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Union Skeptical of a Proposed Signing Freeze

October 06, 1994|ROSS NEWHAN

Attorneys for the baseball players' union reacted skeptically Wednesday to the owners' request for a 45-day freeze on contract signings and a postponement in the start of free-agent filing from Oct. 15 to Nov. 30.

Management attorney Chuck O'Connor, in a meeting with union officials in New York, said owners are concerned about players signing before new rules are established--either via a bargaining agreement or unilateral implementation of the owners' salary-cap proposal--and the freeze would give both sides a chance to focus on bargaining negotiations, which are likely to resume next week.

Union attorney Lauren Rich said the union would weigh the request over the next few days but expressed reservations.

"We know why the owners want the 45 days," Rich said. "They want the 45 days to decide exactly what they're going to implement. Our question is, what advantage is it to the players? They haven't answered that yet, and the way I figure it, they're saying to the players, 'Stand still for 45 days while we focus you in our gun sights.' I mean, why do we need a freeze to get on with negotiations?"

Rich said the union also fears that owners might unilaterally impose the freeze even if the players reject it, which would raise the specter of collusion. O'Connor acknowledged that the owners are thinking about imposing the freeze no matter what the union decides and said the anti-collusion clause in the current bargaining agreement can be unilaterally eliminated, a view the union would challenge, sources said.

In Milwaukee, meanwhile, acting Commissioner Bud Selig had what he called "a pleasant exchange of ideas" with one of his chief antagonists, Baltimore Oriole owner Peter Angelos, ostensibly, sources said, for Angelos to lobby for a tax concept that he recently proposed to union leader Donald Fehr and which Selig has agreed to present to the other owners.

Under the plan, the union would apply a 3% tax to player salaries, which would add $30 million, based on $1 billion in compensation, to the $70 million that the big-market clubs have offered to share with small-market clubs in their current proposal. However, the Angelos plan is devoid of the salary cap that a majority of owners still think is necessary.

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