Reading Eagle - April 1, 1980
Players Due To Set Strike Date
DALLAS (AP) – The specter of what could be a long, costly strike greeted the executive board of the Major League Players Association as they gathered here today.
Marvin Miller, executive director of the union, believes management has sought a strike from the beginning of negotiations. He cited as evidence a multimillion dollar fund assembled from last season’s gate receipts and an insurance policy that would pay struck owners $1 million per day.
“The owners taxed themselves 2 percent of last year’s gate for a strike fund,” Miller said. “That’s about $3.5 million plus interest. We also know they have an insurance policy that pays the 26 clubs $1 million a day after the first two weeks of a strike. There’s an override on top of that by Lloyds of London for $40 million.
For these reasons, Miller said, management has engaged in strictly surface negotiations. “Their intent has been to provoke a strike,” Miller said. “They see this as a time to take the players on, to dismantle the players association.”
The players have voted overwhelmingly to authorize the strike action with a final 967-1. The lone dissenting was cast by Jerry Terrell, player representative of the Kansas City Royals, who cited religious reasons for his position.
The only question that remained seemed to be the timing of strike action.
“The principle subject of conversation today will be a date,” Miller said. “I’ve counseled the players on the pros and cons of different dates. I didn’t make any recommendation because they didn’t ask.”
And if they do? Miller smiled.
“I’ll sleep on that,” he said at first but later he amended his position, saying: “The players have to ask themselves when it would have the maximum impact economically. I think that time would be near the end of May. If you look at April, school I sstill in session, there’s bad weather, there are a lot of open dates, television coverage is not as heavy as it is later on.
“But there are other factors. The players are angry.”
What has angered them most is the management demand for compensation in the free agent clause of the basic agreement. Players fear that would restrict the market and result in the same limited kind of free agency that faces professional football players.
“They (the owners) liked it better when they had a monopoly,” Miller said. “I can understand that. But when they propose paying a three-year man a maximum of $90,300 in negotiations while the Chicago Cubs offer Bruce Sutter $350,000, well how can we take that seriously? That’s not good-faith bargaining.”
Sutter, a four-year player, took the Cubs to arbitration and won a $700,000 contract. The owners subsequently withdrew the salary scale proposal.
Miller said that in his tour of training camps he has had informal conversations with owners or management of five clubs.
“They say, ‘We can’t control our own people,’” said Miller, citing free agent bidding that had driven player salaries to astronomical heights.
“They want me to control them by accepting restrictions and I say, ‘No, thank you.’”
The owners he talked to had one other message for Miller.
“They kept looking over their shoulders,” he said. “They said, ‘You know, I can be fined $500,000 for talking about negotiations if they see me talking to you, it could be $1 million.’”
Miller said most of the negotiating time has been spent dealing with the demands of the owners, not the players.
“I’d say 95 to 98 percent of the time has been spent talking about what they want, not what we want,” he said. On Sunday, when a federal mediator, summoned by management, entered the talks, Miller said more than nine hours of meetings had accomplished nothing.
SporttopicS: Attraction at Carpenter
By John W. Smith
CLEARWATER – An exhibition game at Carpenter Complex would not ordinarily attract such onlookers as Ruly Carpenter, Paul Owens and Larry Shenk. But there they were Monday afternoon, watching the Oklahoma City 89ers play the Tidewater Tides.
However, they left after four inning when the game, a 12-7 O.C. victory – was still in doubt. They’d seen what they wanted to see, and it wasn’t John Poff’s homer, or Ramon Lora’s two doubles, or Len Matuszek’s four RBIs.
The attraction was Larry Christenson, in his first outing since taking that line drive on the knee. The verdict – a qualified success.
“Six strikeouts,” said one of Larry’s friends to him when he finished his four innings.
“Yeah, but three runs,” replied Larry, who’s had enough misfortune in his career to become a professional pessimist, or a publicist for GPU.
“I’m never satisfied,” he said in response to a question. “But, yes, I was reasonable satisfied. The knee’s still tender in one spot – I can’t put too much pressure on it year. But it felt good. A couple more outings, and I’ll be ready for the first series of the season.”
Larry, who gave up a home run to the first batter, but might have escaped other damage with better support, allowed five hits. He had the advantage of a familiar batterymate in Bob Boone, who stayed behind from the three-day East Coast trip because of today’s meeting in Dallas about the possible strike.
“He wasn’t fine; he didn’t move the ball in and out,” said Bob. “But he had a good slider and a good curve, and I thought his velocity was pretty good – though he didn’t think so. And he threw strikes. He’ll be ready.”
Whether the players will be ready is another matter. Boone, the National League player representative, feels the invitation by the owners to the federal mediator is “an obvious public-relations ploy to start the season with an unsigned contract.
“I don’t mind the arbitrator coming in,” he said. “I’d just as soon have somebody else look at it. In fact, I’d be willing to take our case to binding arbitration.” But he sees the timing of the arbitrator’s arrival as a stalling tactic.
“They’re dead wrong if they think they have us if they can get us into the season,” Boone stressed. “We might have to strike to show them, and nobody wants that.”
G.M. Paul Owens pronounced himself pleased with Christenson’s work. “I was concerned that he might be favoring his leg, but his stride was normal. The doctor thought it would be all right, but you never know. He threw good and hard.”
His progress makes Paul feel a little better, since Nino Espinosa is obviously going to start the season on the disabled list. That fact will give Owens a respite from cutting one of the relief pitchers for a while; the last two cuts will be tough.
Paul was glad to be able to move Dave Rader Monday, to Boston for a player to be named later. “He may get a chance to play a lot over there; it should prolong his career,” said Owens, who prides himself on finding spots for those blocked on the Phillies. Rader became certain to go when Dallas Green decided on going with two catchers, and Keith Moreland passed the test.
There had been some hope Rader could be used in a package deal, but any trade is unlikely. “Nobody’s talking,” said Owens. “Things are really quiet. Maybe it’s the strike.”
That’s a topic that seems to be on a lot of minds.