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No doubt about it, the thing is starting to ripen. Like fruit left out i

August 22, 1994

Undated (AP) _ No doubt about it, the thing is starting to ripen. Like fruit left out in a bowl on the sideboard, the strike is beginning to swell. And smell. The best thing that can be said right now is that the faster it does both, the sooner the rest of us get baseball back.

Last week Barry Bonds went to the courthouse in San Mateo County and got permission to cut his monthly child-support payment of $15,000 in half. And it only cost him lawyer fees and an autograph for the judge. Tough as the news must have seemed to his wife and kids, it might be even more unsettling to his comrades who are similarly out of work.

If anyone figured to get through a short work stoppage without being inconvenienced and with his checkbook on cruise-control, Bonds was the man. There are appearances to keep up, of course, and his tastes do tend toward the lavish. According to some appraisers, just the dangling gold earring and chain-rope Bonds wears to spiff up his Giant uniform cost in the neighborhood of $25,000.

Still, the man makes almost $800,000 a month. By rough calculation, that means Bonds has already cashed something like $3.4 million in checks since opening day. But if Mr. Highest-Paid-In-The-Game-For-Some-Time is having trouble making installment payments, what does this say about the minimum-wage guys?

It says times are getting tough all over baseball. Ballpark vendors and sweepers and nearby saloonkeepers got hammered from day one, but now the pain is spreading.

Most of the staff at the players union is no longer drawing pay. Six of the 28 major league franchises have canceled their instructional league teams for the fall. Eight have already announced layoffs or forced vacations. The good news is that some front-office types are actually having to answer their own phones; the bad news is that they still have nothing to say.

Normally such savings would warm the heart of the coldest owners. Times are tough for them, too - about $85 million in revenue lost, versus $44 for the players, so far. But not so tough, apparently, that any of them are considering hocking jewelry. Yet.

Today, acting commissioner Bud Selig is scheduled to announce a group of 10 to 12 baseball executives who will work in shifts baby-sitting hired gun Dick Ravitch when face-to-face negotiating sessions with the players resume this week. Judging from the names on the lists being circulated over the weekend, Selig either has no intention of settling this matter quickly or else he believes the bad cops he’s sending in first will so frighten the union reps that by the time the good cops show up, they’ll sign anything.

White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf figures to head the first shift, which in turn figures to squash any early dissent as well as news leaks. The fact is, whoever else draws Reinsdorf watch might be superfluous, though one member of the group has to go down as an inspired choice.

That would be Wendy Selig-Prieb, who in addition to being vice president- general counsel of Selig’s Milwaukee Brewers and - in Ravitch’s words - ″a forceful advocate for the small-market teams,″ also happens to be Selig’s daughter.

A selection like that saves Selig some expense money for however long the talks stretch on and reminds us of the way Mayor Daley - the old man, anyway - used to do business. The big difference, though, is that Daley settled his labor problems with stunning quickness, locking the doors behind him and not opening them again until agreement filled the room like a bad odor.

At last count, at least two offers for the owners and players to do just that have been forthcoming. One was made by in a full-page ad by the owner of a New York steakhouse. The second came from Ohio Democrat James Traficant on the floor of the House. Only instead of steak, he proposed a steady diet of baked beans, fried cheese and hard-boiled eggs.

Assuming the two sides accept neither offer, nothing will get settled until the good cops pull the salary cap proposal off the table - with tacit approval from Reinsdorf and the rest of their bad brethren - and the players make a similar concession. The earliest that figures to happen is early September, soon after a scheduled owners’ meeting in Detroit.

The only consolation we can offer Bonds until then is this: at least the kids won’t be spending any of the $7,500 a month on something foolish - like baseball games.

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