Players might file grievance charging owners with collusion

Union move would address signing period last winter

Baseball

October 31, 2003|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

LOS ANGELES - As Vladimir Guerrero, Miguel Tejada, Gary Sheffield, Andy Pettitte and several other high-caliber players prepare to test baseball's free-agent market, the players' union is considering filing a grievance through the industry's legal channels that would charge owners with acting in collusion to fix salaries during last winter's slow signing season.

Donald Fehr, the union's executive director, would not comment. Sources close to the situation said Wednesday they did not know whether the union would officially act on its conviction that owners violated the bargaining agreement last winter or would simply use the threat of a grievance as warning against collusive activity this winter.

"It's important that the owners know that their actions of last year won't be swept under the rug," a person close to the union said.

It was before the start of the 2003 season that the union requested ownership documents pertaining to player negotiations during the preceding off-season.

Those documents, in addition to negotiating notes obtained from agents, have convinced the union, sources said, that owners conspired to restrict salary growth by: 1. reporting all offers through what one agent called a "central command" or information bank in the industry's New York office from which clubs could gather data on what other clubs were offering; and 2. employing the 60-40 rule - which prohibits respective clubs from having debt larger than 40 percent of assets and which was supposed to be phased in as part of the new bargaining agreement - as a salary cap of sorts.

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