Owners close meetings with open questions Revenue-sharing plan, salary caps unresolved

August 13, 1993|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

KOHLER, Wis. -- After meeting for nearly 31 hours, presumably to begin to put baseball's financial house in order with revenue sharing and a cap on players' salaries, representatives of the 28 major-league teams left here early today without settling anything.

The owners left the posh American Club resort hotel just before midnight without having taken a vote on the packaged concepts of distributing their individual wealth among all of the teams and placing a cap on player salaries, a notion that was sure to bring a player walkout.

Richard Ravitch, head of the Player Relations Committee, the owners' bargaining arm with the players association, categorized the talks between two sides of owners, representing different perspectives, as productive.

"Though I'm obviously disappointed that we didn't achieve closure . . . I believe enormous progress has been made," Ravitch said.

Ravitch said he believed owners were close to accepting a revenue-sharing plan that he deemed "necessary" to the financial health of the sport.

"The discourse will be very complicated," Ravitch said. "Creating a new economic system for this game is not an easy thing, but a necessary thing, and it will be achieved."

Meanwhile, in an attempt to place the burden of public pressure on the players as the sides approach the end of their collective bargaining agreement, Ravitch pledged that the owners will not lock out the players before next spring training.

Also, Ravitch said the owners will not impose rule changes that might affect the upcoming signing period for free agents.

"In no way will the opening of the 1994 season be endangered at any time by the owners," Ravitch said.

Ravitch's verbal pledge, however, comes short of the written promise demanded by Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, to halt a planned Sept. 6 players' walkout.

Ravitch and Bud Selig, acting baseball commissioner and owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, met the press after the 28 owners and their representatives had met in often fractious sessions during two days to try to make peace among themselves before trying to make peace with the players.

Once convening Wednesday afternoon, the owners rapidly broke into two camps, divided on the issue of revenue sharing.

The groups, not surprisingly, divided along fiscal lines, with 10 larger market or more wealthier teams, including the Orioles, New York Yankees, New York Mets, Colorado, Florida, Texas, Los Angeles, Boston, Toronto and St. Louis, occupying one room in the American Club resort hotel, blocking a series of revenue-sharing initiatives.

Meanwhile, representatives of the 18 other clubs remained in a room in a building across the street, equally committed to the notion of fairly distributing the wealth.

"To suggest that there is two groups is to misunderstand the nature of the discussion. There were no secrets," Ravitch said.

"Baseball isn't divided into big markets and small markets. It's a variation of the two."

The process led to proposals and counter-proposals between the sides as well as frequent exchanges overheard by reporters who were shooed from the meeting rooms.

At the end, the owners, save for Selig, the designated spokesman, fled the hotel site without commenting on the proceedings by --ing for waiting vans.

Selig said he was not perturbed by the owners' inability to reach a consensus, saying the group had made progress the likes of which he had not seen in 24 years in the game.

He said he was confident the owners eventually would pass a revenue-sharing plan that would help clubs in smaller markets, including his own Brewers, said to have lost millions in the past few seasons.

"The importance is not how fast you get it done, but that you get it right," Selig said.

"A year ago, you not only couldn't have had this meeting, you wouldn't have had this meeting."

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