Mediators key to striking chord of calm

August 22, 1994|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Writer

If there is any hope of saving the rest of the 1994 baseball season, it lies in the ability of federal mediators to persuade the players and owners to tone down their angry rhetoric and make a serious attempt to reach a settlement.

That may be easier said than done, but mediation chief John Calhoun Wells will bring the sides together today to lay the ground rules for the next phase of negotiations and map out a schedule for the resumption of collective bargaining.

The mediation team will meet with Major League Baseball Players Association director Donald Fehr and ownership negotiator Richard Ravitch today, then meet separately with the two bargaining units tomorrow before full-scale negotiations resume -- probably on Wednesday.

Wells apparently will help determine the makeup of the bargaining units.

He persuaded the owners last week to drop an internal rule that prohibited owners from attending negotiating sessions. So there will be a group of ownership representatives on hand for the next full-scale bargaining session. The players union has made a practice of inviting members to meetings, but union officials probably will be asked to limit player participation to a number equal to the ownership contingent.

Both sides have expressed hope that the change in the chemistry of the bargaining units might help break the deadlock over ownership's proposed salary cap, but that won't happen if the added voices only serve to drown out any chance for a meaningful discussion.

Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who was one of the first owners to advocate the presence of owners at the negotiations, expressed concern recently that it might be counterproductive if it leads to the impression that Ravitch is no longer the sole bargaining agent for management.

"I've been an advocate of that for a long time," Angelos said. "The owners should be heard. But there has to be one clearly defined negotiator, or what you are going to end up with is a shouting match that doesn't accomplish anything."

There have been a few meetings like that -- when the volatile Ravitch has gone decibel for decibel with a mob of players -- and it could get even louder with added ownership representation.

Of course, the owners will have to stop fighting among themselves first. The makeup of the ownership contingent for the first bargaining session already has sparked controversy within the ranks of management, where some owners have complained privately that acting commissioner Bud Selig has stacked his working list of candidates with too many ownership proxies and too many representatives from the American League.

Selig is believed to be working from a preliminary list of 10 ownership representatives that includes only four individuals with actual ownership interest.

The other six spots are thought to be filled by high-ranking club executives such as Minnesota Twins executive vice president Andy MacPhail, Philadelphia Phillies VP David Montgomery and Selig's daughter, Milwaukee Brewers VP Wendy Selig-Prieb.

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