As Congress continued to prepare legislation aimed at ending baseball's labor stalemate, Donald Fehr, executive director of the players' union, met for more than three hours Tuesday with 77 players based in Southern California. He said later he had found the same "anger and cold resolve" in reaction to the impasse that he has found on previous stops during a cross-country tour designed to update players.
Eric Karros and Mike Piazza of the Dodgers supported Fehr's perception after the meeting at an airport-area hotel, the fifth of eight stops for Fehr, who also will meet with players in Phoenix, Dallas and the Caribbean area.
Karros, the Dodgers' first baseman, said the mood is one of "anger and frustration because the owners have refused to take us seriously or bargain in good faith," failing to budge from the salary-cap proposal that the union expects the owners to implement unilaterally before Nov. 1.
"We belong on the field, and the longer this goes the stronger and more united we become," Karros said.
Piazza agreed, saying it was disappointing not to be taken seriously, and unless there is an agreement without a salary cap before the start of the 1995 season, "we'll all be watching a lot of college baseball next year."
Fehr and the players expressed confidence in the union's solidarity if the owners open camps next spring and try to use minor leaguers as replacements with the hope some striking major leaguers will also cross the picket lines.
'Scabs aren't looked on very pleasantly," Dodger pitcher Tom Candiotti said. "What do you think the reaction will be to any kid who crossed the line?"
In the meantime, there were these developments in Washington:
--The House subcommittee on economic and commercial law might vote today on a bill by Mike Synar (D-Okla.) that would repeal baseball's antitrust exemption as it applies to labor relations. If passed by the subcommittee, the full Judiciary Committee might vote on it Thursday, but it remains unlikely that Congress, which adjourns next month, could act before reconvening in January.
Fehr reiterated that the strike would end if the exemption were repealed, but only if language that prevented a salary cap from taking effect until any lawsuits stemming from implementation were resolved remains in the bill.
Management sources said that they did not think that language, heavily in favor of the union and a subject of debate during a hearing at which Fehr and acting commissioner Bud Selig testified last week, would remain part of it. Selig said Tuesday that he had heard there were changes being made "but I don't know what the makeup is yet."
--Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) has introduced legislation similar to the Synar bill and said he hopes to force it to a vote today as part of an appropriations bill for the Labor and Health departments.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Ohio), a co-sponsor of the bill, said that all he and Metzenbaum "are trying to do is say to the owners of those teams: You can unilaterally impose, if you want to, any unilateral conditions under the law, but if you do, you lose the antitrust exemption until after the matter is resolved. I do think it will end the strike. I do think it will push the sides together."
--The House subcommittee on labor-management relations will conduct a hearing Thursday to consider a bill by Rep. Pat Williams (D-Mont.) that would impose binding arbitration if the owners and players fail to reach an agreement by Feb. 1. Orel Hershiser of the Dodgers, union counsel Eugene Orza and owners' negotiator Richard Ravitch are expected to testify.
Fehr said he would be open to binding arbitration.
"Under these circumstances, I think you have to consider everything," he said, adding that he was appreciative of the growing interest and involvement by Congress and that "some congressmen definitely seem to recognize" that it's going to take their involvement to get the owners moving toward meaningful negotiations.
"I don't know if a majority (of congressmen) feel that way, but we seem to be picking up momentum all the time," Fehr said.
Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Selig said he would soon appoint an operations committee that will work with Ravitch to determine how the owners proceed and under which rules the clubs will operate.
Selig wouldn't identify the committee members, but it was learned that Bob Graziano, the Dodgers' vice president of finance, is expected to be a member.
Also expected to be on the committee are Boston Red Sox CEO John Harrington, Montreal Expo president Claude Brochu, Oakland Athletics General Manager Sandy Alderson, Florida Marlin General Manager Dave Dombrowski and Philadelphia Phillie executive vice president David Montgomery.