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Fehr to Players: Talks With Owners Remain at Stalemate

January 19, 2002|BEN BOLCH and JOHN KLIMA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

With the start of spring training nearly a month away, Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Assn., told a gathering of about 30 players at the Manhattan Beach Marriott on Friday that negotiations with owners on a new collective bargaining agreement remained at a stalemate.

But Fehr stressed afterward that it was too early to determine whether a deal could be reached to avoid a work stoppage.

"A work stoppage is the last thing players want at any given time," Fehr said. "It's always the last resort that you get to, only if there are important issues and all other reasonable efforts to find a way to resolve them satisfactorily have failed."

Dodger outfielder Shawn Green said he was cautiously optimistic that an agreement could be reached, especially since Fehr did not convey a sense of urgency.

"[Fehr] just told us to be patient," Green said. "We're kind of waiting to see what happens and where it's going."

Wrapping up a week of meetings with players that also included stops in Atlanta and Phoenix, Fehr did not indicate the status of the negotiations, only that both sides were plowing ahead.

"What you do is you go in each day and you hope that that's the day you're going to find a way to make the breakthrough to reach an agreement," Fehr said.

Fehr's meeting came one day after he took the unusual step of addressing owners in an attempt to improve the bitter relations that have often divided players and owners since the 1994 player strike.

Friday, Fehr was back to addressing his constituency, which was eager to learn about the latest developments.

"Players are cautious," Fehr said. "They want to be involved, they want to be kept up to date and they want to know on an ongoing basis what the circumstances are."

Said Kansas City pitcher Jeff Suppan: "It's my first time going through this. I just wanted to learn some of the history and get an idea where this is going."

Fehr also said there remained "a lot of uncertainty" regarding the possible elimination of two teams.

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