Wilmington Evening Journal - March 6, 1980
Phils agree on one thing – they’re ready to strike
By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor
CLEARWATER, Fla. – After what had transpired earlier, the. Phillies' second day of workouts was anything but light-hearted. This time the grim news was not on the medical front, like last year, but in the critical field of player-management negotiations.
In a meeting conducted by Marvin Miller, the Major League Players' Association executive director, the Phils were informed of the status of negotiations on a new basic agreement. Then they voted – 40-0 – to strike on or after April 1 if a new basic agreement is not reached.
Philadelphia was the first team polled by Miller, and the pattern has obviously been established for all 26 major-league teams. Today, Miller will be in Bradenton where the Pirates will vote.
"The vote was by a show of hands," said a tired-looking Miller when he emerged from the Phils' clubhouse. "The meeting took so long because there are so many facts we wanted the players to know. Even at the risk of over-stating, I felt it was necessary. I have already had 16 meetings with the owners and a lot has been said."
Miller added that there were many comments during the Phillies' meeting and they were followed by long discussions.
"There was solid determination that if there is not a settlement, or progress toward the same, there will be a strike," said Miller.
Somebody asked Miller how you define progress and he replied: "You know it when you see it."
Following the meeting with the Phillies, Miller went to a nearby motel where another meeting was held with the owners' attorney, Ray Grebey. Earlier, Grebey had met with owners' Player Relations Committee and American League President Lee McPhail to plot the owners' strategy.
When the session with Miller ended late in the afternoon, Grebey said progress had been made in 28 areas.
"The meeting was excellent," said Grebey. "The Players Association indicated recognition of movement in 28 different areas, but obviously it was not enough in their opinion.
"What people have to realize is that solving major issues in collective bargaining is a slow process. I don't think the fans want it any other way.
"I wouldn't be surprised if Marvin comes out and says there was no progress at all."
When Grebey's comments were relayed to Miller, the gray-haired labor man laughed and said, "We don't even have 28 areas. To me, the meeting was meaningless."
What all this means is that if the owners and the players can not get together on a new basic agreement, there probably will not be major-league baseball on April 9, the traditional opening day in Cincinnati.
"Today's meeting was both good and bad," said first baseman Pete Rose. "It was good in that we all learned a lot about negotiations. It was bad in that the threat of a strike is a lot more serious than some people thought. We can only put our faith in Marvin Miller. If we don't, everything he has done for the players the past 14 years will be lost."
"The possibility of a strike is a great concern," said shortstop Larry Bowa, the team's player representative. "I really can't believe the owners are foolish enough to go through spring training and let that go down the drain. They would be biting off their noses to spite their faces. We'd have to have spring training all over again and we would be playing National League games. One thing is for certain, no matter what anybody says or thinks, the players have unity."
Following a five-hour meeting in Tampa on Tuesday, the association's executive committee unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing Miller to conduct formal votes seeking ratification for a strike on or after April 1.
The Tuesday meeting was called when Miller concluded that 16 weeks of collective bargaining had proven fruitless.
"These negotiations have been most peculiar," he said. "It's almost as if we were in the first week of negotiations. In any other negotiations after 16 weeks you know what the proposals are. To date, management has not indicated sufficient movement to provide basis for an agreement but instead has adopted a stonewall attitude. They have earmarked on a negotiating strategy which if continued has no chance of culminating in a new agreement."
The owners propose (1) to set up maximum salary guidelines for players with fewer than six years experience, unless a player signs a multi-year contract extending past his sixth year; (2) establish a system of compensation for free agents; and (3) introduce a pension plan which would not be based on national television revenue,
Miller and his committee are opposed to the proposals. He says the owners have no basis for them and that if accepted they would work to restrict a player's earning power.
"During the past four years, with the advent of free-agency, baseball has experienced a period of unparalleled prosperity, setting record attendance levels each year and achieving a record national television package for the next four years.
"Against this background, it is not appropriate for management to attempt to turn back the clock and attempt to cut a player's benefits."
The compensation proposal – to freeze 15 players from a roster, allowing a team which lost the free agent to claim any other player – Miller said is clearly intended to impair the bargaining power of all free agents, thereby limiting salaries.
LaGrow can Phil gap in the bullpen
By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor
CLEARWATER, FLA. – Lerrin LaGrow was more than a mere gypsy relief pitcher searching for work. He was a stopper who could help almost any team in need of bullpen help.
"The Phillies need relief help. That's the reason I chose them," LaGrow was saying the other day. "I know I can help them."
Lerrin Harris LaGrow, the Chicago White Sox' top reliever in 1977 and 1978, signed as a free agent with the Phils last Jan. 31. Only the Boston Red Sox selected the right-hander in the reentry draft, so the 31-year-old LaGrow was free to sign with any club.
"The Phillies had expressed interest prior to the draft," LaGrow said. "I assumed a lot of clubs would draft me, but when they didn't happen, I remained in contact with the Phillies.
“Frankly, I could have signed with one or two other teams for more money and I could have gotten more than the one-year contract the Phillies gave me. I chose them because they are a contender and they need bullpen help. I know I will get plenty of work with them."
"Let me make one thing clear," Player Personnel Director Paul Owens said after yesterday's workout at Carpenter Field. "LaGrow can pitch. He's more than just somebody we're taking a gamble with."
In two years with Chicago, LaGrow compiled 41 saves plus 13 victories. When the 1979 season started, he told White Sox owner Bill Veeck he intended to play out his option. So, in May he was sold to the Los Angeles Dodgers for an estimated $100,000.
"I just wanted to see what my value was on the market," said LaGrow. "I told the White Sox that and the same thing to the Dodgers when I arrived in Los Angeles. Even though I declared my free agency, I thought I would eventually end up signing with the Dodgers, but we could not reach an agreement. I don't believe the negotiations were carried out in good faith. I did turn down a rather sizeable contract with them in the end and picked up negotiations with the Phillies and some other clubs which I prefer not to mention."
LaGrow could have chosen a better year than 1979 to become a free agent. He had a foot injury and later a shoulder injury which he is certain forced clubs to pass on him. And surgery to remove a bone spur from his foot came a month before the re-entry draft.
THE PROBLEMS started in spring training.
“Just before we left for the season opener my left foot began to hurt," he said. "I thought it was nothing more than a bone bruise – like I had stepped on a golf ball or a rock. I had an ejection and that helped for about a week. The pain persisted, but I tried to ignore it.
"After I was traded to Los Angeles it hurt some after I pitched. Then, on the night of June 25 against Cincinnati, I was covering first base and something happened. I later found out calcium had been building up and caused the muscle to tear. I missed three or four days, but since I was the most effective guy they had then, I didn't want to give in to it. Plus, I was playing out my option. As a result, I began to favor the foot and strained the muscle in my right shoulder."
Eventually, LaGrow was placed on the disabled list for most of August. He came back and had an almost perfect September. In nine appearances, he won three games, saved two and allowed one earned run. Overall, in 31 games for the Dodgers, he finished with a 3.41 earned run average, a 5-1 record and four saves.
"He was very impressive in late-inning pressure situations in September," said Phils' Manager Dallas Green. "We're gambling that he's back in the form he displayed with the White Sox. He could fit in very nicely in the bullpen with Ron Reed and Tug McGraw."
LaGrow, who came up through the Detroit organization after he signed with the Tigers in 1969, is married to the former Sherry Lynn Wilkerson and they have three children.
"The whole family is excited about going to Philadelphia," he said. "I have heard everything with the Phillies is first class. And, I am going to be with a contender. That's what excites me most."