Baseball's labor talks moved to Los Angeles on Monday, with representatives of the owners offering what Gene Orza, the union's associate general counsel, said was a "laundry list of disheartening and mind-boggling" proposals aimed at reducing and restricting player rights.
None of those proposals dealt with what will be the critical issues--a salary cap and revenue sharing.
Eighteen months after the owners voted to reopen collective negotiations a year before the agreement expired, the union continues to wait for a salary-cap proposal it is almost certain to reject. Richard Ravitch, the owners' chief negotiator, said Monday he will make that proposal the second or third week of June, after an owners' meeting in Cincinnati, June 8-9.
As Ravitch hurried to leave an airport hotel to catch a return flight to New York, time seemed to be narrowing in other ways.
The union, frustrated by the absence of a substantive economic proposal, continues to weigh an August or September strike, its only leverage against the owners declaring an impasse in the negotiations and unilaterally imposing a new economic system. The union's executive board will meet July 11 to consider a possible date, but a subcommittee might begin that process before then, Orza said.
In the meantime, Ravitch described Monday's series of proposals as non-economic, but Orza said they all have economic impact.
Among the most interesting and likely to be rejected quickest: The owners want to eliminate the maximum salary cut of 20%; they want to eliminate service time for any player called up in September, a proposal aimed at delaying a young player's eligibility for arbitration and free agency, among other things; they want players on the disabled list to receive only 50% service time and they want to remove the rights of eligible players to veto or demand a trade.
"An overwhelming number of these proposals go back to the 1970s," Orza said. "We compromised on some of them the last time, but told them at the time, 'OK, but don't nickel-and-dime us again.' Yet here they are, doing it again. It's not the kind of stuff that makes you think the clubs really want to reach an agreement."
Several Dodgers, including Orel Hershiser, Brett Butler, Mike Piazza, Eric Karros, Mitch Webster, Tim Wallach and Tom Candiotti, attended Monday's session.