Umpires are without contract, keeping replacement issue alive

April 03, 1995|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

Baseball's replacement issue still hasn't been completely resolved.

Substitute players are no longer on the agenda, but barring hard and successful negotiations in the next three weeks, the already tainted 1995 season will start with replacement umpires.

Without a contract since the end of last season, major-league umpires were locked out by the owners on Jan. 1. The umpires had asked for a 60-percent raise over the life of a four-year proposal, but with the players already on the sidelines, the owners obviously felt no urgency to negotiate.

The Major League Baseball Umpires Association, through Philadelphia-based representative Richie Phillips, recently withdrew unfair labor practice charges they had filed with the National Labor Relations Board. Now that baseball is preparing to formalize a plan for the season, it's possible the umpires will consider re-filing those charges.

In their last contract, the umpires were protected against the possibility of a players strike. They were guaranteed 60 days pay, so the Aug. 12 strike was late enough to assure them of collecting a full year's salary.

However, the umpires were not paid the lump sum for postseason play that is divided equally among the staffs of the two leagues. That is expected to be part of the negotiations to settle the dispute.

Umpires make from $60,000 to $175,000, depending on seniority, and were to receive an additional $10,000 to $20,000 each from the postseason bonus pool.

The only thing certain about the status of the umpires is that they will not affect the delayed start of the season. Baseball has been down this road before, using minor-league and amateur umpires on two other occasions, including the first seven games the 1985 playoffs.

In the past, the umpires have gotten no support from the players association, and that will hold true again. The one consolation for baseball is that the agreements for both the players and umpires now expire in the same year.

That works to the disadvantage of the umpires, whose negotiations stayed on the back burner until the owners could get the players back on the field. There was no desire to forge a deal with the umpires and run the risk of again having to pay them while the players were on strike.

Replacement umpires for replacement players was a perfect fit.

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