If there is no significant progress on the core issues over the next two weeks, the union might revisit the possibility of setting a strike date to create a greater sense of urgency in the negotiations.
Union officials know that interrupting the season would do serious harm to the public image of the players, but consider the threat of a strike their only real leverage against the likelihood that ownership will stage a lockout after the World Series.
"It's an uncomfortable thing to do," said Atlanta Braves pitcher Tom Glavine, the National League player representative. "If we can get to an agreement without having to do that, we're all for it. Unfortunately, it's our only source of leverage in negotiations. Talking about a strike date is ultimately about getting an agreement. That's what we want to do ... get an agreement."
In 1994, with ownership pushing for a hard salary cap, the players went on strike in mid-August and did not return until the next spring.
Fans did find their way back to the ballpark after the work stoppage, but public discontent over the cancellation of the World Series lingered long enough to put a large dent in attendance over the next few years.
That fan frustration is bubbling up again in the form of numerous advocacy groups who are calling on fans to exercise their economic power to influence both sides of the labor dispute.
"After 1994, which is still fresh in people's minds, most fans are stunned that we are back in this place again," said Heather Holdridge, manager of TakeBackBaseball.com. "It's deja vu all over again. We're moving toward the same scenario as '94. The only difference is that the numbers have gotten bigger."
Holdridge said the number of outraged fans also will be larger this time, partly because of their inability to identify with the "millionaires and billionaires" who are fighting over baseball and partly because of the enhanced ability of fan advocacy groups to interact and coordinate their efforts on the Internet.
"It's obvious that there's a lot of anger going toward both sides," Holdridge said. "We started a `Dump Bud' campaign, and a lot of people contacted us and said, `What about Don Fehr?' I don't think the fans trust any of them to take care of the game."
Baseball bounced back thanks to Cal Ripken's uplifting assault on Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games record in 1995, the rise of a new Yankees dynasty and the terrific home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998.
No one seriously expects to be so fortunate if the mistakes of 1994-95 are repeated.
"We were really lucky the last time," Selig said recently. "That night of Sept. 6, 1995, in Baltimore was storybook. Sammy and Mark, it was remarkable. People have asked me ... do you think you came back too fast and both sides are now deluded by that? That's a very fair question. I don't think so. I think we all understand what's at stake here."