Owners come up vote shy of sharing plan

January 07, 1994|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

ROSEMONT, ILL — ROSEMONT, Ill. -- The 28 major-league owners assembled at the O'Hare Airport Hyatt Hotel yesterday, seemingly optimistic that they would hammer out a revenue-sharing agreement that had been 13 months in the making. They went home hopeful but still hung up on the issue.

The owners came up one vote short of passing a modified revenue-sharing proposal that was presented by Player

Relations Committee president Richard Ravitch and far short of the 21 votes necessary to pass an alternative plan presented by a faction of large-market teams.

The Orioles voted predictably. They were one of 11 clubs to endorse a large-market plan that would have tripled the amount of money teams currently share but resisting a PRC plan that would have cost them significantly more.

The Orioles joined seven clubs -- believed to be Toronto, both NewYork teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston, Colorado and St. Louis -- in scuttling the PRC plan.

Though the owners voted 20-8 for the PRC plan -- which an industry source said would cost the large-market clubs an estimated $60 million per year when it went into full effect -- there still is hope among the large-market clubs that they can garner support for their own proposal, which would cost less than $50 million per year. Two other plans also were discussed and defeated.

Acting commissioner Bud Selig characterized the meeting as another step closer to expanded revenue sharing, but it appeared that the opposition to the PRC plan was solid enough to keep the situation in limbo until the owners meet in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., later this month.

"I believe that this was just part of a process that continues toward a very satisfactory conclusion," said Selig, who owns the small-market Milwaukee Brewers. "Bill Giles told me to make sure I tell you that all 28 teams voted for revenue sharing in some form today."

Ravitch has been trying to get a consensus on revenue sharing since the owners voted to reopen the collective bargaining agreement with the Major League Baseball Players Association in December of 1992. The owners tackled revenue sharing at an earlier meeting in Kohler, Wis., but only succeeded in polarizing the small- and large-market factions.

This time was supposed to be different, but there remain some strong philosophical differences among the haves and have-nots. Two teams -- the Texas Rangers and Florida Marlins -- joined the 18 teams that voted for the PRC plan in August, but a source said there is little hope of convincing any of the eight holdouts. The Rangers, Marlins and Detroit Tigers joined those eight clubs in voting for the large-market plan.

"I'd be a liar if I said I hadn't hoped to come to a conclusion today," Ravitch said. "It would have been nice to get on with the main event."

The main event, of course, is the next set of collective bargaining negotiations, which -- if the owners have their way -- will dramatically alter the sport's financial structure.

The quest for a revenue-sharing consensus is just half the battle, since the plan would only go into effect if the owners are successful in linking it to a salary cap during the labor negotiations.

"There will not be revenue sharing without a salary cap," Selig said. "We all understand that this will be the first part of the equation."

The owners will convene again Jan. 17-19 to deal with a variety of issues, including the possible selection of a new commissioner. The revenue-sharing debate could complicate an already crowded agenda, but Selig remains optimistic.

"I think the mistake we all made was, you had to know that this is an industry that has done business a certain way for 75 years and we are trying to change it fundamentally," Selig said. "What you're seeing here is trauma that anyone should be able to understand."

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