Players may set Aug. 30 strike date
NEW YORK -- After three days of bargaining produced disagreements rather than a deal, baseball players were all but certain to set an Aug. 30 strike date when their executive board reconvenes Friday.
The board had been ready to set a strike date Monday when it met in Chicago but delayed after management officials suggested a few more days of bargaining without a looming strike date might lead to progress.
But owners then moved little on the key economic issue of a luxury tax on high-payroll teams, leaving the union on track to call for baseball's ninth work stoppage since 1972.
''It wasn't good today. They made another proposal that was fairly meaningless,'' said Atlanta's Tom Glavine, the National League player representative. ''I think we're basically sitting back waiting for them to give us a serious offer.''
After meeting twice Thursday, the sides didn't even bother to schedule a bargaining session for Friday, and people aligned with both management and the union described the sides as far apart. Negotiators on both sides refused comment.
''I've gone from as optimistic as I can be to as pessimistic as I can be,'' said Braves player representative Mike Remlinger. ''It's back to just a flat out refusal to move.''
The union's board scheduled a telephone conference call for Friday morning, and the union was likely to announce the deadline later in the day.
''I got a gut feeling they'll probably set a date tomorrow, because they haven't gotten anywhere the last three days, which to me was somewhat surprising,'' Houston player representative Gregg Zaun said.
Since the first labor contract that included free agency in 1976, owners have attempted to slow salaries, leading to five work stoppages in five negotiations. Management's desire for payroll restraint remains the key obstacle to a labor contract to replace the one that expired last Nov. 7.
Owners originally proposed a 50 percent tax on the portions of payrolls over $98 million, then moved up their threshold last weekend to $100 million. Since Monday's meeting, management has moved up only to $102 million, according to a player and two player agents who spoke on the condition they not be identified.
The union fears a luxury tax along those lines when combined with increased revenue sharing would act as a cap because it would drain large amounts of money from high-revenue teams. Players, not wanting a tax at all, reluctantly proposed one with a much higher threshold and a much lower rate.
''We made an offer to try to rein in the Yankees and maybe one or two others,'' Glavine said. ''Instead, they want to affect six or seven others immediately, and maybe six or seven more on the periphery. That's a salary cap.''
Players focused on Aug. 30 -- the Friday of Labor Day weekend -- as the likely strike date -- because they don't want to finish the season without a contract. Players think owners would lock them out or change work rules, and the union prefers to have a late-season stoppage, when more of the owners' revenue is at stake, than a confrontation at the start of next season.
''It's no secret that we're running out of time,'' Arizona's Rick Helling said. ''There's only a month-and-a-half left to go in the season. We're obviously getting to that point where time is becoming a major issue.''
Commissioner Bud Selig has said baseball needs a new economic system, and it appears in the last few weeks the advocates of major changes have pushed for management's negotiators not to make major moves.
''I don't think anybody wants a strike,'' San Diego's Ryan Klesko said, ''but we're going to do what we have to do.'' The Associated Press