BASEBALL DAILY REPORT : Players Told to Prepare for a Protracted Walkout
The Major League Baseball Players Assn. sent a memo to its members Wednesday, restating its belief that the work stoppage will be a long one.
On Day 6 of the players’ strike, Donald Fehr, executive director of the union, said he advised the players again that it could be “two weeks, two months or next July” before there is a bargaining agreement and they should be prepared.
“I didn’t put it quite that crassly,” Fehr said, “but the point is, we’re following the owners’ calendar. Dick has us where he wants us to be. He should be very proud. He ought to be pleased as punch.”
Fehr says that negotiator Richard Ravitch and the owners forced the strike with the hope of breaking the union and with the long-term option of declaring an impasse and unilaterally implementing their salary-cap proposal.
There was no contact between Fehr and Ravitch for the fifth consecutive day, and no meetings are scheduled today. However, both are expected to receive procedural suggestions from a team of federal mediators in separate meetings this afternoon and are tentatively scheduled to resume negotiations Monday. The union has advised the players who make up its negotiating committee to be ready to go to New York.
“I’d like to sit down and get this resolved, but I don’t need any more of Dick’s lectures,” Fehr said. “I’d rather wait, then go through that. I’d rather wait, in the hope he’ll eventually have something new to tell us.”
Ravitch denied speculation that the bigger-market clubs have begun to show impatience and said it’s not unusual for negotiations to be temporarily suspended soon after a strike begins.
“It’s frustrating we can’t move faster, but on the other hand I don’t want to raise expectations by holding meetings that aren’t going to be productive,” Ravitch said. “Both Don and I welcomed mediation, and the mediators have been getting their ducks in a row in preparation for becoming more involved.
“If we’re going to make progress, this might be the best way right now, but I don’t want to raise hopes in that regard, either.”
There is no way the mediators can influence the union to accept a salary cap, and there is no indication the owners are about to withdraw it.
Fehr, who spent Monday and Tuesday in Washington meeting with a House committee considering a bill that would remove baseball’s antitrust exemption, said he didn’t regard the negotiating interruption as customary.
“We kept talking in ’85 and the strike (in August over the size of the owners’ pension contribution) lasted only two days,” Fehr said. “But we were 35 days into the ’81 strike (over compensation for the signing of free agents) before there were any substantive talks and then it was decided in two weeks.
“As I’ve said before, the atmosphere this time reminds me more and more of ’81.”
A total of 74 games have been canceled. The strike will be the second longest in that context by Friday, exceeded only by the 712 games canceled during the 50-day strike of ’81.