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Arbitrator Set to Give Ruling on '86 Free Agents

September 01, 1987|ROSS NEWHAN

Arbitrator Tom Roberts said Monday that he will announce his decision in baseball's first free-agent collusion case Sept. 21.

It was thought that Roberts might announce his decision Monday, but a meeting in New York with Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major League Players Assn., and Barry Rona, legal counsel to the owners' Player Relations Committee, was designed only to clear up procedural issues, Fehr and Rona said.

The union has charged the owners with conspiring to restrict the movement of free agents in violation of the collective bargaining agreement. Roberts is ruling on a grievance pertaining to Kirk Gibson, Donnie Moore and the 62 free agents from the winter of 1985-86.

A second grievance, dealing with the events and free agents of last winter, is still being heard by another arbitrator, George Nicolau.

Both Fehr and Rona said that Roberts provided no clues as to his thinking. Rona added that he does not consider it a landmark case as much as an interpretation of contract language and the extent to which both the union and PRC can disseminate information.

"Win or lose, the clubs' individual commitment to financial restraint won't change," he said.

In Rona's view, Roberts is deciding only whether the PRC violated the collective bargaining agreement that prevents the clubs from acting in concert to restrict players' rights by distributing financial information to the clubs to document the widespread waste that accompanied their previous free spending.

Rona acknowledged that the information had "some impact" on the clubs' restraint of the last two years but that "common sense" was the dominant factor.

"We believe that what we're doing in disseminating information is consistent with past practices on both sides and consistent with the collective bargaining agreement," Rona said. "The club side has just done a more effective job of it recently."

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