replacement players, including the economic impact on people in the area (CBS, 2/16). ABC's "World News Tonight" gave an overview of the baseball situation as the seventh story of its newscast (ABC, 2/16). The "NBC Nightly News" ran a photo of replacement Yankees trotting onto the practice field as their "Picture of the Day," but did not have a complete story (NBC, 2/16).
Leagues Governing Bodies
BALTIMORE -- PLAYERS, MANAGEMENT UNITED: Orioles Pitcher Jim Poole and team VP of Business & Finance Joe Foss both testified before a state senate panel in support of a bill to prevent replacement players from being allowed to play at Camden Yards (Brad Snyder, Baltimore SUN, 2/17). CHICAGO -- ST. PADDY'S DAY PARADE? White Sox GM Ron Schueler predicted that some striking players will defect in early-to mid-March: "St. Paddy's Day (March 17), I think you're going to see some guys in camps." Schueler cited the Sox's 83% season-ticket renewal rate as proof the fans will accept replacement players: "South Side people can relate a lot more to 30 guys making $115,000 than the guys making $7 million. Hey, for two months, they might have some new heroes" (Paul Sullivan, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/17). But an early look at a TRIBUNE poll, which will be released in full on Sunday (400 people surveyed Feb. 10-13), reveals that "nearly half" say they will ignore replacement baseball, but more than half would be open to attending replacement games at cheaper prices; fans support the salary cap by a 2-to-1 margin; 52% think President Clinton erred by getting involved (Andrew Bagnato, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/17). CINCINNATI -- REDS RETORT: Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig "backed down" from a statement made before a Senate hearing that all season-ticket holders would be eligible for refunds for replacement games. The Reds, the only team that will not lower ticket prices for replacement games, took issue causing MLB spokesperson Rich Levin to state: "Teams have their own individual policies. There is no major league policy" (Erardi & Haft, CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 2/17). DETROIT -- SPARKY WON'T SHOW: Tigers Manager Sparky Anderson "has told the Tigers that he plans to boycott the opening of their spring training camp because he doesn't want to work with replacement players," according to this morning's DETROIT FREE PRESS. According to sources, the Tigers "are trying to change Anderson's mind," but chances are "less than 50-50" he will be on the field today (Gene Guidi, DETROIT FREE PRESS, 2/17). Today's DETROIT NEWS is reporting that Anderson was granted a "leave of absence" (DETROIT NEWS, 2/17). Tigers GM Joe Klein said he has talked to ten of his players who will cross the line. Klein did not identify the players (DETROIT NEWS, 2/16). LOS ANGELES -- ZERO BEACH: "The first litmus test of public acceptance of the replacement concept fizzled badly for the Dodgers on Thursday." The team's charter, usually greeted by 400-500 fans, was welcomed by a "scant 18" at Vero Beach airport (Ken Daley, L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/17). NEW YORK -- ALL EYES ON THE BOSS: Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner was the center of attention as the Yankees opened camp yesterday. Steinbrenner: "To try and tell you it's going to be like an all-star team, I can't do that. And I won't do that" (ESPN, 2/16). Steinbrenner: "I think there are people who appreciate what we're trying to do. We're trying to give them a product" (Jeff Bradley, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/17). Steinbrenner presence was "intended to make him the story of the day. His strategy was shrewd and worked for over an hour" (Jack Curry, N.Y. TIMES, 2/17). ESPN's Peter Gammons said the Yankees players "look like extras from 'Fear Strikes Out'" (ESPN, 2/16). PHILADELPHIA -- FEHR STRIKES OUT? Frank Dolson writes, "By now, for all his brave talk, for all the good answers he gives to the most probing of questions, [MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr] must realize his mistake. He must know this is one time the players cannot, will not be able to claim total victory, or anything close to it" (PHILA. INQUIRER, 2/17). SAN FRANCISCO -- WHITEHURST DENIES REPORT: Wally Whitehurst denied an AP and ESPN report that he will be the first major leaguer to cross the picket line. Whitehurst agreed to a Triple- A contract with the Giants and will not play in exhibition games until the strike ends (Mark Gonzales, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 2/17). ST. LOUIS -- CARDS EXTEND DEADLINE: The Cardinals sent a letter to season-ticket holders extending the renewal deadline from March 1 to March 10. Even at that date, only 75% payment will be due (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 2/17). Cards Manager Joe Torre, who was a league and team player rep, asked how he would have reacted if President Nixon had intervened in a strike when he was playing: "We weren't that important at the time. We were ballplayers; now they're celebrities" (Bill Chastain, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 2/17). TORONTO -- JAYS TIX STILL HOT: Jays Dir of Operations George Holm said the club will reach its "cutoff point" of 26,000 season tickets. Holm: "People don't want to give them up because they might lose their seats. In fact, the ratio has been about 15-1 of calls that say they want better or more seats" (Mike Zeisberger, TORONTO SUN, 2/17).
CFL commissioner Larry Smith denied a report yesterday that the league will fold within six weeks and then begin play under a new name to "eliminate Canadian content." Smith: "The league finds this story totally preposterous" (Toronto GLOBE AND MAIL, 2/17). IN OTHER CFL NEWS: The Gold Miners will become the San Antonio Gold Miners as San Antonio's city council yesterday approved a five-year deal for the team to play in the Alamodome (Mike Ganter, TORONTO SUN, 2/17)....The board of directors for the Las Vegas Posse are scheduled to meet this weekend to determine where the team will move. Los Angeles and Jackson, MS, are the two cities reportedly interested in landing the franchise (Eric Noland, L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/17).
MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr said yesterday that MLB expansion is "no sure thing." After meeting with player in Orlando, Fehr said "that he believes major league owners have been telling politicians on Capitol Hill that the expansion recommended by a committee of owners may not take place." Fehr: "They [owners] are telling people that there are some doubts about expansion, and where it will be. Maybe my information is wrong. I'd like for them to make that decision, and we'd like to be involved in it" (Thom Loverro, WASHINGTON TIMES, 2/17). But in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, St. Pete city leaders "have started planning a party in early March to celebrate a successful bid" for an expansion franchise. St. Petersburg Mayor David Fischer: "If it goes in our favor, we would be prepared for festivities" (Noam Neusner, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 2/17).
In wake of the recent riot at the Ireland-England soccer game, FIFA officials said that the "hooliganism should not stop England from playing host to next year's European Championship." FIFA President Joao Havelange: "Because of a localized problem, which should be dealt with by local authorities, England does not deserve to have a sporting right withdrawn" (AP/VANCOUVER SUN, 2/17).
ESPN's Chris Mortenson reports that the NFL will not ignore Deion Sanders' endorsement deal with Sega that calls for him to make an additional $1.2M should he stay with the 49ers. Mortenson: "It promises to be a full-blown investigation with potential legal implications." Sega claims the deal is "legit" because the company's Bay Area headquarters will allow for a more complete working agreement with Sanders if he stays in the area. Mortenson said the league wants to stop this deal because it could be the "tip of the iceberg" as a way for players and teams to "circumvent the salary cap." Mortenson said the NFL will probably try to block the deal by "threatening to pull the lucrative licencing agreement" Sega has with the league (SportsCenter, ESPN, 2/16).