Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 24 No. 159

Leagues Governing Bodies

     Baseball's owners and players are set to resume talks this
week at The Swan Hotel in Disney World, near Orlando.  There was
confusion, however, over whether the two sides would meet
tomorrow or Wednesday.  The owners' committee meets today with
Special Mediator William Usery to begin discussions on their
"best offer," which Usery requested be presented to the players
this week.  The schedule "may be further complicated" by the
expected ruling from the NLRB on the players' charge of unfair
labor practices against the owners.  NLRB General Counsel Fred
Feinstein is expected to issue a complaint against the owners,
followed immediately by a request to the Board that it seek an
injunction in U.S. District Court (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES,
3/13).  Management sources indicate if owners do present their
"best offer" to players, "it will be just that -- an offer with
little or no room to be diluted" (Bill Madden, N.Y. DAILY NEWS,
3/12).
     NOT AFRAID OF THE NLRB?  One owner:  "We know the NLRB will
always rule in favor of a union.  Our lawyers let us know that
the chances of management winning in front of this board are
slim.  But rulings don't mean beans.  It's what happens in court
that counts."  Murray Chass notes that the NLRB's success rate in
getting injunctions during FY '95 has been 83% (N.Y. TIMES,
3/12).  Tribune Co. attorney Robert Ballow reportedly told the
owners in Palm Beach:  "You've only had three NLRB complaints; we
never even take notice until we get to three figures" (BOSTON
GLOBE, 3/12).
     FEHR STRIKES OUT?  In Baltimore, Buster Olney writes, "The
union is in trouble, and unless an agreement is reached in the
very near future, its members could start jumping ship to save
themselves."  One agent, on MLBPA Exec Don Fehr:  "The best thing
that could happen now is for Don to walk away.  I don't know how
that can be done gracefully, but a change needs to be made"
(Baltimore SUN, 3/12).  Fehr:  "If I believed I was the problem I
would resign tomorrow.  But it's not that simple" (Peter Gammons,
BOSTON GLOBE, 3/12). In Atlanta, I.J. Rosenberg writes, "The
union's leverage has all but disappeared.  While the work
stoppage may go on for some time, when it does end it appears the
players will be the big losers" (ATL. CONSTITUTION, 3/12).
     OWNERSHIP STANDS FIRM:  ESPN's Peter Gammons:  "The message
at [the Palm Beach] meetings was that the owners really believe
they won no matter what the NLRB says and that they have gone too
far not to hold out for what they want" ("Sports Weekly," 3/12).
In his GLOBE column, Gammons quotes one moderate owner:  "The
union has driven us to this point.  Look at McMorris and [Red Sox
CEO John] Harrington.  They started out in the same camp as [the
Mets'] Fred Wilpon and [the Orioles'] Peter Angelos, but after
seven months of negotiating with these guys are hard-line in
their resolve to get a meaningful deal."  Gammons notes, "While
the owners don't know that the center of the union is indeed
falling apart, they are proceeding on that theory" (BOSTON GLOBE,
3/12).  One source close to the talks says the time for a deal
was in Scottsdale:  "Fehr had his shot.  Now the window of
opportunity is closed, and (the owners) want to break the union"
(Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 3/11).

     Both the Devil (Manta?) Rays and Diamondbacks entered their
first weekend of existence with celebrations planned and the
drive for season tickets at a peak.  A look at other happenings
on the expansion scene:
     WELCOME WAGON:   After MLB owners threatened to raise the
franchise fee by $35M to $175M, Diamondbacks Owner Jerry
Colangelo remarked to Rays Owner Vince Naimoli:  "This is not the
way we treat our future partners in the NBA.  The new owners know
months in advance they're getting a team.  There are no
surprises.  We want them to feel good about joining us" (Joe
Henderson, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 3/12).
     JUST IN CASE:  "Jilted seven times since 1984," Naimoli was
ready with a response if MLB owners rejected Tampa for an eighth
time.  Naimoli had a letter in his pocket signed by FL Attorney
General Bob Butterworth informing the owners that "legal action
was commencing immediately on behalf of Tampa Bay against Major
League Baseball."  He didn't need to use it (Tracy Ringolsby,
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 3/12).
     GIVE AN INCH, TAKE A FOOT: Already the owner of a lease with
the ThunderDome that one former MLB owner called the "best lease
in baseball," Rays officials say they "'may' revisit the lease's
financial terms."  But St. Pete city officials say the team may
"find the well dry."  The team already will manage the dome, its
employees and receive all profits from non-baseball events.  The
Rays also have the rights to sell the Dome's name and keep the
first $10M plus 40% of the remaining profits from that deal.
Plus, the club will receive $1.4M from the city during each of
the first three years of the lease.  The city receives $.50 from
each ticket sold (Noam Neusner, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 3/11).  State
officials say improvements to the ThunderDome must help the Rays
operate or make money to receive funding.  FL Sports Foundation
Exec Dir Larry Pendleton said a waterfall did not merit state
fuding (Noam Neusner, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 3/12).
     EASY FINANCING:  In Phoenix, Former Maricopa County
Supervisor Jim Bruner, the man who cast the deciding vote for
county funding for the Diamondbacks' new retractable dome
stadium, says the $253M debt generated to build the park will be
serviced by the time the team takes the field.  Bruner:
"Basically, by the time the first (baseball) season comes around
the debt will be gone."  County taxpayers will pay for the park
with a quarter-cent sales tax increase (Mary Joe Pitzl, ARIZONA
REPUBLIC, 3/12).
     NONE FOR YOU!  If MLB decides to expand and bring the number
of teams to 32, the Rays and Diamondbacks will not see any of the
fees.  As part of the expansion agreement, they were told they
would be excluded from the next round of expansion revenues (Joe
Henderson, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 3/12).
     THE NAME GAME: By 6pm Friday, more than 15,000 people had
called the hotline to choose between Devil Rays and Manta Rays
for Tampa's team name.  Four telephone lines were added to the
eight originally set up to take calls because of the massive
response (Bob Chick TAMPA TRIBUNE, 3/11).  TAMPA TRIBUNE
columnist Steve Otto on some of the reaction he's received from
fans disturbed by the Devil Rays name: One "guy wanted me to know
that Devil Ray spelled backward is 'yar lived' and that the word
'yar' is a satanic dog" (Steve Clark, RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH,
3/11).
     GET 'EM WHILE THEY'RE HOT:  Another 100 $50 season ticket
deposits were received Friday, giving the Rays a total of 32,179.
The team also received another $5,000 luxury suite deposit (Bob
Chick, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 3/11).
     VIRGINIANS UNITE!  Northern VA leaders were told to "settle
on one investor group" if they want to have a chance at MLB's
next expansion.  Both Virginia Baseball, led by William Collins,
and Capital Baseball, led by Bart Fisher, represented the region
in vying for the latest round of expansion (Eric Lipton,
WASHINGTON POST, 3/11).  Fisher will "push for stadium plans to
continue, even without a team" (Thom Loverro, WASHINGTON TIMES,
3/11).  For news on a possible Expos move to Northern VA, See
#14.

     NL President Len Coleman sent a memo to clubs assuring them
there will be an All-Star Game, whether it is made up of
replacements or regulars.  The game will be held at The Ballpark
in Arlington, TX, the first time the Rangers will host the Game
(Gerry Fraley, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/9).
     HELLO, CLEVELAND: Cleveland is "very close" to being named
the site of the NBA's 1997 All-Star Game, according to Burt
Graeff of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER.  Portland, Boston, and
Sacramento are the other cites which have expressed interest.
One NBA source tells Graeff: "It's virtually a done deal.  I
expect an announcement to be made soon."  The Indians will host
the '97 MLB All-Star Game at Jacobs Field (Cleveland PLAIN-
DEALER, 3/9).

     As the possibility of replacement baseball approaches,
debate about how Cal Ripken's consecutive games streak will and
should be treated is heating up.  In Philadelphia, Jayson Stark
writes, "The more we think about poor Cal Ripken, the more it
gives us the shakes."  Although AL President Gene Budig has yet
to rule on the situation, Elias Sports Bureau's Tom Hirdt says
the issue is "fairly simple": "It seems to me that if they play
games that count, the streak would end."  Hirdt points out that
forfeits count as losses, "not mere non events" (PHILADELPHIA
INQUIRER, 3/12).  Tom Carter, statistics editor of THE SPORTING
NEWS, is responsible for determining criteria for records
published in The Sporting News Complete Baseball Record Book.  He
hasn't made a final decision on how to rule on the streak.
However, Carter is "leaning" towards continuing the streak if the
O's refuse to field replacement players and forfeit the games.
Carter says if MLB fields a team for the O's, the streak will
come to an end.  Carter also said he will "probably" abide by any
decision made baseball officials (Buster Olney, Baltimore SUN,
3/12).  Budig on the streak:  "It's under very, very active
review.  Major league leaders past and present are being
consulted on the issue" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 3/12).  TIME's
Steve Wulf said breaking the streak "would be the blackest mark
in the history of baseball.  Blacker than anything that the 1919
White Sox did and blacker than anything Pete Rose did" (ESPN,
3/12).
     THE BOOK: The 1995 AL Red Book features pictures of Ripken
and Gehrig on the cover, "the two seemingly gazing at each other
from across time."  AL VP for Administration and Media Affairs
Phyllis Merhige:  "I know I took a chance; I knew it was going to
be controversial.  But I felt I had to acknowledge that it was
going to be a big story this year.  Either way, it's the story of
the year.  Either he breaks it or he doesn't" (Murray Chass, N.Y.
TIMES, 3/12).