Angelos on minds, not agenda

March 09, 1995|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Writer

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The silence was deafening.

Major-league owners met in full session yesterday to discuss everything except the one-team rebellion that is threatening to upstage their plan to use replacement players, but the status of the Orioles' regular-season schedule and shortstop Cal Ripken's endangered consecutive games streak remained on everyone's unspoken agenda.

Expansion was on the front burner for the second straight day of meetings at the Breakers Hotel, though it was no surprise that the Expansion Committee unanimously recommended Phoenix and Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla., for admission to the major leagues in 1998 at a price of about $150 million per team.

Orioles owner Peter Angelos -- and, by extension, Ripken -- was prominent in the background, but nothing happened yesterday to steer him off a collision course with the baseball establishment.

American League president Gene Budig said that neither subject was addressed during separate league meetings or the full ownership meeting yesterday, but he told reporters afterward that the league will be on solid legal ground if it decides to discipline Angelos for failing to participate in replacement games.

"The league's attorneys continue to review all of our options," Budig said, "and we have outlined those options at great length. Those options are specified in the league constitution, and the league constitution is clearly enforceable in our judgment."

The league must decide whether to make the Orioles forfeit unplayed games or put together a replacement team to fill the void left in the regular-season schedule. Budig also could fine Angelos $250,000 for every game missed, suspend him indefinitely and even attempt to lift his franchise, but league officials have postponed serious discussion of those options until it is absolutely necessary to take action.

"I don't think it is an attitude of 'Let's not deal with it,' " said Oakland Athletics general manager Sandy Alderson, who is a member of Major League Baseball's Operations Committee. "By and large, the course has been set. It's just the details. There wasn't any further discussion. If they aren't going to play, they aren't going to play. Our choices are fairly limited."

Still, it seemed curious that the situation was not addressed during any of the meetings, yet it was addressed -- without prompting -- during Budig's news conference. Perhaps the owners decided not to broach the subject to avoid another tongue-lashing from Angelos, who angrily warned them in December that voting to implement a salary cap would be self-destructive.

"We continue to hope for a settlement," Budig said. "At the appropriate time, we will make a statement."

Angelos let the matter go unaddressed and declined to comment.

Ripken's streak also came up during Budig's briefing, but only long enough for the AL president to tell reporters that the possible impact of replacement ball on Ripken's quest to break Lou Gehrig's record still was being evaluated.

"It is under very active review," Budig said. "Let me assure you that major-league [executives] past and present are being consulted on the subject. The league will make timely announcements on both subjects."

Meanwhile, the only pressure being applied to Angelos is peer pressure, and it doesn't seem to be having any effect. He has said repeatedly that he will not compromise just to gain acceptance from other owners, most of whom have embraced management's hard-line bargaining strategy with striking players.

"It's a concern -- it has to be," New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said, "but I'm not going to lash out at Peter Angelos. . . . I hope he comes back to us, so we can resolve this in a constructive manner."

If not, there is likely to be a long-term price to pay for his independence. Some teams already have made their displeasure obvious by their dealings with the Orioles. The A's, for instance, recently said that they would not cooperate in the rescheduling of the game in which Ripken is scheduled to break Gehrig's record.

Other clubs, however, have continued to interact with the Orioles front office, and some say that Angelos will suffer no post-strike repercussions.

"I think most people feel that Peter is doing what he thinks is right," said California Angels president Richard Brown. "I think it will be forgive and forget. If your entire life is going to be made up of holding grudges, you're in trouble."

Though the arrival of Angelos yesterday was the subject of great media anticipation, he was not the focus of yesterday's meetings. The owners continued to discuss expansion, and new owners-to-be Jerry Colangelo and Vincent Naimoli were given the good news and the bad news.

The good news is that approval of the two new franchises in Phoenix and Tampa/St. Petersburg is a foregone conclusion. The bad news is that the price will be nearly $150 million and the new owners will not share in national television revenues during their first three seasons.

Today, the owners may try to jump-start the stalled labor negotiations by devising a new proposal to present to the striking players. Special mediator William J. Usery may appeal to them to put together a last-best offer in the hope that the 1995 season still can be saved from replacement ball.

"We're going to meet with Bill Usery this week, and I feel we're going to decide to put what we feel is our best offer on the table," Colorado Rockies owner Jerry McMorris said. "We still want to get the regular players on the field as soon as possible, and making our best offer would be a motivation to reaching a settlement."

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