On a day when the parties in the baseball strike did not progress far enough even to meet face to face, Eddie Chiles, the owner of the Texas Rangers, said that he and two other American League owners had struck out Tuesday in their attempt to hasten the end of the strike.
Chiles, along with Edward Bennett Williams, the owner of the Baltimore Orioles, and George Steinbrenner, the owner of the New York Yankees, met with Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and American League President Lee MacPhail for two hours Tuesday.
"We didn't propose any kind of change in the negotiating procedure, except to speed it up," Chiles said by telephone from his office in Fort Worth, stressing that the three had neither attempted nor requested "the authority to develop a new proposal" during the "brainstorming" session. However, he said, "we indicated that if we're stuck, if we can't move with the proposal we've got, then maybe something new should be tried."
"They said, 'Well, what else is there?"
"We said, there's lots of things you can do."
The three owners then threw out perhaps a half-dozen ideas, none of which, Chiles said, was intended to be a proposal. The ideas included compensation for ranking free agents in the form of five amateur draft picks; a player from a roster in which 20 players could be protected; or $400,000 or more cash.
"Do I think they (the suggestions) are dead in the water?" Chiles said. "It looks like it to me."
"I'm feeling a little bit depressed," he added, moments later. "I'm not optimistic about a quick settlement of the strike. Why? There's one proposal on the table, it's been there for a considerable amount of time, and there's been no movement."
Speaking hypothetically about any business, Chiles said, "Owners should be in control of their own destiny, shouldn't they? They're the ones that are accountable for the bottom line."
While conceding that the owners had been "more or less programmed to be careful about what we say," Chiles said, "I want to be careful because I don't want to cause any damage. But if we're bogged down this long, I don't know how much damage you can do."
That question was addressed this afternoon by the ruling eight-owner executive council of Major League Baseball, which issued a statement of support for Ray Breybey, the owners' chief negotiator. The statement called "reports of owner dissatisfaction with the Player Relations Committee . . . outrageous and counterproductive to the resolution of the current collective bargaining issues."
MacPhail agreed: "If everyone talks about the owners caving in, or splitting, and the players feel that (is the case), they won't get realistic in their bargaining, and I don't feel they have been realistic in their bargaining."
Grebey, the director of the Player Relations Committee, was pressed by reporters about dissension in the owners' ranks. "There is no schism. . . . no lack of unity among the vast majority of clubs," he said.
Asked why a statement of support would be necessary if there was no schism, Grebey replied, "Because of reports in the New York press that were totally unfounded."
Questioned repeatedly about the existence of a group of owners dissatisfied with the way negotiations are being handled, Grebey said, "I have no need, no knowledge of a majority group."
The slip of the tongue, as those things are wont to do, at the truth of the matter.
If Grebey does not need a minority group of owners, dissenting from the position of the Players Relations Committee, then the minority group needs more support if it is going to get anywhere with its position. Chiles said, "We (Chiles, Williams and Steinbrenner) don't know of anyone else that shares our alarm, our feelings and our concern for baseball."
Chiles admitted that he saw no way for the owners to participate in the negotiations. Still, he said, "It would be a good thing if the owners could meet face to face with the players. They are the only ones involved in the process that have anything to lose."
In the negotiations, federal mediator Kenneth E. Moffett decided after meeting with both sides separtely that there was not point in meeting together. Two hours later, he recessed the negotiations until 3 p.m. Friday. t
"I felt if they did get together there was just that possibility that an already deadlocked situation might possibly get into a worse situation," Moffett said.
Moffett said he had instructed both sides "to rethink their positions" and come back "prepared to go forward."
Asked if there was anything said in the separate meetings that might indicate there would be some movement Friday, Moffett said, "No."
Don Fehr, general counsel of the Major League Baseball Players Association, who represented the union along with Bob Boone of the Philadelphia Phillies, Rusty Staub of the New York Mets, Mark Belanger of the Orioles and Steve Rogers of the Montreal Expos, said positions are "already pretty damn hard. There was no point to having meetings where there would be fireworks rather than constructive dialogue."
Sources said some of the ill feelings stemmed from Tuesday's session, when Chub Feeney, president of the National League, encouraged the players to trust the owners and to not worry about being hurt by free-agent compensation.
Boone said the players "feel pretty stymied" right now. Still, he would not predict how long the now 6-day-old strike might last. "That's like asking a catcher in a extra-inning game, with the score tied, how many innings will it go and can you win it. I have no idea."