Apparently bowing to pressure from the Major League Players Assn., the Dodgers Friday deleted the controversial drug-testing clause from the contract of outfielder Mike Marshall.
But team owner Peter O'Malley maintained that the team reserves the right to include such a clause on a "case-by-case basis" and apparently has exercised that right in the contract of shortstop Bill Russell, which could further jeopardize negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement between players and owners.
"Russell's contract will stay as is," O'Malley said.
Announcement of the Dodgers' action regarding Marshall was made in separate statements by the team and Lee MacPhail, president of the owners' Player Relations Committee, which met in New York Friday with representatives of the players' union.
"Although the Dodgers feel strongly that testing should play a major role in the fight against drug abuse, they agree to moderate their position to permit baseball's Joint Drug Program to work effectively," MacPhail said. "It certainly is not the Dodgers' belief that the contested clause violates the provisions of the program."
While both the Dodgers and Player Relations Committee made reference to the deletion of the drug-testing clause only in Marshall's case, union sources said the team also deleted the clauses from the contracts of five players who signed earlier this month-- pitcher Ken Howell and outfielders Lemmie Miller, Cecil Espy, Mike Ramsey and Ralph Bryant.
Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major League Players Assn., met with a handful of Dodger players Friday and said afterward that he hoped "this episode will be very transient in duration." But, Fehr cautioned, "it isn't over yet. This issue is of utmost seriousness."
Fehr said there are "some strings left hanging," one being the Dodgers' decision not to strike the drug-testing clause from the contract of Russell, who signed for two years (with an option for a third) last November. "This . . . has to be resolved," Fehr said. "I haven't talked yet to Russell (and) I haven't seen the paperwork."
Neither Russell nor his agent, Steve Freyer, were available for comment Friday.
The deletion of the clause in Marshall's contract, O'Malley said, was a "gesture to allow the talks to be resumed." Both MacPhail and Fehr indicated they were hopeful a negotiating session scheduled for Tuesday will go on as planned, but the union head said that will depend in part on the Russell situation.
O'Malley denied that the Dodgers had deliberately sought to undermine negotiations. "We knew that there would be some risk," he said, "but we thought our approach was sound and reasonable and fair.
" . . . In (baseball's) Joint Drug Program, there is a side letter where the parties express their differences on the issue (of drug-testing). It's a gray area, not black and white."
The legal advice he received, O'Malley said, indicated that the drug-testing clauses were "both reasonable and proper" and did not violate the Joint Drug Program.
"We believe in drug testing," the Dodgers' owner said. "Our whole drug control program is aimed at preventing the use of illegal substances by our players. We believe that testing helps such prevention and we want to do everything we can to prevent drug use."
But in so doing, Fehr reiterated Friday, the Dodgers had acted in violation of the Basic Agreement and also in violation of labor laws that recognize the union as the sole representative of players in such contract matters. Fehr also charged that O'Malley, as a member of the owners' negotiating committee, had given the union cause to question the owners' good faith.
"I had said earlier this week that the Dodgers' action was perhaps deliberately provocative," Fehr said. "I would like to believe it wasn't deliberately so. I am not, however, convinced. It was demonstrably counterproductive."
On Monday, Marshall signed a one-year contract with the Dodgers that will pay him in excess of $330,000 for the 1985 season. Through the office of his agent, Jerry Kapstein, Marshall informed the players' union of the drug-testing clause, and despite the union's objections, signed the contract with the clause, saying he had "nothing to hide."
On Friday, Marshall--who attended the meeting conducted by Fehr--denied a report that he was given extra money for agreeing to such a clause.
"That isn't true," Marshall said. "The money was agreed upon and then the clause was put in there and I contacted the players' association. The money never went up or down.
As often happens in these negotiations, there was a good deal of posturing on both sides. And it would be ironic if the focus of the drug-testing issue should shift to Russell, 36. Like Marshall, Russell is one of the Dodgers least likely to be suspected of drug or alcohol abuse.