1. Welcome! Please take a few seconds to create your free account to post threads, make some friends, remove a few ads while surfing and much more. ClutchFans has been bringing fans together to talk Houston Sports since 1996. Join us!

Labor deal expires on two months

Discussion in 'Other Sports' started by Timing, Aug 30, 2001.

  1. Timing

    Timing Member

    Jul 30, 2000
    Likes Received:
    Labor deal expires in two months

    This is going to be sooooo fun....

    Labor deal expires in two months

    Associated Press

    NEW YORK -- John Franco, a veteran of two strikes and a lockout, doesn't have any advice for teammates on whether to expect another work stoppage after this season.

    "Nobody's said nothin' yet," the New York Mets' reliever said. "It's been quiet -- which is nice."

    Baseball's labor contract expires two months from Friday -- a date that makes many fans shudder. The sport has gone through eight work stoppages since 1972, and some owners want major economic changes, saying baseball has become a game where only the rich teams win.

    Since the end of the last strike, a 232-day walkout that wiped out the 1994 World Series, the New York Yankees have won four World Series, including the last three. The Atlanta Braves, another big spender, won the title in 1995 and the Florida Marlins won in 1997 after boosting their payroll to among the top five.

    The Major League Baseball Players Association, the strongest union in sports and perhaps in the United States, says the sport doesn't need the salary cap some owners favor and says the recent success of large-market teams is an anomaly, caused partly because the wealthier clubs recovered fastest from the strike.

    But in contrast to the vitriol that was near continuous during 1994 and 1995, players and owners have taken a low-key approach thus far.

    "I don't really have a take," commissioner Bud Selig said this week. "I'm proceeding cautiously, trying to learn from the mistakes of the past, not trying to engage, frankly, in communication that becomes a problem for both sides."

    In an interview with Bloomberg News, former commissioner Faye Vincent echoed Selig's sentiment.

    "You have to work with the union, and I think baseball continues to believe there can be gains by fighting with them," Vincent told Bloomberg. "You can't win that way. The union is like Rocky Marciano. They're 49-0, and there's no reason to believe it won't be 50-0."

    At some point, the sides will start talking and they won't agree. Owners say they haven't even been told who will be at the negotiating table for their side. The expectation is Selig will send former Toronto Blue Jays president Paul Beeston, currently baseball's chief operating officer, and Rob Manfred, management's top labor lawyer.

    Beeston and Manfred had informal -- and cordial -- talks with the union last year, but they didn't lead to an extension.

    "They weren't designed to go somewhere," union head Donald Fehr said. "They were designed to discuss issues generally and set the stage for further discussions."

    The current deal, agreed to in 1996, expires either on Oct. 31 or the day after the World Series, whichever is later. Owners have the right to lock out players the following day, which would put a stop to all free-agent negotiations and leave many players wondering where they'll be next year.

    "I assume we'll be starting into bargaining some time next month, and we'll see where that takes us," said Fehr, who has embarked on a series of team meetings to give players updates.

    Several owners, all speaking on the condition they not be identified, said Selig has not made any effort to solicit votes for a lockout. Teams expect business as usual this winter.

    "I'm planning on next season as if there's no change," Atlanta Braves president Stan Kasten said. "I think that's the safest for me. If anything else goes on, we'll adjust. You always plan to be aggressive. If there are changes, we'll adapt."

    Money, as always, is the key issue. The average salary was $1.17 million when the 1994 strike started. It is expected to be about $2.17 million when final figures for this year are compiled -- a hike of 85 percent in seven years, a 12 percent annual rise.

    To help pay for those paychecks, owners have raised the average ticket price from $10.45 in 1994 to $18.86 this year, according to the Team Marketing Report. That's an 80 percent hike, or 11 percent annually.

    Revenue, which would have been about $2 billion in 1994 had the season not been interrupted, is expected to top $3.3 billion this year.

    In contrast, the Consumer Price Index has risen 20 percent over the corresponding period, or 2.8 percent a year.

    As the dollars have risen, so have the stakes.

    "For a lockout, it's a heavy risk on the part of ownership. For a strike, it's a heavy risk on the part of players," said agent Scott Boras, who raised salaries to a new level last December when he negotiated Alex Rodriguez's $252 million, 10-year contract with Texas. "It's certainly a much weightier economic decision and a much riskier economic decision to use stoppage of play as a vehicle to negotiate."

    Selig told owners in January that he doesn't want them speaking publicly about collective bargaining and threatened them with fines.

    Still, it's clear a faction supports change that would slow the increase in salaries, according to several owners speaking on the condition on anonymity. That group at the very least includes Kansas City owner David Glass, Minnesota owner Carl Pohlad, Houston owner Drayton McLane and Pittsburgh owner Kevin McClatchy.

    Glass said in February that Texas was "nuts" to give Rodriguez a contract averaging $25.2 million.

    "What we're beginning to see is, the high-revenue teams are starting to understand they need a good competitive balance," Glass said. "If they win all their games, then their television revenue will dry up and people will no longer be interested. As ardent a baseball fan as I am, I would no longer be interested if I knew that every year most teams went to spring training knowing they didn't have any chance to win."

    The luxury tax in place from 1997-99 did little to hold down salaries, costing teams a total of $30 million, including $10.6 million for Baltimore and $9.9 million for the Yankees.

    Some owners have proposed contraction -- eliminating the two or four teams in the worst economic trouble. While the Montreal Expos are a natural target because their attendance averages under 8,300 at Olympic Stadium, eliminating a U.S. club is difficult because of the political fallout.

    Tampa Bay, with average home attendance under 17,000 and infighting among its owners, is a team many owners on other clubs point to as a contraction possibility.

    But the sport's legal position may be weakest in that state: In October 1994, the Florida State Supreme Court struck down nearly all of the sport's antitrust exemption.

    The next step for owners will take place Sept. 11-12, when they meet in Milwaukee.

    It's clear that if owners demand a salary cap, the sides are headed to another fight -- but not necessarily a work stoppage.

    "As we've seen from the models of the NBA and the NFL, a salary cap doesn't do anything other than transfer revenue from players to owners," Boras said. "It doesn't do anything for advertisers and fans."

    Revenue sharing, which began following the last strike, will be a key issue. The Yankees expect to contribute $25 million to the revenue-sharing fund this season from a gross expected to be $200 million-$210 million. The revenue-sharing money is redistributed to the teams with the lowest revenue.

    Fehr doesn't want to get into details now. He'll just wait, as his players do, to see what unfolds. There doesn't seem to be an extra emphasis on saving money for a work stoppage, but Fehr said players will be ready.

    "Players have been through this before," he said. "The Major League Baseball Players Association has been through bargaining repeatedly for the last 35 years. There is a strong institutional memory."
    #1 Timing, Aug 30, 2001
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2001

Share This Page