Camden Courier-Post - January 7, 1980
Memo tells of baseball strife
BOSTON (AP) – Spring training is only eight weeks away, but major league owners and the Players Association are locked in a cold war over a new basic agreement.
A memo outlining initial demands by the owners and the players, and made available to The Associated Press, indicates the two sides are about as far apart as the United States and Russia.
Imagine a player such as Claudell Washington earning the same pay as sluggers Jim Rice and Fred Lynn for their first five years in the major leagues?
That's one of the owners' proposals.
Imagine players with the right to demand to be traded after just three years with a club?
That's one of the players' demands.
Initial demands in labor negotiations often are exaggerated, but some by both club owners and the players this time around appear preposterous.
The owners have built a war chest, reportedly about $1.5 million. And the association, led by hard-nosed negotiator Marvin Miller, is showing no fear, determined to add to the many concessions obtained at the bargaining table in the 1970s.
No one in baseball wants to talk about a strike, such as in 1972, or a lockout, but more than a few club executives are worried about a possible shutdown of spring training camps unless progress is made in negotiations.
Miller told The AP in a telephone interview that the 12-page memo he sent to the union's members, generally is a report on a meeting of the association's executive board Dec. 4-5 in New York while baseball held its annual winter meeting in Toronto.
"The minutes were mailed to about 1 ,000 association members, so they hardly can be considered confidential or secret," Miller said.
Miller said he didn't think it "appropriate" for him to release a copy of the memo. However, The AP gained access to a copy through another source.
Most of the memo, mailed by Miller's office Dec. 14, consists of a report on various discussions by individual club player representatives at the executive board meeting. However, it also contains what the association claims are both the initial demands of it and the owners.
The owners' proposals as listed in the memo:
1. Players would be paid a salary accord ing to a scale based on an undefined, unidentified criteria. This, the association said, would eliminate individual negotiations, multiyear contracts and salary guarantees, affecting 75 per cent of players on 40-man rosters in the major leagues.
2. The owners would significantly increase compensation to a club losing a player to free agency. This compensation would be either through an amateur draft pick or, for "more valuable" free agents, additional "manpower" compensation.
3. The owners suggested an undefined improvement of benefit levels of the pension fund, but not for retired players.
4. Interleague trading, this year from Feb. 15 to March 15, would be expanded to April 1 or seven days prior to the start of the regular season.
5. The clubs would have the right to send an injured player to the minors to "play themselves back into shape" without asking for waivers or using an option on the player.
6. Clubs would be allowed access to confidential medical information prior to the completion of any trade.
The Players Association proposals:
1. There would be a substantial increase of the clubs' contribution to the pension plan. This would include all members of the association (presumably including those retired).
2. FREE AGENCY
A. Clarify all phases of requirements.
B. A player may elect to exercise his free agency after four years of major league service (instead of six years). When a club who picks a player in the free agent draft, which would be held on Jan. 15 under this proposal, and makes no bonafide offer to the player, the club would lose its negotiation rights.
C. Compensation through the amateur draft for lost free agents would be eliminated and, prior to selection in the free agent draft, the player may discuss terms with a club.
D. After three years with a club a player may demand to be traded. The club would have to comply with this demand prior to March 1. (Under the old agreement, only a player with 10 years in the majors and the last five with one club can pick a club he'd be willing to join).
Miller told The AP that current negotiations "are at the same stage as they were four years ago, seven years ago."
"They're in a stall, and it doesn't make any difference who is doing the negotiating for them (owners)," he added.