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Players Oppose Owners' Plan for Expanding Playoffs in 1994


SAN FRANCISCO — Don Fehr, executive director of the baseball players' union, said Monday that the players are willing to begin negotiations on an expanded playoff format, separating it from the collective bargaining issues, but oppose the concept that has been tentatively approved by owners for 1994.

Fehr, in a New York news conference, said the players "almost physically recoiled" from the concept of a second-place team qualifying for the playoffs or the possibility of two teams from the same division meeting in the first round.

"The players do not believe it is a good idea to conduct an additional round of playoffs within the traditional two-league, four-division structure, with the eight playoff teams being the first- and second-place finishers in the existing four divisions," Fehr said.

"Simply put, the obvious damage that format would do to the nature of the divisional championship races makes this approach untenable. The players do not want to play for second place or a home-field advantage. The integrity of the division races would be compromised."

Fehr said the players are open to a realignment of each league into three divisions, with the three champions and a wild-card team with the next-best record qualifying for the playoffs. He said it was unlikely the players would approve the two-league, four-division concept on even a one-year basis, with the understanding the leagues would be realigned in 1995.

"There's just nothing redeeming about it," Fehr said of the current plan.

The owners are also known to favor the three-division concept, but have not thought it could be implemented by '94.

Meeting in Denver two months ago, they voted to stay with the four-division approach next season, when an expanded playoff is scheduled to be a primary component of the new TV contract.

The owners were expected to vote on the specific playoff format during a meeting in Boston on Sept. 8-9, but negotiations with the union, which could begin next week, may supersede.

Richard Ravitch, president of the owners' Player Relations Committee, said he was delighted by the willingness of the players to separate the playoffs from other bargaining issues. He said it is definitely the owners' hope to start the expanded playoffs next season, but he also said they could be delayed until '95 if both sides agree that the three-division concept is worth the wait.

Fehr again chastised the owners for failing to include the union in their discussions on key issues but said the union will recommend against a September player strike if the owners commit their own pledges--no lockout through '94 and no unilateral introduction of a new compensation system--to a binding contract. Ravitch said he would agree to that.

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