MLB's Executive Council will meet with its Labor Policy
Committee today in Chicago to discuss what can be done to
finalize a collective bargaining contract with the players union,
according to Tom Haudricourt of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL.
Haudricourt writes, "In essence, owners have put themselves in a
trick box" as the two issues to be settled are service time and
tax free years of a payroll luxury tax. Some owners are "against
making either concession, but the tax issue is the potential
deal-buster" as small market clubs "fear their current financial
woes will resurface should the luxury tax be eliminated" after
being in effect over a period of time. Haudricourt notes it will
be up to the Executive Council to "decide what owners can and
can't live with in a labor deal." But one management source
"offered a somewhat somber forecast" when he said, "The only
thing worse than no deal is a bad deal." USA TODAY's Hal Bodley
calls the meeting, expected to last 5-6 hours, "a crucial step"
toward completing a deal. Acting Commissioner Bud Selig "refused
to speculate whether a consensus could be reached during the
sessions -- or even if he would attempt to move the Executive
Council toward one" (USA TODAY, 9/11).
SET-UP MAN: In Milwaukee, Tom Haudricourt credits MLPBA Exec
Dir Donald Fehr for doing "a masterful job of making it appear as
if a deal is at hand" which has "set up owners to be the heavies"
if a deal falls through. If owners want "major revisions" for a
deal, it could put them "in a mess they have become familiar with
in past labor battles: losing their negotiator." Speculation has
management negotiator Randy Levine taking himself out of the
process if instructed to do extensive reworking of a deal.
Levine "declined to predict what would happen should owners draw
a line in the sand" but added, "I think I've done the best I can
do to this point." Haudricourt concludes small-market teams will
determine the outcome of a deal and "it is believed most will
cast their votes as (Acting Commissioner Bud) Selig casts his"
(MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL,9/11).
The NFL's drug enforcement policy is examined by HBO's Jim
Lampley on the latest installment of "Real Sports with Bryant
Gumbel." Entitled "Is the System Working?," Lampley noted, "NFL
officials support a drug testing program that can be seen as the
most comprehensive in all of professional sports, testing every
player, every year, for a variety of substances. And based on
that, you might be lured into seeing Michael Irvin and Bam Morris
as the apparent rare exceptions in a relatively drug-free NFL.
But experts we consulted, players we spoke to, paint a somewhat
different picture." Lampley said "while many NFL players are
willing to discuss the league's drug policy, few will do it on
the record." One player, a former drug user who never tested
positive for drugs, spoke on the condition of anonymity and
indicated that currently anywhere from 13 to 18 players per team
would fail the NFL drug test. The player said he "timed it so
[he] wouldn't flunk what they called the idiot test. You
flunked, you're an idiot." Lampley explained every NFL player
without a drug history knows he will "be tested once and only
once" during the year, and he knows testing will come between May
1 and August 20 "as spelled out" in the CBA. Lampley: "Drug
users simply schedule themselves clean before the testing period,
pass the test and then resume their lifestyle for another year."
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was asked if the league's
testing policy was damaged when players like Irvin and Morris
"can wind up facing criminal penalties" in circumstances that
would seem to indicate drug use, when they passed the NFL's drug
test. Tagliabue: "I don't know that you can draw the conclusion
in either case that there is an indication of drug use. But that
is one of the reasons you would like to have some earlier
testing. ... I don't think its damaging to the credibility of the
program. I think its damaging [to the players involved] and I
think its damaging to the National Football League."
ONE SOLUTION: The implementation of a league-wide season-
long, random drug test, could have a "real impact," according to
a drug policy expert cited in the piece. The NFL has a similar
policy toward steroid use. Lampley: "But considering the
unenthusiastic attitude the NFL Players union expresses toward
year-round, random testing for drugs like cocaine and marijuana,
tougher testing anytime soon seems unlikely. And while players
we spoke to would readily accept random tests that were
administered fairly and consistently, virtually all of them view
the current, once-a-year-preseason test, as nothing more than a
public relations tool." Lampley said the program's "intent and
effectiveness" is also questioned due to "occasional inept
administration." He cited the incident where several Cowboy
players were tested under league supervision before the May 1
testing period mandated by the CBA, and the reportedly positive
test results were thrown out due to the wrong testing date.
Tagliabue said those testing administrators were unaware of the
time frame for testing, which he said is part of the process "of
getting up to speed in a transitional program." But Lampley
showed documentation that the testing dates had been released
throughout the league "months before the botched" Cowboys test.
Lampley also addressed prospects for a change in the NFL's
policy. Lampley: "A minority of players, I think, would be in
favor of a change in policy. I don't think that the Commissioner
would be uncomfortable with the notion of random testing, but I
don't think its coming anytime soon" (HBO, 9/10).