New Civility Is Going Only So Far : Labor: No progress on payroll tax, but Selig cites increased understanding and diminished hostility.


In a day-night doubleheader Wednesday, baseball's labor negotiators met for more than six hours with no apparent loss of the optimism expressed Tuesday but still no bargaining on the pivotal payroll tax.

Said the Toronto Blue Jays' Paul Molitor, who was in the union's bargaining lineup on Monday and Tuesday but came out Wednesday:

"A lot has been said about the atmosphere and civility and the way each side has tried to approach the other. That's been helpful, but until we begin to bridge the gap, it doesn't really mean a lot."

Union leader Donald Fehr said Wednesday's discussions again centered on the key economic issues, with some numbers mentioned, but no specific exchange of tax rates.

Referring to the opinion offered Tuesday by Colorado Rocky owner Jerry McMorris that a settlement seemed within reach, possibly as soon as Wednesday, Fehr said: "If we thought we were within arm's reach we'd be searching for a hand to grasp on to. Maybe he knows something we don't."

Meeting at the Gainey Ranch golf club under the supervision of special mediator William J. Usery, acting Commissioner Bud Selig said he "didn't know if there's been any significant change" in either side's position on the key economic issues "but I think better understanding can lead to that, and I think there's been increased understanding" amid the diminished hostility.

Perhaps, but there have been rumors of increased hostility among the owners, with Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox and a management hawk, a potential stumbling block in any settlement compromising the owners' position.

Sources say Reinsdorf would prefer a "fight to the death" with the union and, sensing that might not happen now, recently assailed Fehr in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, claiming he has a "pathological hatred" for the owners.

Coming at a time when Selig, his longtime friend, was attempting to defuse the hostility and build a bridge to the union, Reinsdorf was perceived to have thrown a verbal grenade as a calculated warning to the owners not to go soft.

"Jerry wants a winner and loser," a source familiar with the situation said. "Selig, Fehr and others recognize the need for an honorable deal."

A part-time resident of nearby Paradise Valley, Reinsdorf has been a daily visitor to the meetings without participating in the core sessions.

He said the remarks about Fehr were not designed to send a message, that it just happened, that he has been taking abuse from Fehr and aide Eugene Orza for four years so "what's wrong with me one time saying something?"

"This is about making a deal," Reinsdorf said. "When Don is ready to make a deal, I'm sure it will get made. We've been ready to make a deal from the beginning."

Asked about a potentially significant division among the owners' hierarchy, Fehr said he has heard consistent rumors, "but you have to believe that the people you're bargaining with fairly represent the people they're bargaining for."

Baseball Notes

Federal immigration authorities in Canada announced they have rewritten rules to permit the Montreal Expos to bring in strikebreakers from the United States. The change came after the Expos' ownership threatened to move the team permanently out of Canada unless the rule was revised. Immigration Department spokesman Roger White said the original intent of the regulation was to prevent foreign workers from taking the jobs of Canadians, and that it made little sense to enforce it in this case. Wednesday's ruling does not affect the Toronto Blue Jays, who are prohibited from using strikebreakers by a separate law in the province of Ontario.

Because the Baltimore Orioles refuse to use or play against replacement players, 12 exhibition games involving the team were canceled. At Annapolis, the Maryland Senate approved legislation to bar games at Camden Yards this season unless 75% of the players were on major league rosters last year. The Senate also approved a bill to bar advertising replacement games as major league baseball. Gov. Parris Glendening said he would pass the legislation if it is also passed by the Maryland House of Delegates.

Staff writer Greg Turner in Toronto and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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