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Volume 24 No. 113
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     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"