Philadelphia Inquirer - May 24, 1980
Boone, Phils glad to get back to baseball
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
Bob Boone hung around the batting cage, almost as if it all had never happened.
No more compensation debates. No more strike-strategy sessions. Just a guy waiting to take his swings.
"Maybe now," said Boone, "I can start talking to writers about playing baseball instead of about negotiations."
For six months, Bob Boone's mind has always had the word "strike" etched somewhere on the premises. As National League player representative, he had dragged around these labor negotiations like a 1,000-pound boulder.
But now all that is over. From now on he is just Bob Boone, catcher, again.
"I don't think I'm necessarily any more relieved than anybody else," Boone said. "But the fact that I've been so involved with it has meant a lot of sacrifices. One thing this does is free up my time, allows me to spend more time with my family, do a few things I haven't been able to do for a while."
On Thursday night, Bob Boone had about given up on the thought of playing baseball last night. He and his wife joined Greg Luzinski and his wife for dinner at Mike Schmidt's, just an ordinary evening out before the strike hit the fan.
"I knew there was nothing I could do by going up to New York yesterday," Boone said. "It just seemed to me that we were going out. I didn't see why, if they hadn't come around after all this, they would come around now."
But about 11:30, after Boone got home, Marvin Miller called. Miller "sounded extremely tired," Boone said. But he also sounded encouraged. He briefed Boone on some proposals that later would turn into a new basic agreement. So Boone knew then that there was a chance. But he still went to bed thinking he would be on strike when he woke up.
"I guess as it worked out," he said, "the 11th hour was really the 11th hour."
It's amazing that six months of frustration and finger-pointing could be resolved in one long, crazy night. But Boone had been saying for weeks he thought only deadline pressure could produce a settlement. Now, in retrospect, he thinks only placing that deadline in the middle, of the season could have been that effective.
"Our decision not to go out April 1 was probably the key," he said. "I think if we had gone out, it would have taken us a lot longer to reach a settlement, and I'm sure we would have missed some ball games.
"I'm pretty confident that had we not started the season there would have been games lost. And it was our feeling to do if in such a way that we wouldn't lose any games."
To a man, Boone's teammates shared his relief that it was over and there hadn't been any games lost.
"It's funny," said Pete Rose. "I had to sit and laugh, just thinking about all the things I read from different people, all the things I heard from different people. Everybody knew what was going on, even up to last night. A lot of guys wrote all those articles. I picked up the paper, and all there was the strike. Those guys wasted all that time, and there wasn't even no strike. Was there?"
Rose said he never worried about a strike. Maybe, suggested a listener, that was because his contract said he would get paid anyway.
"I didn't say that," Rose said, grinning slyly. "That wasn't why I wasn't worried. The only reason I was worried at all was because I thought if something like that did happen, it would be a long one and it would hurt the sport. And you don't want to damage what puts food in your mouth."
Greg Luzinski said he was "encouraged, because the last 15 days we've been playing good baseball. We've been getting pretty good pitching. If we can get some guys hot and start swinging the bat good, we could really put something together."
Tug McGraw was another guy who looked happy to be at the ballpark again.
"How do you spell 'relief?'" McGraw joked. "N-E-G-O-T-I-A-T-E."
Ramon Aviles, who will also get a raise from the settlement because of a hike in the minimum salary, said that settling the strike was "like a 100-pound weight was off my shoulders."
"I wasn't looking forward to it," Aviles said. "I didn't want to see this year go down the drain. This could be a big year for me."
In general, the players seemed reasonably content with the compromise the two sides came up with on compensation for free agents.
This year, as in the past, the only compensation for a team losing a free agent will be an amateur draft pick. But next year, the rule may change. Unless the two side can negotiate a new compensation formula, a proposal by the owners, providing that teams losing a so-called "premium" free agent would receive an active player, will take effect. The players, nowever, would have the right to sirike in that eventuality.
McGraw, who could be a free agent this fall under the old no-compensation rule, seemed pleased.
"I guess nobody would want to give up any compensation for an old hag like me anyway," he said.
However, Luzinski's contract expires in 1981, the first year of the new system, whatever it may be.
"It could make a difference," Luzinski said. "It depends on me and the type of years I have. If I had good years, it probably wouldn't matter. If I had mediocre years it might make it tough for me to go to another team if they have to give up a front-line player. I wouldn't have as much to negotiate with.
"I'm pretty confident in my abilities, though. I'd like to just go out, have a couple good years and stay here with the Phillies."
Boone said he feels the proposal is basically similar to one the players made a week ago that the compensation issue be separated and studied for a year while everything else was settled immediately.
Boone said he felt the final version is probably "more their idea than ours." But the important thing, he said, was that it kept baseball going.
And so the boys of summer were back last night, playing the game, almost as if they had dreamed all this.
"Sure, we're all relieved," said Garry Maddox. "But since we didn't go on strike, maybe we don't realize just how much of a relief it is."
Carlton shuts out Astros on four hits
Schmidt powers 3-0 win
By Bill Livingston, Inquirer Staff Writer
The return of the summer game to Veterans Stadium last night coincided with the reappearance of Nolan Ryan, who can bubble tar with his bare right hand, singe eyebrows with his fastball, and just generally behave like a heat wave all by himself.
It is rather evident now, however, that the hottest pitcher in baseball is Steve Carlton, and not some interloper who spent the last eight seasons in the American League.
And so Carlton fanned eight, scattered four hits on his way to his second shutout of the season, and became major league baseball's win-ningest pitcher (8-2) in a 3-0 Phillies' win over the Houston Astros before 27,822.
It was the Phils' seventh win in their last 10 games, and Carlton is now off to his best start since joining the Phils, including his 27-10 season in 1972.
The Phils got just enough offense from Mike Schmidt – who beat Ryan (2-4) with a three-run third inning homer, tying him for the league lead with Greg Luzinski – to overcome stranding nine runners during the game.
Ryan, making his first local appearance since 1971, when the Million Dollar Arm was still at the farthing stage with the Mets, had blanked the Phils, 3-0, at the Astrodome six days ago, when he littered 10 strikeouts in the wake of his outrageous stuff.
But last night, he was wild with the breaking balls that snapped and bit at the strike zone, setting up the sultry fastball, in that last outing.
Ryan, in fact, was outdueled as well as, perish the legend, out-K'd by Carlton, who blew away six of the first nine Astros he faced.
In the third, with two out, Ryan gave up singles to Pete Rose, who got three hits off him in the May 18 fire-fight, and Bake McBride.
He fell behind Schmidt, 3-0, after which Schmidt fouled off the cripple pitch. On the next offering, Schmidt picked on a fastball that cleaved the heart of the plate and plopped it off the background tarp in left-center field.
It was Schmidt's 11th homer of the year.
Luzinski then narrowly missed seizing back the home-run lead, slamming a double high off the right-center field wall.
Ryan left with two out in the fourth and the bases loaded, after giving up a single to Manny Trillo and wrapping walks around the first of Carlton's two sacrifice bunts. He fanned only Carlton in his 3 innings, against six hits and three walks.
"He was wild with the breaking ball all night," said Phillies manager Dallas Green. "That was the key in the game down there. He didn't have the breaking ball, so you know you can sit on the fastball then."
"He has one of the toughest curves, to hit I've seen since I've been in the big leagues," said Schmidt. "But he was also wild high with the fastball. When I got ahead 3-0, it was just a fastball-hitting situation."
From there, it was mainly a matter of Carlton muffling the Astros. He was in trouble, on what Green said "really wasn't one of Lefty's better performances" in the sixth.
"He had an excellent slider and curve, and we used them a little bit more than we wanted to," said catcher Bob Boone. "In the sixth, he got out of rhythm trying to get back to his fastball. It just wasn't there. But he threw his best of the game in the ninth."
A double play, Trillo-to-Ramon Aviles-to Rose on Craig Reynold's grounder erased the Astros in the sixth, after Rafael Landestoy led off with a single.
In the fourth, Carlton helped himself, after Terry Puhl got the first Astro hit on a swinging bunt with one out and Cesar Cedeno followed with a walk. Twice, Carlton gloved back-to-the-box grounders and threw out Astros, the second time slapping down Jeff Leonard's hard bouncer just as it headed for vacant areas of the infield.
The Phils, meanwhile, failed to extend the lead in the fourth when Randy Niemann, with a tidy 12.00 ERA, relieved Ryan and got McBride on a first-pitch, inning-ending pop-up to catcher Luis Pujols.
They left two more in the sixth and came to grief in the fifth when Luzinski was thrown out trying to score from second on Garry Maddox' single to left.
This was slapped to Jose Cruz, who is not Ellis Valentine the Montreal rifle-arm, but then again, Luzinski is not your Ivory Crockett.
The final piece of the Phillie jigsaw this night was supplied by Aviles, who subbed flawlessly for the injured Larry Bowa at short.
He participated in two double-plays, grabbed Puhl's sharp liner to end the sixth, and bailed Carlton out of a second-inning scrape when he plunged head-first into the hole near second, speared Enos Cabell's shot, holding Cedeno, who had led off with a walk and advanced to second on a balk, and nipped Cabell with a scrambling throw.
The Pirates are coming Memorial Day. And the Phils, all of them, are blazing.
NOTES: The Phillies purchased Dan Larson from Oklahoma City and will start him against Joaquin Andujar tonight, to give Dick Ruthven and Larry Christenson an added day's rest.... It was Carlton's 44th career shutout, third-best in the NL.... Rose's three walks moved him, with 1,199 into 22d place all-time, ahead of Rich Ashburn.
The Miracle, or: The Inevitable Strike That Wasn’t
By Steve Twomey, Inquirer Staff Writer
OK, how did they do it? How could an all-but-certain, watch-out-here-it-comes baseball strike suddenly disappear with the sunrise in Manhattan?
Easy. They appointed a committee.
In the predawn hours yesterday, major league baseball's 26 owners and 650 players broke a seven-month impasse simply by deciding not to deal with the central issue – free agent compensation – until next year. Let a committee discuss it for now, they said.
Once they had decided not to decide, there was nothing left to prevent a settlement. There was no dispute any more. Batter up.
"What we have done is put this thing off for a year," a highly-placed participant said in a telephone interview yesterday. "If the committee doesn't find a solution, then it'll be back to who'll blink first."
Committees, of course, are notorious for runaway ineffectiveness, and this one might be no different. It will have four members, two from the owners' side and two from the players', which probably will make for a lot of very inconclusive 2-2 votes. "I'd be shocked if it didn't," the participant said.
Which means that a baseball strike next year instead of this year is a good possibility.
Yet maybe, just maybe, the committee will find a compromise by Dec. 31, when it is scheduled to issue its report.
Between now and then, the sizzling emotions of the last few weeks will cool, and the insane pressure built by enormous media attention and the nation's millions of baseball fanatics will fade, possibly enabling the committee to find a rational answer in peace.
"We'll have gone through another season, another free-agent draft, (and) maybe compensation just won't be as big an issue by then," the source continued.
At the very least, baseball has bought time, and that cannot hurt.
"They might in the meantime come up with something agreeable," he added. "I doubt it, but who knows?"
The committee solution – call it the Scarlett O’Hara "tomorrow-is-another-day" approach – is time-honored in government and labor, and actually was proposed earlier in the week by Marvin Miller, the players association executive director and an old negotiator for the United Steelworkers of America. "It's part of his heritage," the participant said.
But the owners rejected it then, not because they were cruising for a strike – neither side apparently was – but because it was too early in the traditional negotiating waltz.
Yes, even in baseball, negotiations tend to follow a pattern. Much of that "only a miracle will stop this" stuff was all according to script. Each side had to test and terrify the other, and by rejecting the original suggestion of a compensation committee, the owners were waiting to see if they could squeeze something better out of the players later on, as the pressure of a real live strike piled up.
"We had a helluva brinksmanship game going," the source said.
But by late afternoon Thursday, he continued, the owners began to sense that the players weren't going to budge. They would, indeed, strike. And thus the committee proposal found new life.
Here is what the committee will study, in English:
At the moment, players who have at least six years of experience in the big leagues and whose contracts expire can declare themselves free agents and offer their services to any club that wants them. If they eventually sign a contract with a new club, that club must surrender an amateur draft pick to the old club.
The owners believe that an untested, no-name amateur is too little compensation for clubs that had lost such huge box-office draws as Pete Rose or Nolan Ryan. They proposed that any club signing a free agent be allowed to protect the best 15 to 18 of its 25 players, depending on the caliber of the free agent, and that the club losing the free agent then be allowed to pick one of the unprotected players. That way the old club would at least be getting a proven major leaguer.
The players, though, believe that will destroy their ability to get the best contract possible. What if a team felt it had more than 18 good players? It might then be reluctant to bid on a free agent because, by signing him, it would be forced to surrender too much. In effect, then, the free agent would lose his chance of freely negotiating with as many clubs as possible.
Under the new four-year agreement, the current system will remain in effect for this year while the committee seeks some middle ground.
Once the committee makes its recommendations, the two sides will bargain over them for 30 days, ending Jan. 31,1981.
If they cannot agree by then on a compensation system, the owners can automatically put into effect the system they originally wanted. But under the agreement, the players, in turn, have the right to strike in protest.
Which is, of course, exactly what would have happened yesterday if the two sides had not agreed to not agree, for now.
So the problem has been moved to 1981. It may not be settled then. But at least it is not being settled now on the picket line. There will be one more complete baseball season after all.
Hey, thanks, Scarlett.
Players heave a collective sigh of relief at settlement
NEW YORK – Surprise followed by relief and joy were common reactions shared by the players and club officials alike to news that a major league baseball strike had been averted by a contract settlement early yesterday morning.
The settlement provided improvements in minimum salaries and pensions. Free-agency eligibility still is six years' service, but the question of compensation will be turned over to a four-man committee, with the present system retained through the end of the year.
Most players, such as New York Yankees relief pitcher Rich Gossage, "were prepared for the worst" as Thursday night became Friday morning and negotiators remained behind closed doors.
Even those who felt there was a chance of agreement, such as Mark Belanger, Baltimore Orioles shortstop and player representative, were cautious about their optimism. "I didn't dare become too optimistic," Belanger said. "Now, I'm just happy for the fans, the players and the man who owns our team (Edward Bennett Williams)."
"No one wanted to go out," Detroit Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell said. "I kept my hopes up that something would happen at the last moment. It was the only hope we had."
"It didn't look so good," agreed his teammate, pitcher John Hiller, the Tigers' player rep. "I think everyone was a little surprised there was an agreement."
"They should have given us the day off," suggested Jamie Quirk of the Kansas City Royals, whose partying teammates were told of the settlement by player representative Pete LaCock.
"A strike would have been horrible for the game," said Buzzie Bavasi, California Angels executive vice president. "The last time we had a strike (1972), it took us four years to get the fans interested in baseball again."
Reggie Jackson, player rep of the New York Yankees said: "If we had a strike, it would have hurt everybody. I'm glad the more intelligent minds prevailed."
The agreement still must be ratified by the players, and Bill Buckner, player representative of the Chicago Cubs, predicted his teammates will vote unanimous approval.
"Basically, it's what I thought it would be," said Buckner.
Royals player representative Jerry Terrell, reportedly the lone player to vote during spring training against authorizing a strike, said he had heard on the radio that Marvin Miller, executive director of the players association, was delighted by the terms. "If Marvin is delighted, I'm sure we'll all be delighted," Terrell said.
Everybody was pleased that there hadn't been a strike, especially Cubs manager Preston Gomez.
"The biggest worry was if there had been a strike, how long would it be?" Gomez said. "If they knew it would be only a week, they'd look at it as a vacation. But what if it had lasted for a month or the rest of the season? Nobody knew, everybody worried."
"Let's play ball," veteran Carl Yastrzemski said happily as he and his Boston Red Sox teammates checked into Fenway Park on schedule instead of heading home on strike. "I didn't think there was a chance, but I'm glad to be here rather than at home in Florida.
"Baseball is part of this country," said Los Angeles manager Tom Lasorda.