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Owners' Lawyer Optimistic

Baseball: Manfred, encouraged by negotiations, says labor agreement can be reached without a strike.

July 26, 2002|Ross Newhan

Lawyers for baseball's owners and players continued to describe their collective bargaining negotiations in positive tones Thursday in New York while acknowledging that significant differences remain.

After another lengthy session dealing with revenue sharing, management's lead lawyer, Rob Manfred, said he was encouraged with the process and added that he remains convinced an "agreement can be reached without an interruption of the season."

Of course, it takes both sides to reach an agreement, and while union lawyer Steve Fehr said it was an "optimistic sign" that "we continue to discuss ways to bridge the gap" on revenue sharing, colleague Gene Orza said it would be a mistake to dismiss the substantive problems that remain.

"I don't mean to sound pessimistic," Orza said. "I just don't think bells and whistles are in order yet."

Neither side would discuss specifics of Thursday's talks, but Fehr reiterated that "methodology" remains as critical an issue in revenue sharing as the "magnitude" of the amount to be shared. The union favors a split pool method of distribution that it believes would send more money to the lowest-revenue clubs while management favors a straight pool in which the amount to be shared would be divided equally among all the clubs and would take more from the highest-revenue clubs that drive the salary market.

There has been no significant discussion on the owners' proposed luxury tax on high payrolls, another potential obstacle.

Negotiations will continue today and are scheduled for every day next week, the longest series of meetings.

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