A fixture in baseball's labor negotiations will be missing today in New York when representatives of the Major League Players Assn. and the owner's Player Relations Council meet to begin talks on the game's next collective bargaining agreement.
Barry Rona resigned as executive director and general counsel of the PRC, it was learned Monday night.
Rona, who has been associated with the PRC for more than a decade, could not be reached for comment.
A baseball executive who declined to be identified said that the office of commissioner Fay Vincent would release a statement today.
Chuck O'Connor, an attorney with the Washington, D.C., firm of Morgan, Lewis and Bockius, is expected to replace Rona as the PRC's chief negotiator in the collective talks.
There had been speculation that Rona was becoming increasingly unhappy with the role played by O'Connor and his firm in preparations for the negotiations, and that he has been under pressure from some owners to allow O'Connor to serve as the lead negotiator.
O'Connor and his firm were hired by the owners early this year to help frame a bargaining proposal that would significantly revise baseball's economic system.
The proposal that will be presented to the union today will include a modified salary cap and a statistical table by which the salary of players with zero to six years of major league service would be determined. It would eliminate arbitration and the need for agents--at least for players in the zero-to-six category.
Rona's resignation, according to a baseball source, will not change the proposal, nor is it expected to affect the union's anticipated objection to it.
In an interview at the recent general managers meeting at Palm Springs, Rona said he expected the players' opposition would eventually diminish once the union realized how seriously the owners are commited to the proposal and the need for a major economic overhaul.
Most view that as wishful thinking. Even amid the threat of a spring lockout by the owners, it seems certain that the union will not accept a statistical scale that would eliminate arbitration.
A hard road looms, and Barry Rona will not travel it.