Selig likely to end season today

September 14, 1994|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Writer

MILWAUKEE -- Sometime today, acting baseball commissioner Bud Selig is expected to bring the final curtain down on the 1994 season.

Selig spent much of yesterday talking by conference call to other owners. He probably will make the announcement at a news conference after a final executive council caucus this afternoon. Then he and the other 27 major-league owners can begin digging out of the logistical mess that is certain to result.

"We'll see what happens overnight, if anything," Selig said late yesterday. "I'm still hoping, but each day the ground becomes more tenuous."

There was little reason left for optimism as Selig closed out his day with an appearance on ABC's "Nightline." There have been no significant negotiations since the owners dismissed a revenue-sharing proposal submitted to them last week by the Major League Baseball Players Association.

The possibility of a last-minute flurry of activity seems remote, though the players and owners did make a last-ditch attempt to settle their differences with Selig's original Sept. 9 deadline looming last week.

The announcement today -- which would wipe out the rest of the regular season, playoffs and World Series -- almost guarantees that the owners will implement their salary cap proposal unilaterally. When they do, the union is expected to respond with a legal and political onslaught that would dwarf anything that has happened in the troubled history of baseball labor relations.

But the immediate concern is the public relations damage that will result from the first World Series cancellation in 90 years. That cannot be a pleasant prospect for Selig, who describes himself as one of baseball's biggest fans, but who has chosen to take the responsibility entirely upon himself. History might not smile on him, but he seems confident that the owners have taken the right path.

"I was a history major, and I view it in that context," he said this week. "Yes, of course, like any human being, I'm not happy about the personal attacks. But I would feel worse if we continued to ignore our problems and the industry later had some awesome problems when things got out of control. I wouldn't want to be remembered for my role in that, either. It's a painful position."

In the meantime, Selig and his fellow owners are trying to make it clear that the labor confrontation that prompted the 34-day-old baseball strike was not the work of a small cabal of revenue-hungry zealots.

New York Yankees owners George Steinbrenner surfaced earlier this week and came to Selig's defense in no uncertain terms. He told the Milwaukee Journal that "for the last 18 months, the leadership in baseball has been better than at any time I've been in the game."

Of course, Steinbrenner was not on the best of terms with some of baseball's previous commissioners, but the support of one of the biggest of the big-market owners lended some credence to Selig's contention that large-market dissent has been exaggerated by the media.

As time runs out, both sides continue to bounce the blame back and forth.

"We were open to different ways other than the salary cap and we were very, very eager to find a settlement," ownership negotiator Richard Ravitch said yesterday morning during an appearance on NBC's "Today."

"We have been far more amenable to compromise and what we have been told is the players will not agree to any constraint whatsoever on players' compensations."

Union director Donald Fehr, on the same program, blasted the owners for turning aside a union revenue-sharing proposal last week and hastening the declared end of the 1994 season.

"There is seemingly almost a rush, and in some cases a gleeful rush, to put an end to it all, and I expect Bud to do that," Fehr said.

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