Representatives for the baseball owners and the players met for five hours yestereday in New York, the longest meeting in weeks, as the 14-day old strike became the longest in baseball history. But federal mediator Kenneth E. Moffett said no progress was made.
During the sometimes-heated talks, the players association responded to the owners' latest proposal with one of their own, a modification of their pooled compensation plan.
But Ray Grebey, the owners' chief negotiator, rejected the players' counterproposal. "I'm encouraged by the discussion . . . but I don't think the situation has changed," Grebey said. "There was very lengthy discussion but some of it was very destructive."
Bob Boone, the National League representative said, "We feel they are moving at such a snail's pace that we are not encouraged."
Certainly, it was a discouraging day for the owners, who learned that their daily strike insurance payments will be diverted into an escrow account until a suit brought by the Major League Umpires Association can be resolved.
Grebey dismissed the suit, which will be heard at 10:15 a.m. in Philadelphia, as "frivolous" and said it "could impede the negotiations" scheduled to begin at 1:30 today in New York. "I can't be in two places at one time."
"If they get tied up in Philadelphia, they're supposed to let us know," said Don Fehr, the general counsel for the players association.
Fehr said the players offered four modifications to their pooled compensation proposal yesterday:
The owners could protect any 36 players out of their entire system, with all the remaining players going into a pool from which a team losing a free agent could select. Previously, the players had proposed that the bottom four players on a team's 40-man major league roster would go into the pool.
Ranking free agents would be determined on the basis of performance statistics compiled over the last two years before free agency instead of three years, as the owners proposed.
The reentry draft would be conducted as it has in the past, with a club remaining in the bidding until it has passed on two successive rounds, as opposed to one round, as the owners proposed.
There would be no compensation for a player selected by five or fewer clubs, instead of four, as the owners proposed.
Meanwhile, in the increasingtly litigious national pastime, attorneys for the Major League Umpires Association and Lloyd's of London, the owners' main insurer, will appear in court to begin arguments on the class action suit brought by the umpires that seeks to prevent the owners from collecting their $50 million strike insurance and alleges they have not bargained in good faith.
On Wednesday, Judge Stanley M. Greenberg of the Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia issued a temporary restraining order preventing the insurance payments from being made to the owners.
Although Grebey said the payments -- $100,000 per game per day -- had been made Wednesday and Thursday, James A. Greer, an attorney for Lloyd's, said the payments would be put into an escrow account until the suit is resolved.
Greer said, "The underwriters do not want to be in default of their promises or in contempt of court. So the money will be placed with an escrow agent" until the court decides whether to issue the injunction."
In filing the suit, Richie Phillips, the attorney for the umpires, said, "It's our feeling that the $1 million-plus a day the owners will receive from the insurance provides incentives and encouragement to continue the pattern of refusing to bargain to gain a full settlement of the dispute."
Some in management questioned what legal standing the umpires had to bring the suit. Phillips said, "There is an obligation by Major League Baseball that extends to the umpires to use their best efforts to provide a full and complete season. Our position is that they are not doing so. As far as the damages that occur to the umpires, that's clear. They are paid for the first 30 days of the strike and not beyond. They can not gain any other kind of employment because they are on standby in the event of a settlement."
There was some speculation in management circles that the suit was actually instigated by Marvin Miller, the executive director of the players association, a charge both Miller and Phillips denied. "When the players association institutes a suit, it does so under its own name," Miller said.