Wilmington Morning News - May 23, 1980

Talks continue past deadline


By Hal Bock, AP Sports Writer


NEW YORK – Talks aimed at preventing a major league baseball strike stretched past midnight last night as negotiators for both sides remained locked in talks with a federal mediator.


The six major leagues games played last night were completed before the midnight deadline which the players had established on April 1, though the players had said the games would be completed no matter what the hour.


Negotiators for the clubowners and the players association resumed joint talks at 10 p.m. EDT after a four-hour recess. The final negotiating session proved to be the longest of three during the day as the two sides attempted to reach an agreement which would prevent the first interruption of a major league season in history.


The chief negotiators for the two sides, Marvin Miller, for the player association, and Ray Grebey, representing the owners, met briefly in informal talks during the recess.


Miller, executive director of the players group which has threatened a strike following yesterday's games, returned to the midtown hotel first at 9:30 p.m. He was followed a half hour later by Grebey and the management negotiating team.


It was the third time yesterday the negotiators had arrived at the hotel. And on each occasion, the owners representatives were late for the meeting.


"We are still working away," said Grebey as he rushed into an elevator to the 17th floor meeting room.


The two sides met for a total of about 2½ hours in their two earlier sessions with Federal Mediator Kenneth Moffett.


After his return from the four-hour break, Miller said: "There is no reason to stop the clock. We need an agreement."


He said of his talk with Grebey: "There is no way to say if it helped... I have no more assurances than the last time I left here."


Earlier, David Vaughn, counsel for Moffett, said of the negotiators: "There is no guarantee that they will be back together again tonight," Vaughn said. "The strike deadline remains in effect. There had been no indication on the part of the players to extend the deadline."


The last management proposal on compensation called for ranking players statistically, either by at-bats or, in the case of pitchers, by game appearances, and then classifying the top half of each category as "premium" players. Such players would have to satisfy other criteria such as selection by eight or more teams within a set number of reentry draft rounds. Those players would qualify for compensation with teams permitted to freeze a set number of roster players before losing a compensation replacement performer. Miller called that proposal "an impossibility."


With the strike deadline only hours away, Moffett said the compensation issue had not even been discussed at the morning meeting. "We went over minor issues and nothing happened," he said. "There was no progress."


Miller said a clique of owners has been working to provoke a strike of the players.


"It's the same group who, in 1976, within a day of our last agreement, made public statements of what they planned to do to us four years hence," said Miller. "That is unheard of in labor relations."

What no one wants is here


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


It's so ridiculous. It's a strike nobody wants. The players don't want it, the owners don't want it and even the people who could care less don't want it.


But it will officially happen today in Wrigley Field where the Dodgers and Cubs were supposed to play.


I thought big-league baseball was in the same category with Chevrolet, apple pie, the American flag and motherhood. Boy, was I wrong.


The greed of the Major League Baseball Players Association and the stupidity and weakness of the owners has brought this about. I had a gut feeling it would not happen. I kept thinking the little people in the game who will suffer so much would be thought of and there would be some miracle and there would not be a baseball strike. I was wrong.


It was obvious at the negotiation sessions at the Doral Inn in New York yesterday there is so much bitterness and stubbornness between the two sides an agreement of any kind at the 11th hour was impossible.


Larry Bowa, the Phillies' player representative, predicted this.


"Your average layman that busts his butt says, 'Screw the Phillies,'" said Bowa. "I'd say the same thing. I said it when the garbage workers went on strike. I said, 'How can they let the garbage sit there for two weeks?'


"I'm fed up with both Marvin Miller and Ray Grebey. They've had six weeks and nothing has happened. Two judges ruled on it, we are within our rights on the free-agent stand. If we give in, we go back to where we were a hundred years ago.


"It's (strike) not for the superstars, it's for the youngsters like Kevin Saucier, Lonnie Smith and Jim Morrison. I have nothing to gain by this. I can't help it if people don't believe that."


"The thing that disappoints me," said Pete Rose, "is that they knew this was going to happen back in November and December. But then they've been recessing talks two days at a time. I've been in Cincinnati when the firefighters were on strike, when the policemen were on strike, when the plumbers were on strike. They just sit down and talk every day until they settle it.


"Hell, if I had taken as many days off as Grebey and Miller, I wouldn't have 3,000 hits. I'd have about 800."


Grebey, who has handled negotiations for the owners, has insisted that the season can continue even though a new basic agreement is not signed.


"This is predicated on the belief that the playing season should not be interrupted," Grebey said. "The NBA played all season without a contract and we know the baseball players are being paid their 1980 salaries at an average of about $150,000 each. I believe we can hammer out an agreement on a tough issue."


That tough issue, of course, revolves around free agency. The owners, in order to get a basic agreement in 1976, gave in to this issue. After five years a player would play out his option, drop his name in the re-entry draft, and sell himself to the highest bidder. All the losing team received was a No. 1 draft pick of amatuer players.


Not enough, the owners shouted. Now, they want a quality, proven player in return. They say, OK.


Freeze 15 of the 25 players on the regular roster and let the team which loses the superstar be able to pick one of the remaining 10.


If you believe what you hear, neither side has budged on the free-agent issue, instead tap dancing around the room talking about pensions, minimum salaries and meal money.


"I'm like a lot of guys who don't know all the details on compensation," said Rose, who in December of 1978 signed the largest free-agent contract to date – $3.2 million over four years. "I think it's too screwed up. But if you want my personal opinion, I don't see how the Reds could expect to get a player for me.


"Didn't I give them back 16 years, 16 years of the hardest baseball I could play? And then, they didn't even offer me a contract."


Bob Boone, the Phillies' astute catcher, is the National League player representative. He has been spending more time worrying about negotiations than baseball as evidenced by his .212 batting average.


"A strike is going to hurt everybody," said Boone. "The big money guys, the little money guys, the owners, the fans.


"You hear guys arguing about players making ridiculous amounts of money, averaging $130,000. That average is jacked up by a few players making astronomical amounts (Boone is one).


"They're not the majority. The majority of the players have not reached the sixth year of service. The majority have not reached the fourth year of service.


"Somebody like Kevin Saucier. If he's making $30,000, he's gambling those thousands against the possibility of millions, based on what has happened so far.


"Sure, a strike will hurt him. He's got bills to play, mouths to feed. But it is still the greatest gamble in the world."


The real gamble is that the players think they will be able to keep the free-agent arrangement the same as it has been.


And they are certain once the basic agreement is signed, the fans will rush back to the stadiums with open arms.


That is quite a gamble.