The 1985 major league baseball strike is over after two days of missed games and two days of intense bargaining that culminated almost nine months of negotiations.
The owners and the Major League Players Association announced late tonight an agreement that will end the second strike in the last five years and allow games to resume Thursday.
The American League will play five doubleheaders, including the Baltimore Orioles against the Blue Jays in Toronto, and two single games. The National League will play six single games.
The agreement came after both sides compromised on their most pressing issues. The owners agreed to make a large increase in their contributions to the players' pension plan, and the players agreed to salary arbitration concessions.
Donald Fehr, acting executive director of the players union, said he would advise all 26 player representatives of the actual agreement by midday Thursday. The pact must be ratified by all the players, but Fehr did not expect any problems.
The missed games will be made up either through doubleheaders or on offdays. If the games are made up through doubleheaders, players will be docked for a half-day's pay, but will receive full pay if they are played on an offday.
"The bargaining in baseball, for some reason, is a very difficult enterprise," Fehr said. "It's never been easy, and it wasn't easy this time. We have an agreement that we hope will work, and we'll do our best to make it work through the '89 season when it expires."
Lee MacPhail, chief negotiator for the owners as head of the four-member executive committee of the Player Relations Committee, which sets negotiating policy, said that it wasn't a perfect agreement but he was glad the country can get back to baseball.
"It doesn't accomplish our main objective, which was to get the clubs back to the break-even point by 1988," he said. "But it is a start. We're pleased with the agreement."
Commisioner Peter Ueberroth entered the negotiations today at about 11 a.m. It was the first time that he had sat in on the sessions, although he had talked with both sides. He was quite modest in assessing his role in getting a settlement.
"My role in this?" Ueberroth said. "I had no role. This was done by these two negotiating teams, led by Don Fehr and Lee MacPhail."
Fehr said, "The essential agreement was reached before he arrived."
Negotiations on the new Basic Agreement began nearly nine months ago. The last agreement expired Dec. 31, 1984.
Under the terms of this agreement, the owners will contribute about $196 million to the players' pension fund over the course of the agreement, including a retroactive contribution for 1984. The clubs will contribute $25 million for 1984, $33 million annually in 1985-88 and $39 million in 1989.
Although not written into the contract, revenue sharing was an implied part of the pension settlement. Fehr said there would be "some sort of redirection" of money to poorer clubs from a fund created by savings on the pension settlement.
The salary arbitration issue was the one that needed the most compromise to reach an agreement because it involved a clash of principles. The owners had felt the salary arbitration system, along with free agency, contributed largely to the financial problems they say they are fighting. They wanted to raise the number of years of major league service required before a player could file to have his salary fixed by an arbitrator from two years to three years. They also wanted to place a 100 percent cap on the increase an arbitrator could award.
Under this agreement, there will be no cap on the salary award from an arbitrator, but the criteria used to make the award have been tightened somewhat in favor of the owners. The minimum eligibility has been raised to three years, but that will not go into effect until 1987. Because there is the delay in implementation, current players with at least one full year of major league service will be eligible to file after two years.
There also will be a permanent change in the league championship series, which will be played in a best-of-seven format beginning this year, instead of the best-of-five as in previous seasons.
Another union gain was in minimum salary, which was raised from $40,000 annually to $60,000.
The free-agent re-entry draft also was abolished, and teams losing free agents now will be compensated with amateur draft picks instead of professional players, as was done under the previous contract.
The sides said there was further agreement on drug testing, but it apparently will not include players.
MacPhail said he had wanted to get more for the owners he represents, but felt the sides may have helped create a formula to better settle future disputes.
"I'm sorry that we could not do this without a strike," he said. "I'm also sorry that we weren't able to do a little better job for the clubs. Anything that was said about the financial situation was not rhetoric.
"One reason I took the job as head of the PRC was because I wanted to help better the relationship and increase the trust between the players and the owners."
Fehr expressed similar sentiments: "Maybe sometime down the road, we might be able to find a way to do the job so as to not have it result in a crisis. If we can do that, we will have done something."