The NLRB -- "apparently with some prodding" from Special Mediator William Usery -- delayed a decision on whether to seek an injunction restoring baseball's old economic system until next week. MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr has said the players would end the strike with such an injunction. MLBPA General Counsel Gene Orza, on reports Usery intervened to get the delay: "I hope not" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 3/24). NLRB Chair William Gould: "The collective bargaining process is the best way to resolve this dispute. ... We have simply not resolved this case and not decided it at this particular juncture" ("Sports View," CNBC, 3/23). Fehr: "They ought to be acting. I think a delay hurts the process here. Having said that, they'll do whatever they'll do. They don't ask my permission for things" ("Sports Tonight," CNN, 3/23). The union was "privately enraged" that Usery called Gould (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 3/24). Usery "apparently was convinced that a pending injunction would make it more difficult to get both sides back to the table, but the delay could leave the owners with even less motivation to negotiate" (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 3/24). OWNERS TEAM MEETS, PLOTS: The owners' negotiation team -- with the exception of Rockies Owner Jerry McMorris -- met outside Chicago yesterday to "plot their next move" (Jerome Holtzman, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/24). At 6:30pm EST, ESPN's Bob Ley reported that the owners may be preparing "a possible new proposal" ("SportsCenter," 3/23). But later on "Baseball Tonight," ESPN's Grace Lee Nikkel reported, "If you're looking for concrete evidence that management is about to submit another proposal to the union, you're not going to find it here" ("Baseball Tonight," 3/23). BACK TO THE TABLE? Usery "is trying to arrange for a weekend, small-group negotiating session, which will include McMorris and possibly just one other management representative" (Tracy Ringolsby, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 3/24). One management member "indicated Usery might have a difficult time persuading the owners' committee to meet" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 3/24). Dick Conn, a spokesperson for Usery, said he has asked the owners to return with a new offer. Conn: "We don't know what they're going to do" (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore SUN, 3/24). But sources tell the CHICAGO TRIBUNE that the owners "will offer 'new' proposals similar to those on the table. If the union balks, the owners, as they did last December, would declare another impasse" (Jerome Holtzman, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/24). ESPN's Peter Gammons said the owners are trying to keep the media away from deliberations and that talks may begin again "around Sunday" ("Baseball Tonight," 3/23). EVER HOPEFUL: ESPN's Gammons: "There's been some talk that even if it goes to April 1 and they get a settlement, they could postpone the season two or three weeks, get started, and get this thing running" ("Baseball Tonight," 3/23). In Toronto, Bob Elliott also notes one scenario by which the owners would delay the start of the season until a deal is made. One GM: "Not only are replacement games far from being a success, but we have far too many loose ends. If we proceed the way things are right now, we could set a record for lawsuits" (TORONTO SUN, 3/24).
Leagues Governing Bodies
MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr was interviewed on "Baseball Tonight." On the players' position: "We're not in a bad position to bargain now, the owners don't have the deal they want either." On rumors of players crossing: "I've never been concerned that players would cross in significant numbers, I'm not concerned now. If they owners believe that they will, then there won't be a deal, and only the passage of time can prove them otherwise. In any other situation, if you would have demonstrated the kind of solidarity that the players have demonstrated over this period of time, people would look around and wonder. But seemingly, if we don't have 110 percent, we're in trouble. That just isn't so." Asked to clarify "significant numbers": "You've got 1,100 people out there, you can't account for everyone's behavior every minute of every day" (ESPN, 3/23). FIRST TO CROSS? Yankees pitcher Steve Howe told the N.Y. DAILY NEWS that he is thinking about crossing the line for "personal and philosophical reasons." Howe: "Any guy who has told you that he has not thought about going back to work -- 'crossing' is a bad word -- is lying. Bottom line" (Jeff Bradley, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/24). BARNSTORMING TOUR SPUTTERS AGAIN: ESPN's Karl Ravech reported that the city of Homestead, FL has rejected plans for the players to train for their planned "barnstorming" tour at the city-owned facility ("Baseball Tonight," 3/23). Some on the players side accuse the owners of pressuring Homestead and other AZ communities against hosting the players saying that doing so would harm the cities' chances of becoming spring training sites. The N.Y. TIMES reports that Capital Sports of Stamford, CT, a company that represents Reebok -- which planned at one time to sponsor of the tour -- had reached agreement with Homestead on behalf of the players. But Homestead City Manager Will Rudd wrote to Capital Sports this week that they would be "unable to complete negotiations" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 3/24). END THE STRIKE: USA TODAY's Hal Bodley examines the rationale under which the players might return without an agreement (which he admits is a "long shot"): 1) They could play and get paid while legal action continues; 2) To prevent large numbers of players from breaking ranks; 3) To head off greater financial losses. According to Bodley, the owners are "unlikely" to vote for a lockout. Fehr on ending the strike: "Is it within the realm of all possible things? Yes." Fehr also said the union would consider a no-strike pledge for the '95 season (USA TODAY, 3/24).
United Baseball League officials were in Vancouver on Thursday to meet with potential franchise owners. B.C. Pavilion Corp. President Warren Buckley, who represents B.C. Place in talks with the UBL, said they spoke with "more than one but less than five potential investors," and called the meetings "more positive than I expected." UBL Founder Dick Moss said they intend to have local ownership in Vancouver, but that there are U.S. investors willing to operate the team (Terry Bell, Vancouver PROVINCE, 3/24). The UBL's six charter franchises: Washington, New Orleans, San Juan, Vancouver, New York, and Southern CA. With the appointment of Mike Stone as UBL COO and the "firming up" of a deal with the Superdome, "the league seems to be getting its operational house in order," according to Lyndon Little of the VANCOUVER SUN. UBL Co-founder Bob Mrazek said that Orlando, Sacramento, Portland and Hartford are areas the league is looking at for its other two franchises. Mrazek said he is "convinced that the UBL will open with teams that will be better than the Marlins and Rockies were in their first year" (VANCOUVER SUN, 3/24).