Wilmington News Journal - March 16, 1980

Baseball official:  strike ‘unconscionable’


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


DUNEDIN, Fla. – A year and a half ago Ray Grebey told baseball's owners they should not negotiate the next basic agreement with the players association in the newspapers. In fact, there was one rumor that any owner found to be talking about the negotiations publicly would be fined $500,000.


For the most part, Ray Grebey, the owners' chief negotiator, has maintained that stance. As a threat of a strike by the Major League Baseball Players Association hovers over spring training, negotiations continue.


Ray Grebey picks up the papers daily and ' reads where Marvin Miller, the association's executive director, feels no progress is being made, that many of the meetings have been meaningless.


Grebey ended his silence yesterday, granting an exclusive interview to the Sunday News Journal.


"I heard on television last night the government is asking for wage restraint ranging from 8 to 9 percent, that unemployment is going to be pumped up to 10 percent," Grebey said. "I think it is unconscionable for people making $140,000 to strike or for the owners to raise ticket prices."


As we sat in a quiet office near Grant Field where the Phillies were playing Toronto, Grebey revealed the exact details of the owners' proposal. It was obvious this 30-year veteran of the employee relations field, who came to baseball on Feb. 14, 1978, feels the matter can be settled with good-faith bargaining by both sides. He also insists the season should start and that even if a new four-year agreement is not resolved by then, that negotiations should continue behind the scenes.


On the other hand, Grebey refused to predict what will happen. To him the strike vote being taken by the players effective on or after April 1 is ridiculous.


"I think collective bargaining should continue until the issues are solved," he said. "If they strike, it's the players' decision. I think it is unfair to the fan. The owners think they are making their best effort and they will have their best effort on the table. A strike in the face of that is the players' decision. As far as I'm concerned, all the ball parks will be open on April 8."


Then, in another breath, the astute Grebey said: "It appears to me they want to wipe out all of the owners' proposals and pick up anything else they can get. This is an understandable objective, but not a realistic objective."


At one time, there were over a hundred items to be negotiated, but now the nitty gritty involves three issues – salary, pension and compensation for the free-agent draft.


Under the category of salary, the owners are asking for a graduated scale. The players are strongly opposed to this.


The owners propose that a player with zero to one year of major-league experience would receive a maximum of $50,800. The salary for 1 to 2 would be $66,250; 2 to 3, $86,500; 3 to 4, $112,900; 4 to 5, $147,100, and 5 to 6, $192,000.


The purpose of this scale is to improve the relationship between pay and performances," said Grebey. "Upper salary levels do not apply to bonuses for Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young Award winner and Gold Glove winners. And when a player with more than four years’ experience and his club agree to a multi-year contract extending beyond the players' eligibility for free agency, levels do not apply.


"Obviously," added Grebey, "if the free-agent requirement is reduced to four years, there will be no restriction for negotiation during the fifth year."


Minimum salary for 1980 would be $25,000 and $28,500 for 1982 and 1983.


"The salary curve will allow clubs to be able to forecast and provide some stability for management," he said. "Right now it is like hitting buckshot against a wall. We feel a structure like this would benefit a mid-range and lower-range player because he would be getting more equity. It is very important to note that none of this proposal will cut anyone's pay."


In 1979 the average salary in the majors was $121,900. This year it will be between $135,000 and $140,000. In 1976, the first year of the current agreement, the average was $51,500. The increase through last year was 238 percent, or five times the increase in the cost of living.


"Baseball players beat the cost of living," said Grebey. "That's more than most people did. Somebody wrote that at $140,000 a year, it's like going on strike because your employer won't give you a subway token."


Grebey says the pension proposal will give baseball the best plan in professional sports.


It will cost the clubs $13.5 million during the tenure of the new agreement, or a 63 or 64 percent per year increase to each club.


"We are committed to pay whatever it takes to run this program, to provide the benefits," said Grebey. "The players do not have to contribute anything to this and in addition, we are proposing that the pensions of old-timers be raised. We did not have to do this, but we think it's time this was done."


Under the proposal, a player will have full and immediate vested membership after one day of credited major-league service, effective April 1, 1980. In addition, after 43 days of credited service, he will receive a quarter-year of credit.


At age 45 with five years service, a player can draw $465 per month or $5,580 per year. At 55 with 10 years in, he gets $1,784 a month or $21,408 annually. At 65, with 20 years, the monthly payment is $4,217, a total of $50,604 per year.


"The average age when most players ask for the pension is 52," said Grebey. "This is the best offer ever made in the history of baseball."


Compensation involving free agency is one of the stickiest issues. The players insist the owners are trying to take away the rights they now have.


Under the proposal, compensation for the re-entry draft would be restructured to be base on varying skills and abilities of players. At present, any club that loses a player receives one No. 1 amateur draft pick from the club which signs the major-league player.


The new proposal would provide no compensation to the club losing a player if selected by zero to three clubs. If selected by four to seven, the compensation would be an amateur draft choice. If selected by 8 to 13 clubs, there would be an amateur draft choice plus one major or minor league player not on a list of 15 frozen by the club.


If a player is a free agent the second time, after fulfilling a five-year requirement, the club losing the player would get only an amateur draft choice.


"The association says if this proposal is adopted that the highest-ranking free agent will be hurt in his negotiations," said Grebey. "We do not think that way. When the Twins traded Rod Carew to California, they received five players and Carew still got a base salary of $800,000 a year guaranteed. When the Giants got Vida Blue from Oakland, they got seven players, yet San Francisco still paid Blue a 10-year contract in the millions. I really don't think one major-league or minor-league choice is going to slow down the bargaining power. We do not want to stop the free-agent draft; it's good for baseball. The owners feel there should be some equity. Can you name the player the Reds drafted when the lost Pete Rose, or the one the Dodgers got when they lost Tommy John?


During the last three years, Grebey said, 39 players would be involved if the new proposal were being used.


"I don't see how any industry can strike at the current salary level for the interest of 10 or 12 guys a year," he said. "A six-year player this year will average $278,000 a year."


Grebey reiterated that despite what he reads in the papers, there is progress and that negotiations will continue. Two meetings are scheduled for this week. If the players were to take the proposal as submitted right now, it would mean an additional $26 million in benefits and that doesn't include salaries.


"I am adamant, unequivocally without qualification that the owners have made quite a lot of movement in many areas," he said.


Can there be a settlement?


"If the players' association is serious in moving free agency to four years, making all contracts guaranteed, regardless of reason for release or time of release, then I will tell you there are some very serious issues on the table. I will tell you that these are issues that are going to be very serious, if not impossible, to deal with."

Not really a big effort by ‘I was lousy’ Lerch


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


DUNEDIN, Fla. – Randy Lerch has had better days. Period.


You can forget about the Phillies' 11-5 Grapefruit League victory over Toronto yesterday at Grant Field.


The bottom line was the fact the left-hander was ineffective. Sure, it's only spring training, but Manager Dallas Green was hoping for a better performance from Lerch.


He pitched three innings, allowed five runs – all earned – walked three, struck out nine, hit a batter, threw one wild pitch and was charged with a balk.


"Hey, I was lousy," said Lerch. "It seems like every spring I have the same trouble early. I had no idea what I was trying to do out there. My control was awful.


"The only thing good I can say is I was strong. I had a bunch of guys set up 0-2, but I lost them with fastballs. Herm Starrette (pitching coach) told me not to use my breaking pitch much today. Normally, in a situation like that, it's my out pitch. But when I had to come in with fast-balls, I was in trouble. I guess Herm thought it was too early to go with a lot of breaking stuff. I threw 70 pitches. That's too many the first me out anyway."


Rookie right-hander Paul Thormodsgard was the most effective of the Phils' pitchers. He worked three innings and allowed one hit.


"You have to be impressed with the way he threw the ball," said Green. "He showed me something today."


Del Unser was the batting standout, blasting a three-run homer and a double, for five runs batted in. Mike Schmidt had a double and a home run, as did George Vukovich.


EXTRA POINTS – The second interleague trading deadline ended with the Phils unable to get together with Baltimore in a deal for utility infielder Billy Smith... "We reached an impasse and were unable to do anything," said Paul Owens, player personnel director... The Blue Jays play the Phils in Clearwater at Jack Russell Stadium today with Larry Christenson, Carlos Arroyo, Jose Martinez and Lerrin LaGrow pitching... Dick Ruthven is expected make his first start of the spring tomorrow at Winter Haven against Boston... Jim Wright is also expected to pitch.

Phils’ Smith couldn’t make up for mistake


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


CLEARWATER, Fla. – It seems like the only way Lonnie Smith learns a lesson is the hard way.


Take' the Phillies' Grapefruit League opener Friday at Jack Russell Stadium.


The rookie outfielder forgot to wear sun glasses and the goof led to Detroit's 2-1 victory.


The Tigers were leading 1-0 in the third inning with Alan Trammell on at second base, two out and Wilmington's John Wockenfuss the batter. Wockenfuss lofted a short fly to center that appeared to be the third out Smith ran in, but lost the ball in the sun and it dropped 15 feet in front of him.


Smith acted as though he was trying to win the game single-handedly after the embarrassment. He had four singles in as many at-bats, stole three bases and was on second base when the game ended.


"I just got too far back, rushed in at the last moment and lost the ball in the sun," said Smith. "I should have had sunglasses out there. No doubt about that."


A reporter walked into Manager Dallas Green's office following the game and suggested that the manager had to be pleased overall with Lonnie Smith's performance.


"Yeah, when he puts his sunglasses on, I'll be doubly pleased," Green said. "This is the toughest center field to play there is. We talked to him a little in the dugout and Billy DeMars will speak with him in the morning. He tried his best to make up for it. He showed today the type of offense we expect from him and what he can do for a ball club."


The speedy Smith stole his three-bases with Wockenfuss catching and he said be really didn't get a good jump.


"The ground was real mushy around the base because of yesterday's heavy rains," he said. "I just couldn't get a good lead. That made me feel uncomfortable."


"I was pleased overall," said Green. "We're going to win more 2-1 games than we're going to lose playing the kind of baseball we're capable of playing. Today, we were able to get everyone on the field we wanted to see. Greg Luzinskl and Mike Schmidt (double, single) swung the bat well."


The Phils scored their run in the sixth inning when Schmidt doubled and came home on Luzinski's single to right off Dave Rozema.