Owners Push for Salary Cap : Baseball: They say the lid is necessary if there is to be increased revenue sharing among teams.


Major league baseball owners said in a unanimous vote Wednesday that any increase in the amount of revenue the clubs share--a remedy suggested by the players’ union for the alleged inequity in big- and small-market income--must be tied to a new economic system and salary cap.

“We had a philosophical economic discussion leading to the practical conclusion that there is a linkage between revenue sharing and a salary cap,” said Bud Selig, president of the Milwaukee Brewers and chairman of the governing executive council.

Selig said he couldn’t or wouldn’t explain what that linkage is and that there was no specific economic plan adopted during the special meeting--none of which surprised Don Fehr, executive director of the players’ union.


“I’m dumbfounded as to who they think they’re impressing,” Fehr said from his New York office.

“I mean, they won’t tell you what the linkage is because it doesn’t exist.

“If the small-market clubs are not in enough distress for the big-market clubs to help them without coming to the players, it’s a sorry situation. Either the big-market clubs don’t believe the small-market clubs or are unwilling to help them on their own.

“Heck, if Jerry Reinsdorf (co-owner of the Chicago White Sox) is such a good friend of Selig’s, why doesn’t he just write him a check?”

The pursuit of a new economic system based on a salary cap and a percentage of revenue designated for salaries was the basis for the owners voting to reopen collective bargaining talks with the union a year early.

This was the first time they linked the possibility of increased revenue sharing--they now basically share only the national TV income, some of their local cable revenues and a percentage of gate receipts with the visiting team--to that pursuit of a new system.

They are saying to the union: We are willing to share more revenue to help solve our problems, but only if you agree to a salary cap and new system. Since that new system would eliminate arbitration and modify free agency, the union’s approval is unlikely.


Selig refused to discuss that aspect of it, and Richard Ravitch, president of the owners’ Player Relations Council, left before a news conference began.

Selig said there will be continuing discussions among the owners and negotiations with the union. He said the possibility of the clubs sharing local TV-radio income was not discussed Wednesday.

In other developments:

--Selig said the committee that has been restructuring the commissioner’s office has completed the five-month project, but he could not comment on it because he has yet to see the report.

He also said it is doubtful that the owners will be ready to vote on it by their March 3-4 meeting in Phoenix, increasing speculation that they are in no hurry to find a commissioner and that the process, at the urging of Ravitch and some owners, still could be delayed until negotiations with the union are completed.

--Dick Wagner, a special assistant to baseball who has been living in Phoenix, is returning to New York for an unspecified period to supervise the commissioner’s office in conjunction with Peter Widdington, chairman of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Selig said the move was designed to prepare for the April 1 departure of Deputy Commissioner Steve Greenberg and should not be viewed as an indication that baseball is in no hurry to hire a commissioner.

--Sharon Jones, a former employee of the Oakland Athletics who contributed to the evidence leading to the suspension of Cincinnati Reds’ owner Marge Schott for racial and ethnic slurs, spoke to the full ownership and urged establishment of a program ensuring an accelerated pace of minority hiring.

“She was both blunt and sensitive,” Selig said.