Baseball talks teetered on the verge of collapse Thursday night, when several owners said they were leaving the bargaining table and contemplating bringing in hard-line negotiators.
After a two-hour meeting with the union, acting Commissioner Bud Selig said he would return to Milwaukee later in the evening, but some management negotiators would remain.
"We couldn't get around to talking about the luxury tax," Boston Red Sox Chief Executive Officer John Harrington said.
The sides got stuck again on the owners' revenue-sharing agreement, reached in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in January 1994. Players insist that plan alone would drag down salaries, and they want owners to rewrite it.
Colorado Rockies Chairman Jerry McMorris suggested that Chicago White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf take over negotiations if no agreement with the players was in sight. The union regards Reinsdorf as the leader of the hard-line owners.
"John and I haven't done one thing that Dick Ravitch didn't," McMorris said, referring to management's negotiator when talks began more than 25 months ago.
Union officials weren't immediately available for reaction to McMorris' suggestion.
The sides met peacefully but unproductively for three days earlier this week. They didn't get together during the first part of the day. Then the owners left their meeting site in the afternoon to speak with union leaders at their hotel.
"I think I was used," said McMorris, one of the more moderate owners. "I think I was given a false sense. . . . I'm not going to sit here and be used day after day."
Asked who was using him, McMorris responded: "By Don Fehr and his staff."
On Tuesday, McMorris had expressed optimism, saying he thought a deal could be reached within days.
"We've digressed," he said. "Yesterday we got bogged down and last night we were going downhill. We've got to get past the point where all we can talk about is revenue sharing again."
McMorris said he wasn't sure he had "moved the ball" since he joined the talks in August.
"If we're not making progress," he said, then his side should consider having "different owners and different attorneys" on the bargaining team. Some people on the union side think Reinsdorf is at the talks this week to scuttle any possible deal.
Reinsdorf, who is at management's caucuses but not in the talks, denies the charge.
Five more games were played on the exhibition schedule, which opened Wednesday night. Only about 700 showed up to watch the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the New York Yankees, 11-3, at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, which has a capacity of 8,340 and drew 6,664 for the 1994 spring opener.
About 600 attended Cleveland's 3-1 victory over Cincinnati at Plant City, Fla. Before the game came the first replacement trade: the Indians sent five players to the Reds for future considerations. Twenty-three of Cincinnati's 44 players walked out of camp Wednesday.
Just 294 watched Kansas City beat Stetson, 3-1, at Haines City, and about 600 watched Atlanta beat Georgia Tech, 5-1 at West Palm Beach. At Bradenton, 685 were in the stands at gametime and they saw Minnesota beat Pittsburgh, 6-4.
In others news, Michael Jordan left the White Sox camp in Sarasota, Fla. Jordan had not been expected to play in exhibition games because the union would have considered him a strikebreaker.
At the table, the sides did firm up agreements in 10 minor areas, most of which had been tentatively settled during last month's talks in Washington. According to union attorney Michael Weiner, the side agreed that:
--Allowances will be adjusted for inflation. Using figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, meal money will increase from $60.50 per day to $63.50 during the season and from $53.50 to $56 during spring training. The spring training weekly allowance will increase from $188.50 to $198.50 and the supplemental allowance for those not at team hotels will increase from $34 to $36 per week.
--All players will get single rooms during the regular season.
--No mandatory workouts may be scheduled on the Wednesday of the All-Star break.
--In-season exhibition games will be cut from a maximum of three to two.
--The maximum number of games in each league starting before noon will be cut from six per season to four.
--All collective bargaining agreement notices will be printed in Spanish as well as English.
--Clubs will provide, at their expense, English as a second language courses to any player who wants it.
--If a scheduling violation occurs, only the club in violation must approve the change, not the opponent for the game.
--The sides will jointly update the list of doctors allowed to give second medical opinions.
--The 1994 agreement on how players split their playoff money during the first round will be incorporated into the collective bargaining agreement.