Saturday, August 24, 2002

No big news from labor talks

Owners, players avoid key issues in latest meeting

The Associated Press

        NEW YORK - Alex Rodriguez offered to slash his record-setting salary if it would help baseball, a novel approach to solving the sport's problems as it moved within a week of another strike.

        “I would take a cut in pay - 30 to 40 percent - if it would make the game better,” the Texas shortstop said Friday before adding: “It's not a very realistic proposition.”

        Rodriguez's $252 million, 10-year contract is the richest in sports, and many owners have pointed to it as a sign of baseball's imbalance between rich and poor.

        Seven days before the threatened Aug. 30 strike date, the sides avoided the key issues. Management said it expects a new proposal from the union today on the key economic elements of a labor deal.

        Meanwhile, former commissioner Fay Vincent predicted baseball won't be able to avoid its ninth work stoppage since 1972.

        Vincent, ousted 10 years ago by a group led by current commissioner Bud Selig, praised his successor for what owners have achieved in bargaining. Still, he thinks Selig will be unable to stand up to owners who want a new system.

        “I think he has done a very good job in this negotiation of getting more from the union than I would have thought possible,” Vincent said. “He's in a position to declare victory, That's an enormous achievement.

        “If he would just admit 30 percent is a victory and not 90 percent, he would have a victory. All Selig has to say next week is that, "This is the best we're going to get. It's a victory.”'

        Selig, who determined the owners' labor policy during strikes in 1985 and 1994-95 and a lockout in 1990, said he was hopeful there would be a deal.

        “Nobody on this earth is more hopeful than I,” Selig said. “Yes, I'm optimistic. I'm always an optimist, in everything in life. You have to be, especially when you have a job like I have. And these are different from past labor negotiations.”

        The sides spent Friday discussing issues such as drug testing, the amateur draft, player discipline, scheduling, licensing, medical care, and regulations on uniforms, according to Rob Manfred, the owners' chief labor lawyer. While they are not far apart on revenue sharing, they remain divided on the luxury tax, designed to cause high-payroll teams to spend less.

        “We're at the point in time where we really need to get at the core issues and see if we can get them resolved,” Manfred said. “The pace on those issues needs to improve,” he said.


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