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Directive Criticized by Agents

Labor: Clubs warned about managerial deals negotiated by union certified representatives.

October 21, 2000|ROSS NEWHAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — Baseball's labor leader, citing national labor laws and the potential for conflict of interest, has instructed clubs that they do not have a legal obligation to negotiate managerial contracts with agents certified by the players union and who represent players.

Agents contacted Friday viewed the move as an attempt to impede the sudden and, they said, overdue salary growth and bargaining power of major league managers.

"They are only attempting this for one reason," said Tony Attanasio, who represents New York Met Manager Bobby Valentine, Milwaukee Brewer Manager Davey Lopes and San Diego Padre Manager Bruce Bochy, as well as many players.

"They don't like the fact that managers are finally getting longer contracts and more money. They are attempting to put a stumbling block between managers and their representatives."

However, Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations and human resources, said that under national labor laws, an agent who represents members of a union's rank and file for salary purposes cannot also represent "statutory supervisors, and that is certainly what managers are."

In addition, he said, there is the serious potential for conflict.

Manfred cited the possibility that an agent who represents a manager and players on the same club could feel he has the right to call the manager and say that one of his players is in line for a significant bonus if he pitches more innings or gets more at-bats and the manager may feel obligated to make that happen.

"We haven't issued a blanket instruction saying they should or shouldn't [negotiate with a certified agent]," Manfred said. "We have talked to some of the clubs and said there are serious issues they should consider and that they have no obligation to negotiate with a representative and every legal right to deal directly with their employee."

Beyond that, Manfred said, his office is taking a "careful look" at how to deal with the situation.

Some agents are concerned that baseball may even try to establish a salary scale for managers.

"I certainly see this as a bit of paranoia and an approach that might well backfire, given the sophistication of a number of respected managers in the game," said Jeff Moorad, who represents players and also represented Dusty Baker, a friend of 15 years, in his negotiations with the San Francisco Giants.

"Who is the [labor relations department] to tell managers who can advise them? . . . The market dictates who they talk to and the scale of the negotiations."

Joe Torre of the New York Yankees is the highest-salaried manager at $3 million a year. In recent escalation, Phil Garner received a four-year, $4.8-million contract from the Detroit Tigers and Don Baylor got a four-year, $5.2-million contract from the Chicago Cubs.

Baker received a two-year extension for more than $2 million a year. A San Francisco executive said the club was aware of Manfred's instructions but felt it had no alternative to negotiating with Moorad because it did not want to offend Baker.

All player agents must go through a certification process with the union, but Gene Orza, the union's associate general counsel, said that when Manfred called to get the union's opinion, "our position was that we didn't have an opinion because it's not in our purview."

In the context of collective bargaining, he said, the union represents managers and coaches only on the issues of pension and welfare, not salary.

"Our focus is to protect the interests of players," he said.

That aside, Orza added that management "wants us to agree that [the representation of managers by certified agents] is a violation of labor laws and a conflict of interest and we don't think it is. We do agree that this is probably an attempt to hold down [managerial] salaries."

Among the high-profile managers who are either now available, soon may be or are about to begin contract negotiations with their current teams are Valentine, Lou Piniella, Davey Johnson and Buck Showalter. Baker is now out of that mix, but six clubs have managerial vacancies.

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