Players, Owners Agree to Mediators, But Doubt it Will Help
NEW YORK (AP) _ Fans protested and workers grumbled outside empty stadiums on Day 1 of the baseball strike. And although players and owners agreed to talk with federal mediators, neither side expected an early end to the standoff.
Union head Donald Fehr and management negotiator Richard Ravitch said after a fruitless two-hour session Friday that they would meet with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service before resuming bargaining.
Neither side seemed hopeful that mediation would do any good.
″I don’t know whether they’re going to be of any help,″ Fehr said. ″All I can say at this point, I don’t think any harm will come from it.″
Mediators can beg, plead, and cajole, but are powerless to force an agreement. In 1981, mediator Kenneth Moffett was unable to get players and owners to agree until that strike reached 50 days.
The first baseball strike since a two-day midseason stoppage in 1985 threatens the final 52 days and 669 games of what’s been a spectacular season thus far. It wiped out 14 games Friday, 14 more today and another 14 Sunday.
The main issue is the union’s refusal to allow teams to limit salaries.
Owners say they must have a salary cap to cure what they say are baseball’s economic problems. But players claim they’re caught in a dispute between large- and small-market clubs, which say they can’t redistribute revenue among themselves unless it comes from players.
″The question here is not how the clubs run their business internally,″ Ravitch said at a news conference, his voice rising almost to a shout. ″That was negotiated over a 14-month period and settled.″
Clubs agreed in January to new revenue-sharing rules, but said they won’t take effect until the union agrees to a salary cap.
″The basic response (from owners) is that shifting money around doesn’t solve the problem,″ Fehr said. ″Shifting players’ money around apparently does solve the problem.″
In Philadelphia, fans rallied against the strike outside Veterans Stadium, holding protest signs and vowing never to attend another game. In Houston, tourists at the Astrodome watched crews clean what may be the last tobacco stains of summer off the artificial turf.
″It’s awful quiet,″ said Ron Nankervis, a guard at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, where empty orange and blue seats were all you could see.
Meanwhile, executive council chairman Bud Selig any team owner who wants to speak about the strike must get permission from him, Ravitch or management’s public relations executives.
″It’s not a gag order,″ Selig said. ″You want people to be well-versed in what they’re doing so they know exactly what’s going on.″
Four owners - George Steinbenner of the New York Yankees, Marge Schott of the Cincinnati Reds, Peter Angelos of the Baltimore Orioles and Jerry McMorris of the Colorado Rockies - made critical comments Thursday about either Ravitch or the owners’ bargaining stances.
″I hope it doesn’t encourage the players to think the owners will abandon their collective bargaining objective,″ Ravitch said. ″My only concern is the players could get the wrong impression from that.″