Camden Courier-Post - March 9, 1980

Owners, players play brinkmanship; fans seen losers


By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post


CLEARWATER, Fla. – It can be said that baseball is the only American industry that flies its employees to Florida every winter for a labor dispute.


Last year it was the umpires who aired their grievances with the game. In 1976, it was the owners locking out the players. And in 1972 the players struck for 13 days in a dispute over pension benefits.


Now, for the third time in the last eight years, the two groups that make baseball a hugely successful entertainment industry are headed for a showdown. On the one side are the owners, who want desperately to regain some of the ground they lost when they last signed a Basic Agreement with the Major League Players Association four years ago. On the other side, standing firmly behind their guru, Marvin Miller, are the players, who perceive the owners as trying to revoke existing benefits.


It is a labor dispute with as much potential for acrimony as a steelworkers' strike. It is a labor dispute that could seriously damage the game of baseball if it is taken to what now seems to be its logical conclusion – a strike sometime after the season begins April 9.


Negotiations for a new Basic Agreement have been ongoing for 17 weeks with a breakthrough still not in sight. The owners would like people to think talks are proceeding smoothly.


"There is no crisis, no emergency at this point," said Ray Grebey, bargaining spokesman for the owners, after a Thursday meeting with some owners and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn in Tampa. "There has been full and free discussion of all issues – more than any previous negotiations between the owners and players."


Hogwash, as Reggie Jackson, the New York Yankees' player representative said, the negotiations have been a "farce."


Grebey has been making a lot of noise about owners' proposals that would give the players a 40 percent increase in pension benefits, a 300 percent boost in life insurance, improved World Series minimums and higher minimum salaries. But those are not the key issues. And, a strike will not be averted unless the crucial issues are addressed seriously by both sides.


At the heart of the matter is the reserve clause, which permitted a team to renew a player's contract as long as it wanted to keep the player. That was overturned in 1976, and the owners, with few exceptions, have been unable to restrain themselves in their greedy pursuit of free agents ever since.


Now, the owners are proposing that a salary structure be imposed on players with less than six years experience who do not sign long-term contracts. Under the proposed salary guidelines, Cy Young winner Bruce Sutter, who recently won a $700,000 one-year contract through arbitration, could conceivably be paid the same amount as Jamie Easterly of Montreal. Who is Jamie Easterly? That's precisely the point.


In essence, the owners are attempting to make up for a failure to police themselves in the free agent market – at the expense of the players.


But the owners have not been the only immovable body in the stalled bargaining talks. Miller, who has been executive director of the Players Association for the last 14 years and probably holds more power than anyone in the game – including Kuhn – refuses to budge on an association proposal that would reduce the years of service required to become a free agent from six to four.


It is unfortunate, but both sides feel a need for "victory" in the bargaining. The owners feel they must regain lost ground and, in the process, show their old adversary Miller that they, too, can be tough. The players, naturally, do not want to relinquish any of the considerable benefits they bargained for in the old Basic Agreement.


The two sides right now are playing a foolhardy game of brinkmanship that will inevitably lead to a strike that will irrevocably damage the credibility of everyone connected with the game.


And, in the end there will be no winner, only a loser – the fans.

Phillies pitchers, hitters put through bunting drills


By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post


CLEARWATER, Fla. – Among the Phillies' sins last season in their drive to a fourth-place finish in the National League’s Eastern Division was their team-wide failure to bunt.


One of the fundamental staples of baseball, bunting is every bit as important to a game as home runs. Granted, it's much more fun to watch Greg Luzinski or Mike Schmidt slam homers. Rut the successful execution of a bunt often can be the difference between winning and losing.


The Phillies last season finished dead last in sacrifices among National League clubs. Philadelphia hitters bunted successfully 60 times the Phillies attempted to bunt, but failed, or simply ignored a bunt sign.


Yesterday, Manager Dallas Green took a first step toward correcting that flaw by putting pitchers and hitters alike through bunting drills during the club's workout at the Carpenter Complex. The pitchers spent a good deal of their time on a field by themselves, laying bunts down both base lines. Some of the hitters were sent to the batting cages to brush up on their bunting.


In addition, the Phils spent a full 40 minutes working on cutoffs and relays, another fundamental that sometimes went ignored last season.


Righthanded pitcher Marty Bystrom, who aggravated a hamstring pull last week, was back in uniform after a few days on crutches. He was unable, however, to take part in the workouts.


The Phillies will move camp to Jack Russell Stadium Wednesday and hold an intra-squad game Thursday.