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Baseball Owners Cutting Players' Salary Guarantee


Major league baseball owners, perhaps preparing for unilateral implementation of their salary-cap proposal, are making significant revisions, including removal of the $1-billion-a-year salary guarantee for the players, a management lawyer said Saturday.

The removal of any salary guarantee, the lawyer said, was a response to the more than $500 million that the clubs have lost since start of the player strike on Aug. 12. The proposal, first presented to the players on June 14 and unchanged until now, still contains the cap, elimination of salary arbitration and major modifications in free agency, the lawyer said.

However, in addition to removal of the salary guarantee, the proposal now establishes a salary scale for younger players starting at a rookie minimum of $115,000 and up to $500,000 for a fourth-year player, and eliminates the proposed 50-50 split of licensing revenue, allowing the union to keep whatever it generates.

The management lawyer insisted that the revisions are strictly part of the negotiating process, but others familiar with the situation said the owners are preparing to implement their last, best offer.

Either way, said union head Donald Fehr, the players are not going to accept the cap. Thus, they are not really affected by the removal of the guarantee.

"It was illusionary to begin with. It was a joke to begin with," Fehr said. "It was a guarantee only if revenues in it go down.

"Usually, when you guarantee something, it's a guarantee against certain contingencies. In this case, if revenues went down, the guarantee went. If revenues went up, salaries would still be depressed by the cap. The bottom line is that mediator or not, the owners are back to their old tactics. They don't want to negotiate, they don't want to talk to us. They only want to talk to the press."

The revised proposal is expected to be presented to the union during the next joint meeting with special mediator William J. Usery, who is scheduled to meet with the two sides separately this week.

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