Reading Eagle - May 16, 1980
Players Eye Settlement
NEW YORK (AP) – If management is willing to accept a two-year freeze on its demands for free agent compensation, the lingering baseball contract dispute may be headed for settlement.
That is the essence of a bold offer made by Marvin Miller, executive director of the Major League Players Association, Thursday in an effort to reach an agreement with Ray Grebey and the negotiators for the club owners.
Miller said the two sides are close on a number of issues – close enough for him to make this proposal. If an agreement can be reached on those peripheral issues – health and safety, pensions, minimum salaries, etc. – in the next few days, the player will withdraw all of their demands in the areas of free agency and the reserve clause and participate in a two-year joint study of the question.
If, in 1981, management still feels a problem with the current free agent system, the owners could then unilaterally demand that contract negotiations be reopened at that time.
What Miller is suggesting is to put the most troublesome issue in these negotiations – management’s demands for player compensation for free agent signings – on hold for two years. In exchange for that, the players would accept status quo in the free agent-reserve areas.
That means maintaining the six-year waiting period before a player could be eligible for free agency instead of switching to the four or five years which the players have proposed. It would also postpone any changes on matters such as player eligibility for total free agency, limiting the number of rounds in the re-entry draft, the time when a player may demand a trade and other related issues.
By definition, however, it also means that management must accept a two-year hold before it can get compensation and that demand has been a cornerstone of the owners’ position since these difficult negotiations began last winter.
“It is our judgment that a perfectly respectable agreement can be made on that basis,” Miller said. “It’s a compromise proposal. Baseball operated for 80 years under the old reserve system and it has had the revised system for only four years. That’s miniscule by comparison. The parties would be well advised to get four more years of experience and look at the results.”
After the offer was made Thursday morning, the two sides split up to hold separate discussions. They were scheduled to meet again Thursday afternoon but that official session was never held. Instead, Miller, Grebey and their chief aides met at a location away from the hotel suite where they had been negotiating under the guidance of a federal mediator.