Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent is expected to finalize details on the cancellation of the first set of regular-season games when he meets this morning with Bobby Brown and Bill White, the American and National League presidents.
Charles O'Connor, general council of the owners' Players Relations Committee, said Monday it is not a forgone conclusion that the April 2 openers will be canceled, "but it doesn't look good."
O'Connor said he expects cancellations will be made on the basis of teams' series, or a week at a time rather than a day at a time, and a source said it is unlikely that games will be made up if more than the first week has to be canceled.
There were no collective bargaining meetings on Day 26 of the owners' lockout and none are scheduled today. O'Connor said he can hardly believe that the two sides have been unable to solve the issue of arbitration eligibility.
Another area of disagreement developed Monday when the Major League Players Assn. filed a motion with arbitrator George Nicolau asking that he order the owners to take $50 million from their $170 million lockout fund and put it in an escrow account as a down payment on collusion damages.
The $170 million is money the teams have set aside from their television and radio revenues while preparing for this labor dispute over the last few years. O'Connor said Monday that it is the clubs' money to use anyway they want.
By attempting to get control of some of it, the union is hoping to make the prospect of a long lockout less appealing. Nicolau will probably hear the case in New York Wednesday or Thursday. Management has estimated the damages from the Collusion II and III cases at $52 million. The union contends it could go as high as $200 million.
"We don't think it's proper the clubs should control the players' money and use it to finance a lockout," Don Fehr, the union's executive director, said.
In another development Monday, O'Connor said teams cannot option minor league players off their major league rosters, though league rules permit it beginning Thursday.
This is a sensitive issue for the players. A decision not to allow roster moves means that hundreds of young players (with low salaries) won't be able to play baseball or draw a salary.
"We are committed to the 40-man roster as far as the scope of the lockout is concerned," O'Connor said.