BASEBALL HELD HOSTAGE -- DAY 223: BACK TO SQUARE ZERO?
Labor talks between owners and players "remained at a
standstill yesterday," according to Mark Maske in today's
WASHINGTON POST. Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and MLBPA
Exec Dir Don Fehr "ended two days of meetings in Washington
without scheduling any formal negotiating sessions." One
ownership source questioned Selig's resolve to get a deal and
that Selig's ties to White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf, the owners'
top hawk, are "stronger than ever." The source: "Don would like
to meet. I'm not sure (Selig is) ready. ... The real problem
isn't necessarily Fehr." On the players' side, sources indicated
that the union may consider ending the strike, which would force
the owners to vote on a lockout. But while one union source
called it a "real possibility," another said it was "not under
active consideration" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/22). AP cites sources
with knowledge of the meetings who report that Selig "talked
about raising their tax rates and thresholds, not lowering them
to move closer to the union." Some involved on the players' side
said that management officials had told them in recent days "that
owners want to test the union's resolve, hoping that players
would break ranks and cross" and that the owners "will attempt to
delay" the NLRB's decision on whether to seek an injunction
against the owners (AP/Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 3/22). ESPN's Keith
Olbermann: "Hopes rose, and were then dashed at the strike
talks." Olbermann reported that "key player reps" were told to
come to Washington for strike talks, but then were told "to
forget it" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/21).
"THIS THING MAY NOT BE OVER FOR A LONG, LONG TIME": ESPN's
Peter Gammons said "most of the optimism has dissipated" from
earlier this week, and, if possible, "more of a gulf" exists with
owners citing "economic poverty because so much income is being
drained out of the industry already." Gammons: "Both sides seem
to be focused on everything but a deal right now. ... Meanwhile,
too many owners are getting harder and harder, saying, 'We've
come too far not to try to win.' ... This thing may not be over
for a long, long time" ("SportsCenter, ESPN, 3/21). In
Philadelphia, Jayson Stark cites one "baseball man": "From what
I'm hearing, it could be an ugly April." If management is
successful in delaying the NLRB injunction process, "the earliest
an injunction would be issued is about two weeks into the regular
season" (PHILADELHIA INQUIRER, 3/22).
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL: In New York, Tom Keegan predicts a
pre-Opening Day settlement: "Shame. That's the X-factor here.
As the season approaches and the owners stop to think of the
shame they are about to create, they will hammer out a deal that
smarts only a little" (N.Y. POST, 3/22).
BUD, BUD, HE'S OUR MAN: Mark Maske reports, "Indications
are that Selig may be closer than ever to accepting the
commissioner's job on a more permanent basis, although some
ownership representatives apparently believe he might have a
difficult time being approved once the longest and most
destructive work stoppage on professional sports history finally
is over" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/22).