Wilmington Morning News - March 6, 1980

Phillies unanimous in strike support


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


CLEARWATER, Fla. - For slightly more than two hours the Phillies listened to Marvin Miller. When the session finally ended yesterday, there were some grim faces as the athletes started their second day of workouts.


What the Phillies had just done was vote 40-0 to support the Major League Baseball Players Association decision of a day earlier to strike on or after April 1 if a new basic agreement is not reached with the owners.


Philadelphia was the first team polled by Miller, the association's executive director, 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 came out of 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.


When that session ended late in the afternoon, Grebey said progress had been made in 28 areas.


When Grebey's comment was 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.”


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.


"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."