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Fehr's Players Have No Fear

Baseball: Union chief claims solidarity and updates Dodgers on negotiations. Grudzielanek says no one wants a strike.

July 16, 2002|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Don Fehr, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Assn., reaffirmed the players' solidarity amid the owners' doomsday claims, saying Monday that "you can't scare these guys" after a closed-door meeting with the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.

Recent comments from Commissioner Bud Selig about two teams facing imminent cash-flow crises have not distracted players, whom Fehr is updating on the progress of collective bargaining talks scheduled to resume Thursday in New York. And the union chief, in Los Angeles this week while continuing his tour of all 30 clubs, reiterated his hope of reaching an agreement, although no progress has been made on the key issues of revenue sharing and a luxury tax on teams with high payrolls.

The Dodgers discussed those issues and others during the 2-hour 15-minute session, emerging united after Fehr filled in the blanks.

"There are a lot of things up in the air, and we're trying to go about it the right way, the way we see fit as a group," second baseman Mark Grudzielanek said. "Everybody hopes that things can be worked out, and nobody wants a strike."

Fehr, who also met with the St. Louis Cardinals before Monday's game, would not comment specifically on Selig's claims, responding only generally about the mood of the players.

"You would think people would understand that [the players can't be intimidated]," he said. "They are here, in large part, because they want to compete. They want to get the right thing done, and they don't ever give up.

"They understand that we've got a lot of work to do, and this is very serious business. Hopefully, we'll be able to find a way to get it done. Nobody wants a strike; it's the last resort."

The union's executive board did not set a strike date after a five-hour meeting July 8 in Rosemont, Ill., but players are prepared for the possibility of baseball's ninth work stoppage. It is doubtful that a date would be set before Fehr, who plans to meet with the San Diego Padres today, completes his tour at the end of the month, and unclear whether the union would set an August date, or wait until September.

Progress has been made on the concept of one worldwide draft, but negotiations have lagged on the core financial issues.

The high-revenue clubs transferred $167 million to the lower-revenue clubs last year, and the owners are now seeking to transfer about $298 million from the high-revenue teams in their proposal. The union is at $228 million.

Fehr previously suggested a compromise would seem possible on that issue, based on the sides' numbers, but he was noncommittal at Dodger Stadium.

"Collective bargaining is a difficult process," he said. "Sometimes it's a lot slower than you think it should be, and sometimes it moves very fast.

"It's not something that you can grade day by day. It's not something you can make judgments on day by day."

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