Owners jab away at tough split decision Haves, have-nots seek common ground

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

KOHLER, Wis. -- Grim-faced men in suits passed through the doors of the Ellison Bay room of the American Club here yesterday with steely determination to come up with a workable revenue-sharing plan in plenty of time to see their baseball teams play this weekend.

But as the second day's marathon meetings continued, representatives of the 28 major-league teams were no closer to settling their differences than the day before.

However, Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig, head of the ruling Executive Council, sounded an optimistic note that the matters dividing the two groups of owners could be settled before midnight CDT.

"There's a lot of caucusing going on," said Selig, the de facto commissioner. "Hopefully, before the night's over, we'll have something to talk about."

Talks toward instituting a plan to pool revenues among the clubs, while also introducing a program to cap player salaries, droned on toward a possible third day in this town, 50 miles north of Milwaukee.

The sticking point between a group of 18 teams and a group of 10 was over the concept of sharing revenue among clubs, much like the NFL and NBA do.

After 16 hours of talks Wednesday and early yesterday that stalled along the same issue, the sides reconvened at 8:30 a.m. yesterday, and were still talking at midnight.

When discussions first ended yesterday morning, a group of 10 teams, from larger or more financially secure markets, mulled over a proposal from a collection of 18 smaller market teams. Through the day, however, proposals and counterproposals were rushed between the two meeting rooms.

The focus of attention was centered on the Ellison Bay room, where representatives from the Orioles and nine other teams -- Toronto, Boston, the New York Mets and Yankees, Colorado, Florida, Los Angeles, Texas and St. Louis -- held fast in their opposition to revenue sharing.

They remained cloistered in the room, having catered meals brought in.

The California Angels were thought to be wavering between the two sides, and the opposition 10 struggled mightily to keep three members from leaving, because a revenue-sharing plan required 21 positive votes to pass.

"If we don't have nine or 10 or 11 guys on our side when we go to a vote, we're going to have a stalemate and we'll lose the antitrust exemption," one owner was heard yelling.

The teams were reacting to a plan proposed by Richard Ravitch, chief of the Player Relations Committee, management's bargaining arm with the players association.

The initial plan reportedly included five points, with one of them proposing a salary cap, where the players would receive 45 percent of gross revenues.

Ravitch and Selig were periodically summoned to the Ellison Bay room to hear new proposals and then carry them back across the street to the Carriage House.

Orioles president Larry Lucchino appeared to emerge as a central figure in the talks, presenting proposals and counterproposals to the smaller teams, or smoothing ruffled feathers.

For instance, Lucchino was seen talking to Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who left the Ellison Bay room fuming and yelling, "You think this is good for me? You think this is good for the White Sox?"

One owner said to Lucchino during a brief break, "I gave [Orioles owner] Eli [Jacobs] a progress report. He asked me, 'How's Larry doing?' I said, 'He's in command.' "

It had been presumed that the principal bone of contention among the owners was over the revenue-sharing plan, but Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was overheard questioning management's commitment to a salary cap.

"How many of us really want a salary cap? Four or five of us? Let's deal with that first," Steinbrenner said.

The players association is considering a Sept. 6 walkout to force the owners to the negotiating table. The institution of a salary cap by the owners almost certainly would send the players to the picket line.

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