Angelos' comments put him at odds with other owners

August 12, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun Staff Writer

All of a sudden, some of the same baseball owners who called Orioles chairman Peter Angelos a savior and a welcome addition are now labeling him a "maverick," and a "loose cannon" because he does not completely toe their line on issues at the center of today's players strike.

But Angelos appears undaunted by the new labels, and vowed yesterday to continue speaking publicly, especially if his comments can bring a quick end to baseball's eighth work stoppage in the past 22 years.

Though he believes, with other owners, that baseball is in financial distress, Angelos has broken ranks with comments that place him apart from the rest of management and with Richard Ravitch, the owners' chief negotiator.

Angelos yesterday said the owners should not unilaterally impose a salary cap -- the major sticking point between $l themselves and the players -- in the off-season, in exchange for a pledge from the players not to strike, so that both sides can continue to negotiate in good faith.

"If the owners do impose arbitrarily and unilaterally a salary cap, that clearly is going to continue whatever work stoppage is going on then, or if we're playing baseball at that time, we're going to have another work stoppage," said Angelos, during a pre-game news conference at Camden Yards.

Angelos reiterated his position that the owners should open their financial records completely to the players and to an independent "national figure of the highest reputation and unimpeachable integrity" to further lend credibility to their claim of fiscal peril.

"One has to convince the players . . . and they have an obligation to be sure that the crisis that we say does exist, does exist," said Angelos.

In his strongest comments to date on the subject, Angelos called revenue sharing "a form of welfare" for baseball clubs, adding, "We've seen what's happened with welfare."

He repeated his contention that the financial solution for so-called small-market cities, like Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and San Diego, is to "Camden-ize," with new ballparks similar to Oriole Park, rather than payments from bigger clubs like the Orioles.

Angelos suggested that Major League Baseball could offer smaller clubs a subsidy to begin the necessary efforts to build new stadiums rather than a yearly payment.

"Don't you think that would be better than giving them $3 million every year?" said Angelos. "Giving the Pittsburgh Pirates $3 million a year isn't much more than helping keep them from drowning."

Angelos chided Ravitch and Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, for allowing perceived personality differences to get in the way of negotiating a settlement.

To be sure, Angelos' recent comments, which are as conciliatory to the players as any among baseball management, have placed him on the outside.

Angelos was upbraided yesterday by Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who said, "The problem with Mr. Angelos is he's new to the game and not fully aware of all the things that are going on."

But Angelos' words have enhanced his credibility with an important constituency: the players.

"He's kind of the new breed of ownership, who think maybe things should be done more honestly," said Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina, the team's player representative.

THE ISSUES

Revenue sharing

* What owners want: Sharing on a 50-50 basis, with $1 billion total guaranteed to the players over seven years if revenues don't decrease. Implementation of the agreement clubs made with each other in January to increase revenue that is shared among teams.

* What players want: Keep the status quo, whereby salaries and benefits for players currently amount to 58 percent of revenues.

Salary arbitration

* Owners: Eliminate it.

* Players: Reduce the threshold for it to two years of major-league service, which was its level in 1974-86. It currently is three years plus the top 17 percent of the players with between two and three years of major-league service.

Free agency

* Owners: Threshold would drop from six years of major-league service to four, but clubs would be able to keep their free agents by matching the highest offer until the players have six years' service.

* Players: Eliminate the restriction on repeat free agency within a five-year span if a player's club offers salary arbitration at the end of his contract.

Minimum salary

* Owners: Escalating scale for players with less than four years' major-league service, although they could sign for more than the minimum.

* Players: Increase it from $109,000 to $175,000-$200,000.

Additional items

* Owners: After a four-year phase-in period in the seven-year agreement, clubs couldn't have payrolls more than 110 percent of the major-league average or less than 84 percent of the average.

* Players: Increase pension levels for players who played before 1970.

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