RYE BROOK, N.Y. -- The Major League Baseball Players Association will make one last attempt to dissuade ownership from implementing a salary cap. But the contract proposal that the union will place on the table when negotiations resume today is not expected to produce a breakthrough in the protracted labor dispute.
The list of union givebacks does not include a salary cap or the kind of severe taxation plan that would have a direct impact on payrolls, so the owners are expected to go through with their plan to declare an impasse next week and impose a modified version of their original salary cap proposal.
Ownership committee chairman John Harrington yesterday left open the possibility that the deadline for implementation could be moved back again if the negotiations are "progressive," but it would take a major change in the chemistry of the negotiations to avert a showdown next week over implementation.
"I just have no way to predict it," said Atlanta Braves president Stan Kasten. "I've been optimistic every time I've come to one of these sessions. So far, I've been wrong every time, so no more predictions."
The players are expected to deliver a plan that includes an upgraded tax on payrolls and a list of proposals aimed at creating a long-term economic partnership with management. It reportedly calls for the union to have input in the financial operation of the game and a say in the selection of a new commissioner.
Members of the ownership bargaining committee arrived at the Doral Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center yesterday afternoon and spent the evening meeting among themselves. The players were expected to submit a detailed copy of their new proposal to special mediator William J. Usery last night. The joint meeting is scheduled to begin today at noon.
Time is running short. The owners are scheduled to meet on Thursday in Chicago to vote on implementation. If they get the 21 votes necessary to impose the salary cap, the new economic system would go into effect immediately.
The management bargaining team has backed away from its demand for cost certainty, replacing it with the less-threatening concept of cost control. It is a semantic step in the right direction, but the players still feel that the owners are bent on putting severe restrictions on the growth of salaries.
There has been no stated change in management's hard-line position, but the owners have toned down the threatening rhetoric that heightened tensions last week in Leesburg, Va.
"I think it is incumbent on both of us to collectively make a deal," Kasten said. "We're 120 days into a strike that has been very painful for both sides. Hopefully, that itself will help move things along."