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Owners Put Baseball Talks on Hold Until After Briefing

September 05, 1996|ROSS NEWHAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A decision on the future of baseball's unpredictable labor talks will probably be made by management's ruling executive council next Wednesday after it is briefed by negotiator Randy Levine and the owners' labor policy committee.

The council decided in a conference call Wednesday to cancel negotiations until after that meeting and to postpone the fall owners' meeting, which had been scheduled for Seattle next week and at which some owners had hoped to be able to vote on ratification of a labor agreement.

Continued opposition by some owners--Jerry Reinsdorf of the Chicago White Sox, Wayne Huizenga of the Florida Marlins and Andy MacPhail, president of the Chicago Cubs, being the most strident--to crediting players with service time for the 75 regular-season days they were on strike and inclusion of a second consecutive, tax-free year at the end of a six-year agreement is said to have handicapped the deliberate efforts by acting Commissioner Bud Selig to achieve unanimous support.

Selig is thought to have the 21 votes necessary to ratify, but how many more is uncertain.

Management sources said the council's decision to determine the fate of the talks could bode well for completion, since the composition of the council is perceived to be less hard-line than the labor policy committee, although several owners belong to both. However, if the council decides to scrub the talks or rejects a compromise position on service time, Levine might resign, the sources speculated, since he has negotiated all aspects of the proposed agreement in communication with Selig and the labor policy committee and with the understanding that the union would not agree to any deal that did not include service time.

The council is composed of four voting owners from each league. American League owners include Milwaukee's Selig, Reinsdorf and George Steinbrenner of the New York Yankees and Carl Pohlad of the Minnesota Twins. National League owners include Jerry McMorris of the Colorado Rockies, Claude Brochu of the Montreal Expos, Fred Wilpon of the New York Mets and Bill Giles of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Atlanta Brave chairman Bill Bartholomay and Boston Red Sox chief executive officer John Harrington are ex-officio members.

Only Reinsdorf, among council members, is known to unequivocally oppose service time and the proposed agreement.

Said union leader Donald Fehr: "The delay is not in anyone's interest, but I hope it's just an internal matter among the owners and the executive council will instruct Randy to resume negotiations."

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