Negotiations resumed at the home of acting MLB Commissioner
Bud Selig in Scottsdale, AZ. The "civility" seen during two days
of talks in Milwaukee continued, but neither side wished to
characterize any progress in the dispute. The MLBPA delegation
includes MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr, MLBPA attorney Lauren Rich,
and players Paul Molitor, Terry Steinbach and Jay Bell. The
owners are represented by Selig, Red Sox CEO John Harrington,
Rockies Owner Jerry McMorris, Braves President Stan Kasten and
management attorneys Chuck O'Connor and Rob Manfred. In L.A.,
Ross Newhan reports that Fehr left his hotel with Rich and
McMorris "for what was suspected to be a clandestine session out
of the media spotlight" (L.A. TIMES, 2/28). ESPN's Bob Sirkin
reported the union believes "that before management is really
ready to make a deal, they will first have to witness the failure
of exhibition and regular season games using replacement players"
THE SHADOW: White Sox Owner Jerry Reinsdorf was at the
hotel on the grounds, but did not participate. Reinsdorf: "I
live here. They brought the talks down here and it would be rude
if I didn't come over and say hello." Murray Chass writes that
people on both sides believe the timing of Reinsdorf's comments
last week, in which he said Fehr had a "pathological hatred" of
ownership, "was more than coincidental" and that Reinsdorf might
have been sending a message to owners "that they shouldn't get
soft now." One management source says that Reinsdorf claims to
have nine owners pledged to block a settlement they don't like
(N.Y. TIMES, 2/28). In Washington, Mark Maske reports
speculation that the comments were a "plot by Selig and Reinsdorf
to irritate Fehr and ruin any chance of a settlement. Others
guessed that Selig had split with Reinsdorf and now desperately
wants to reach a compromise" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/28). One
"union-friendly agent": "I think Jerry's throwing grenades at
the end trying to save his coalition" (Dave van Dyck, CHICAGO
MEANWHILE, BACK IN WASHINGTON: Murray Chass examines the
likely fallout when NLRB General Counsel Fred Feinstein issues
his decision on the unfair labor charge against the owners.
People on both sides expect Feinstein to issue a complaint
against the owners and to seek an injunction forcing the clubs to
restore the rule that existed before they implemented their
salary cap. A complaint would lead the NLRB and the owners to
court, with a judge's ruling possible by March 15. A court-
approved injunction would bring the players back, and face the
owners with the decision whether to lock the players out and risk
being liable for back pay plus interest (N.Y. TIMES, 2/28).
MEAN GENE: MLBPA General Counsel Gene Orza, who called
Special Mediator William Usery "senile" during the last round of
talks, was not in Scottsdale. Rather, Orza was running meetings
with minor-leaguers in FL and AZ (I.J. Rosenberg, ATLANTA
CONSTITUTION, 2/28). Orza, on criticism of the union position:
"Oh, come now, minor-leaguers are being asked to do something
terribly different than in the past. Minor-leaguers would not be
in camp under normal circumstances" (Paul Sullivan, CHICAGO
BOSTON: The Red Sox told their minor leaguers Monday they
can "go home" if they don't play in the team's exhibition games.
The Sox will offer those who decide to play in the games major
league pay -- $53.50 per day, plus $188/week in meal money (Nick
Cafardo, BOSTON GLOBE, 2/27). BALTIMORE: MLB's operations
committee recommended to teams that they "refuse to play" the
Orioles this spring. Orioles officials hope to know today which
opponents they will actually play this spring (WASHINGTON POST,
CHICAGO: Cubs GM Ed Lynch made his pitch yesterday to
minor-leaguers, urging them to play in spring games "for the good
of their careers," throwing in an extra $75 a day if they do. Of
the 107 players in camp, 32 to 34 are "committed as temporary
replacements" -- enough to open the regular season (Joseph
Reaves, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/28).
CINCINNATI: The Reds announced yesterday that 48-year- old
Pedro Borbon will be a replacement player, if he passes the team
physical. Borbon last pitched in 1980. Reds GM Jim Bowden:
"Maybe we'll have a little fun with it for a few weeks" (Chris
Haft, CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 2/28). In New York, Bill Madden
writes, "Until now, no one in baseball's officialdom wanted to
come out and declare replacement players a joke" (N.Y. DAILY
CLEVELAND: The Indians praised a court ruling denying a
request for a temporary restraining order by three season ticket
holders who claimed that they should be able retain their season
ticket priority even if they don't purchase season tickets for
replacement games (Indians).
HOUSTON: The Astros are in a budget-cutting mode as the
strike wears on. Scouting and development and minor league
operations will lose manpower, with the elimination of two full-
time scouts and four minor-league instructors. In addition, the
team will cut the budgets of its academy in Venezuela and
Dominican and Australian scouts. The Astros have also cut their
PR department from five full-time employees and an intern to two,
and reduced their marketing and sales staffs (Neil Hohlfeld,
HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 2/27).
LOS ANGELES: Dodgers' Dir of Minor-League Ops Charlie
Blaney "confirmed" that he and Exec VP Fred Claire have talked to
players about renegotiating contracts for those minor-leaguers
who choose to stay in camp, but he added "no decisions have been
made" (L.A. TIMES, 2/28).
MILWAUKEE: One-hundred and eight of the Brewers' 131 minor-
leaguers agreed on a survey yesterday to play in exhibition games
if asked (MILWAUKEE SENTINEL, 2/28).
NEW YORK: The Mets announced yesterday that they will offer
refunds to season ticket holders "on a homestand to homestand
basis" for games played with replacement players (Anthony
Gargano, N.Y. POST, 2/28).
PHILADELPHIA: Frank Fitzpatrick of the PHILADELPHIA
INQUIRER described yesterday's six-inning intrasquad scrimmage as
doing "little but lift the spirits of the striking players
association" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/28).
ST. LOUIS: The Cardinals' front office learned yesterday
that the team "has enough players" to start the exhibition
season. The team reportedly has 55 players that have agreed to
be either replacement players or play in exhibitions (Rick
Hummel, ST. LOUIS POST DISPATCH, 2/28).
CFL Commissioner Larry Smith is reportedly in negotiations
with prospective owners for both the Las Vegas Posse and Ottawa
Rough Riders in an effort to avert a midnight deadline to "pull
the plug on both teams." In Ottawa, Don Campbell reports that
Smith flew to Jackson, MS, on Monday for a "make or break"
meeting with Elliot Maisel, a prospective owner of the Rough
Riders. Maisel has pledged to keep the team in Ottawa.
According to league sources, the Rough Riders owe nearly $1M to
160 creditors. A new owner would have to agree to take on the
debt (Don Campbell, OTTAWA CITIZEN, 2/28). The Posse face a $3M
debt, and league officials are trying to "convince the creditors
to take pennies for dollars" so that the team can be moved to
Milwaukee, Jackson or L.A (Vancouver PROVINCE, 2/28).
TIGER-CATS TO MEOW AGAIN: Creditors for the Hamilton
franchise have agreed to a proposal that will eventually give
them 20 cents on every dollar owed. The removal of the debt
"paves the way" for new owner David MacDonald and his partners to
take control (Mike Ganter, TORONTO SUN, 2/28).
Baseball's owners may delay a decision to expand until the
sport's labor problems are settled, according to this morning's
TAMPA TRIBUNE. "Increasing opposition" among some owners could
"kill or delay" expansion. Reds Owner Marge Schott: "Expansion
should be taken off the board at the meeting. We've got other
things to worry about." Eight negative votes among the 28 owners
are needed to delay the process. Most owners will not comment on
expansion "because it is a negotiable item before the players
association." But one unnamed owner said "expansion remains
likely and that Tampa Bay is certain to get one of the teams."
MLB's expansion committee recommends adding two teams "quickly"
and two more "a few years later" (Henderson & Carlson, TAMPA
TRIBUNE, 2/28). Columnist Tom McEwen reports in addition to
Orioles Owner Peter Angelos, the Dodgers, Braves, Reds and
Mariners oppose expansion. McEwen writes, "The awarding of
franchises to St. Petersburg will get done, not necessarily at
Palm Beach, but before April 1, the date financing for a Phoenix
stadium disappears" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 2/28).
The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday refused to hear an appeal
by the NFL on a federal appeals court ruling that William
Sullivan, former owner of the Patriots, may bring his antitrust
case again before a federal court jury. In the case, Sullivan
was awarded $17M by a jury in damages after challenging the
legality of the league's ban on the sale of any team's stock to
the public. The jury found that the NFL's ban on public
ownership -- exclusive to the league -- violated antitrust law
"because it restricted competition for investment money by those
who might want to buy or sell shares of team ownership." As
antitrust law dictates, the damages were tripled to $51M. In
September, the federal appeals court in Boston threw out the
ruling because of faulty trial instructions, but declined to end
the case as the league "had urged it to do." The NFL contended
that owners do not act in competition, but "as a single economic
unit." Sullivan's case will now go before a jury trial in Boston
federal court (Lyle Denniston, Baltimore SUN, 2/28).