MILWAUKEE -- Orioles players and owner Peter Angelos agree on at least one thing: The owners should not have withheld the $7.8 million All-Star Game payment to the players' pension fund, a move that caused the players to discuss pushing up the strike date to yesterday, before they decided to keep it at Aug. 12.
They disagree on the intent of the move.
Orioles player representatives Mike Mussina and Jim Poole were on a conference call with union officials and player representatives from other clubs yesterday.
And they weren't the only ones boiling over the owners' decision to withhold the payment, which was supposed to be made Aug. 1. They sensed through telephone lines a solidarity more powerful than ever.
Said Mussina: "How do we sit down and seriously negotiate with people who treat us like this?"
Said Poole: "Maybe they actually helped show the players who haven't been through this before what they are capable of doing. I didn't think it was possible, but we actually have stepped up to another level of how unified we are. As player rep, they've helped me do my job."
Angelos called the withholding of the pension payment "ill-advised and ill-timed."
"It was looked upon as a device in the negotiating process," he said. "I think it was bad from a public relations standpoint and it was the kind of move they should not have made."
Yet Angelos maintained the players intentionally overreacted to it.
"If the intent by the players is to use this as a basis for a strike, to say this is the last straw, is childish and irresponsible," he said. "I have to say to Don Fehr, nice try but no cigar. I know the owners have no intention of permanently withholding that payment, no matter how this goes. Baseball owners will keep their commitments."
When will the money be paid? Angelos said he had "no idea."
Poole saw some merit in the theory the owners attempted to force an early strike. Why? Because during a work stoppage, three-quarters of the owners must agree before they act upon an agreement. Before a work stoppage, a majority vote suffices.
"Obviously, it's a lot more difficult to get 21 votes than it is to get 15," Poole said. "We felt as if there might be a certain amount of owners who have one strong intent in mind. That is the salary cap. I don't know if they felt they were losing influence on some of the moderate owners and wanted to push us into a strike early so they can consolidate their power. I can assume Dick Ravitch suggested this as a way to consolidate their power. We didn't take the bait."
Mussina and Poole agreed it was best to stick to the original strike date.
"I think most of the guys, their first gut reaction was if they're
going to play that way we'll play that way and go out now," Mussina said. "But if you sit down and think about what's going on, if you sit down and think about what our goal is, it's to get a new Basic Agreement, and there is a reason we chose that date in the first place. Why would we move that date up and eliminate any chance we have of getting anything done?"
Poole was quick to point out that nearly one-fourth of the people affected by the benefits, including the pension plan, are trainers and coaches. "I didn't know they were getting dragged into this, too," Poole said.
Much of whatever little optimism for a settlement there was among the players vanished.
"I can't believe the people who run this industry would want to give up this much of the season, to give up the playoffs and the World Series," Mussina said. "Then again, I didn't think these people would do what they've done up to this point."
REFUNDS SET FOR RAIN CHECKS
Fans holding rain checks from the Orioles' July 27 rainout may obtain a refund for the face value of the tickets. Fans continue to have the option of exchanging those rain checks for an Orioles regular-season home game in 1994 or 1995 (excluding Opening Day).
To get a refund, mail rain checks along with name, address and telephone number to: Baltimore Orioles, P.O. Box 29937, Baltimore, Md. 21230-0937.
Refund requests must be postmarked by June 1, 1995. Thereafter, the rain checks may only be exchanged for a 1995 game.
Season-ticket holders may include their rain checks with their renewal applications for 1995 and receive a credit at face value. Fans may exchange rain checks for other games at Oriole Park and the Orioles Baseball stores in Washington, D.C., and York, Pa.