ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- American League president Gene Budig has asked the Orioles to clarify their stance on the use of replacement players, a request that would seem to presage any decision regarding the fate of the team's regular-season schedule.
Budig, according to a baseball executive, sent the Orioles a letter Monday afternoon asking the team to state whether it will use replacement players. The letter reads that "for the purpose" of advising other teams scheduled to play in Baltimore next week -- the Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers -- the Orioles are asked to inform Budig of their stance promptly.
Owner Peter Angelos has made clear for months that he will not use replacement players in place of striking major-leaguers. Assuming that the regular season begins Sunday, as scheduled, Budig must decide the AL's response to the defiance of Angelos: Budig may order the Orioles to forfeit their games; may say the Orioles won't participate until after a new labor agreement is reached; may impose fines of up to $250,000 per game; or he could announce the suspension of Orioles' personnel.
Angelos, reached at his Baltimore office last night, would not confirm the contents of the letter, but did say that he would respond to Budig's request today.
The Orioles owner would not say exactly what the team's response would be. But Angelos has reiterated time and again that he will not change his stance, and that he did not see any way for compromise.
Phyllis Merhige, the AL vice president for media affairs, said Budig and league lawyers were in communication with the Orioles. Merhige would not discuss details, though she did say any decision likely wouldn't be announced before Friday.
The owners have scheduled a noon teleconference tomorrow to discuss and possibly ratify, with a simple majority vote, the use of replacement players.
Budig's action seems to follow a familiar course: Before Major League Baseball's Operations Committee canceled the Orioles' exhibition games earlier this spring, it asked the Orioles to clarify its stance on replacement players.
If the Orioles are penalized in any way -- forfeits, fines, suspensions, or in the AL East race at the conclusion of the work stoppage -- the team is expected to respond with some sort of litigation.