The 26 major-league baseball clubs have pulled out of this year's winter meetings in Los Angeles because of a contractual dispute between Major League Baseball and the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues.
Major League Baseball officials announced Wednesday that they would not take part in the annual meetings, scheduled for early December in Los Angeles. Instead, MLB is attempting to set up an alternate major-league meeting at another site -- probably Dallas or Chicago.
The meetings traditionally have been a joint venture, at which the NAPBL plays host, but the winter meetings gain national attention largely because they have long been the hub of trading activity.
The advent of free agency in the mid-1970s and the lack of a firm trading deadline have diminished the importance of the annual trading convention, so the cancellation of the major-league vTC portion of the meetings this year -- which is considered a strong possibility -- could serve as proof that the meetings are obsolete anyway.
"There's always the telephone," Orioles general manager Roland Hemond said, "but I've always looked forward to the winter meetings because that's where the action is, though they certainly haven't been as enjoyable in recent years."
The rift between MLB and the National Association (the umbrella organization that governs minor-league baseball) developed over several issues, most prominent among them the amount of compensation paid directly to minor-league clubs by their major-league sponsors. Commissioner Fay Vincent also has made an issue of improving salaries and working conditions for minor-league umpires.
The NAPBL is taking the position that the winter meetings will go on as planned, but without the participation of the major-league clubs. An MLB spokesman said yesterday that an announcement about the major-league portion of the meetings could be forthcoming early next week.