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200 Days Into Strike, Talks Still Go Nowhere : Baseball: Plenty of words are exchanged in Scottsdale, attitudes are civil, but progress, if any, is uncertain.

February 28, 1995|ROSS NEWHAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On the 200th day of the players' strike, baseball's labor negotiations resumed at the vacation home of acting Commissioner Bud Selig, with no one throwing any china during lunch.

The civility established during two days of procedural meetings in Milwaukee last week continued during the five-hour meeting Monday, but was there progress toward resolving the seven-month dispute?

Neither Selig, joining the talks on a regular basis for the first time, nor union leader Donald Fehr would characterize it, insisting, as Fehr put it, that the gulf on the central economic issues was still too great to offer any predictions.

"This is not going to be a quick process," Selig said. "We have so much ground to make up that I don't want to get involved in the emotional highs and lows.

"We had a candid discussion of the core issues from both a pragmatic and philosophical standpoint."

While Selig said the talks would be scheduled to resume today, it was learned that Fehr, accompanied by assistant counsel Lauren Rich and Jerry McMorris, owner of the Colorado Rockies, left the headquarters hotel near Selig's home late Monday night for what was suspected to be a clandestine session out of the media spotlight.

Neither side introduced a new proposal in the earlier session, and Fehr said there would probably not be any proposals.

He said it appeared they would try to work toward common ground in a "less formalistic" context by continuing to discuss how the various pieces of the economic puzzle interlock.

John Harrington, chief executive officer of the Boston Red Sox and the owners' lead negotiator, said he sensed increased flexibility on both sides "and at this point there is going to have to be. Both sides have to bend. As for who bends the most, we'll save that for the autopsy when its all over."

With special mediator William J. Usery presiding, the owners were represented in the scaled-down session by Selig, Harrington, McMorris, David Montgomery, the Philadelphia Phillies' executive vice president, and lawyers Chuck O'Connor and Rob Manfred.

In addition to Fehr and Rich, the union's team included three players: Terry Steinbach, Jay Bell and Paul Molitor, the former Milwaukee Brewer with close ties to Selig.

Eugene Orza, the union's associate general counsel, was in Tampa, Fla., on Monday night, for a meeting with about 350 minor-league players to explain why the union maintains that minor leaguers who play with replacement players in exhibition games should be considered strikebreakers.

There will be additional meetings in West Palm Beach tonight and in Phoenix on Wednesday night, when the Angels play Arizona State in the exhibition opener. Fehr said the union did not plan a demonstration because proceeds from that game go to charity.

The minor league issue was not discussed during Monday's first negotiating session since Feb. 7. Selig said it was an ancillary issue of the type that too often has sidetracked the negotiations. Fehr, however, called it part of the owners' attempt to break the strike and, as such, could affect the dynamics of the negotiations. "We'll just have to see," he said.

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