Philadelphia Inquirer - May 16, 1980

Players’ union offers to postpone demands on free-agency question

 

Associated Press

 

NEW YORK – Movement, absent for so long in the baseball negotiations, continued to surface yesterday with a proposal offered by the Major League Baseball Players Association that would isolate the troublesome compensation question from the rest of the issues.

 

Marvin Miller, executive director of the union, said that his group would withdraw all of its demands in the area of free agency and the reserve clause if agreement could be reached on the other contract matters. Those would include, among other items, player pensions, health and safety questions, and minimum salaries.

 

"Since we are reasonably close on issues outside of compensation and free agency, we have offered to with draw all our proposals in these areas unconditionally," said Miller.

 

If the owners accept that proposal, a joint study committee would be established to examine the ramifications of the current free agent system for the next two years. At the end of that period, if it is unhappy with conditions, management would have the right to demand that the contract be reopened to deal with the issue.

 

Ray Grebey, chief negotiator for the clubs, declined immediate comment on the players' proposal.

 

Earlier in the week, with the May 22 strike deadline closing in, both sides presented new proposals, and although they were not dramatic, apparently they triggered yesterday's development when the players offered to pull back all their free agent-reserve clause demands and place the most troublesome issue on hold.

 

"This is the best way to get out of a locked-in situation and proceed with the season," said Miller.

 

Miller said the players would accept the current six-year waiting period for free-agent eligibility, withdrawing the request that it be reduced to five years, and also accept keeping the five-year wait for repeater rights. He also said they would accept the current rule granting unlimited free agency only to players drafted by one club or no clubs instead of the seven teams that they had proposed.

 

 

Also withdrawn were player demands on limiting the number of reentry draft rounds and trade demand rights.

Swoon time already?  This is serious…

 

By Frank Dolson, Sports Editor

 

Check the major-league baseball standings, and you'd swear we were in the stretch drive.

 

A week ago Sunday the Chicago Cubs were in first place in the National League East. This morning they're staggering along at an even .500. Or take the Boston Red Sox. A week ago Sunday they were tied with the New York Yankees for first place in the American League East. Now they're stumbling along in the middle of the pack. In other words, both the Cubs and Red Sox are having their annual September swoons some four months ahead of time. Now that's planning. Why wait 'til September to swoon when there's no guarantee there'll be a September schedule to swoon through?

 

On the other hand, check the Pittsburgh Pirates. Traditionally they start slowly, fall six, eight, 10 games behind, then gather momentum in mid-summer for an all-out rush to the wire. Not this time. Instead of dawdling in the starting blocks, the Pirates are off and running in the NL East, building up a nice, early cushion. I mean, they're playing baseball in April and May as if there may be no June, July, August and September. Which, in fact there may not be.

 

This is, indeed, the most confusing of times – especially in Philadelphia, where basketball and hockey are still going strong. At least we know the basketball season will end this weekend. If the Stanley Cup finals go seven games, they'll still be playing hockey May 27, which is five days later than they may be playing baseball. For years we've been griping about the pro seasons overlapping, but this is ridiculous. I mean, neyer before have we been confronted with the possibility of the baseball season ending before the hockey season ends.

 

Don't laugh. The strike deadline is only a week away. If there really is a strike, the baseball season may end on the very same night the Flyers arid the Islanders are playing Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals.

 

Well, what are the chances of this baseball season becoming the shortest on record? And if there is a strike, how long must it last before the men running the game decide to wipe out the entire '80 season?

 

"We don't want to discuss that type of thing at this time," baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn said yesterday. "What we want is to reach an agreement and continue playing."

 

Under the circumstances, his reticence was understandable, particularly in light of reports that, at long last, sincere efforts are being made to find an 11th-hour solution and keep the season going.

 

The fact is, though, that hopes have been rising and falling in a dizzying fashion for some time. It all depends on ho you talk to. Yesterday, Phillies executive vice president Bill Giles placed calls around the National League to get a reading. All he got was more contused. "The Pirates," he discovered, "feel there will be a strike. The Reds don't think there'll be a strike...."

 

One man who seemed certain there would be a strike was Gene Mauch, manager of the Minnesota Twins, whose struggling reliever, Mike Marshall, is perhaps the hardest of the hard-liners on the players side.

 

"A strike?" Mauch said the other night in New York. "You can count on it. In fact, I was so sure there was going to be a strike that when I signed a three-year contract (to run through 1981), I had it written in that if there was a strike the number of days would be added to my contract for 1982."

 

Even those who felt, right along, that a solution would be found are now forced, by the grim reality of the approaching deadline, to make contingency plans. Giles, for instance, said yesterday that the Phillies are preparing a letter to send to season-plan buyers explaining the options – credit on future ticket purchases, refunds, etc. – in the event play is suspended. The letter would be sent out the day after a strike is called.

 

Baseball, quite clearly, is facing its most important week in decades, maybe in history. The game is flourishing as never before. Despite sky-high gas prices, despite the number of fans turned off by strike talk, attendance has held firm through the early weeks of the big league season. But a strike, even a short strike, could have serious consequences.

 

"I think any kind of a work stoppage would have a disastrous effect," Phillies owner Ruly Carpenter said yesterday. "You wait until there's a strike, if there is one, and you see what happens then..."

 

Maybe that message is starting to get through to both sides. At least, if you love baseball, you have to hope so.

 

"Remember one thing," Carpenter said. "The owners have not imposed deadlines on anybody. We're of the opinion we can continue to play and negotiate at the same time. It's been done in other sports. It's very regrettable that deadlines had to be imposed. Once (a strike begins), once the gun is cocked and the trigger's pulled, then the heart takes over for the head and emotions start boiling. You get into a situation then of (demanding nothing short of) unconditional surrender. ... If Marvin (Miller) and the Players Association are sincerely interested in the future of the game, there's enough in the latest (management) proposal for Marvin to get himself out of the corner he's painted himself into and prevent a catastrophe."

 

A strong word, "catastrophe," but to the Ruly Carpenters of the baseball world, to all those who truly care about the game, it's the only word that fits.

 

"If they (the players) go out, it'll kind of turn you off about our grand, old game," Ruly said. "But I really believe that deep, down inside, if you get the players one-on-one, 90 percent of them will tell you they don't want to strike. Get them in their little peer groups, though, and it becomes a macho thing."

 

 

So the week of decision has arrived. It will either be the week that the game survives its greatest challenge since the Black Sox scandal or the week that the pennant races end 4½ months ahead of schedule. If the possibility of a summer without baseball is as grim to you as it is to me, all you can do is hope that the Cubs and the Red Sox miscalculated when they began their collapses in May instead of September, and that the Pirates, in their confusion, have simply peaked four months too early.

The price is OK – but is Garber?

 

By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer

 

OKLAHOMA CITY – Paul Owens sat in the bar of a hotel he wasn't staying at, killing time before an exhibition game that would never be played, talking about a trade and a strike that might never happen.

 

Got that? And now, to deal with these bulletins in further detail:

 

•  The Phillies' annual exhibition with, Oklahoma City was rained out yesterday. And that left the club, two trainers, three writers and Owens stranded for half a day between Atlanta and Houston.

 

•  But that at least gave a bunch of Phillies a chance to get acquainted (or reacquainted) with a town they may soon be spending a lot of time in. That's because Owens said he is considering sending as many as seven first- and second-year players to the minors if there is a strike. However, he isn't sure whether he can do that or, if he can, how complicated it might be.

 

•  And while all that is very interesting, the big story on Non-Action News was that Owens sounded as if he were on the verge of reacquiring former Phillies reliever Gene Garber.  

 

Owens could get him back from Atlanta tomorrow for virtually nothing. And, possibly, only the May 22 strike date stands in the way of that.

 

The groundwork for the deal was laid when Owens watched six innings of Wednesday's game in Atlanta with Braves general manager John Mullen.

 

He was told the Braves definitely want to trade Garber because of mutual unhappiness.

 

And all Atlanta would ask is a prospect, namely catcher Ozzie Virgil Jr., presently leading the Eastern League in homers.

 

Owens is not reluctant to part with Virgil.

 

So why wouldn't he do it?

 

For several reasons. One is the strike. Owens won't make a deal of any kind until after May 22 and "particularly this one. Garber would be a win-it-this-year acquisition. If there were no this year after May 22, that changes things.

 

Two is money. Garber has three years left on his contract at $250,000 a year. So maybe, said Owens, "you're talking a quarter-million-dollar gamble on a sore arm."

 

Three, and most importantly, is whether Garber, 32, is that effective any more.

 

"I've got to worry that maybe he's done," Owens said. "Maybe he's on the way down.... And I've got enough of that problem."

 

Garber has been in 12 games this year, has a 7.28 earned-run average, a 1-2 record with no saves and has allowed 20 hits in 13 innings.

 

Word is that Garber has lost his devastating sinker. "And if his ball doesn't sink," said Owens, "he's in trouble."

 

But the price might be so attractive that Owens can't turn it down. He said he will get back to Mullen today.

 

Also today, Owens is planning to confer with Dallas Green. They will discuss optioning some young players to Oklahoma City next Wednesday or Thursday if it appears there will be a players' strike.

 

"I'd hate to have these kids stick up here in case this thing gets long-winded, which it could," Owens said. "If we send them down, it will be with the idea that at least they can play there."

 

Owens spoke mostly of rookies George Vukovich, Scott Munninghoff and Luis Aguayo. But he also said the names of Dickie Noles, Kevin Saucier, Keith Moreland and Ramon Aviles would be tossed around. No other players on the roster could be sent down without getting their permission first.

 

The complication is, would someone have to be called up to replace anyone optioned during the strike? Under present rules, Owens would have 48 hours to recall a player for every one sent down.

 

"If I bring some guy up – say a (Dan) Larson – here's a guy who didn't have a vote on whether he wanted to strike," Owens said. "Then he's on strike, and he's going to lose that money. It's kind of a ticklish thing."

 

Another possibility is that ordinary rules would not apply during a strike. So teams might be able to send down as many players as they want without bringing other players up.

 

"Well," said Owens, "personally, I don't believe there's going to be a strike. But I guess I'm the only one who doesn't."

 

 

NOTES: Bob Boone said he hopes the owners' latest proposal – to provide lesser compensation for some "elite" free agents than others – is not their final one. "I hope not, because it's totally unacceptable," Boone said. "It would hinder the negotiating power of three-quarters of our constituents."... Owens will meet with Houston general manager Tal Smith today. Joaquin Andujar's name will come up.... Oklahoma City manager Jim Snyder said pitcher Bob Walk has not been as consistently good as his 5-0 record would indicate. Jim Wright, being brought along slowly, is not allowed to throw more than 89 pitches per start. Wright has had "an average big-league fastball" Snyder said, but he had to leave his last game after five innings because of shoulder stiffness.... Dick Ruthven vs. J. R. Richard in the Astrodome tonight.