Ray Grebey, chief negotiator for major league baseball's club owners, said yesterday that Edward Bennett Williams of the Baltimore Orioles and Eddie Chiles of the Texas Rangers were the only owners not solidly behind him in his bargaining with the Major League Baseball Players Association.
In a CBS-TV interview, Grebey was asked whether the majority of the owners were "solidly in your corner." He answered, "Twenty-four of 26."
He identified them as Chiles and Williams but said it would be unfair to call them renegades, as the interviewer had. "I doubt that in any group of 26 you're going to get a unanimous vote," he said.
Neither owner was available for comment last night.
Grebey also said the All-Star Game, scheduled for July 14 in Cleveland, has not been called off and "at this moment is not in jeopardy. We hope to reach a solution before then."
But it seems unlikely that Major League Baseball will return before the traditional midpoint of the season.
With the longest strike in baseball history having lasted 16 days and canceled 195 games, player and owner representatives remain unable to reach any common ground on the issue of free-agent compensation.
There were no negotiations yesterday. Federal mediator Kenneth E. Moffett said he would probably schedule another round of talks some time this week.
"I'll know more Monday," he said. "But it will probably be midweek."
Mark Belanger, the Orioles' player representative, said that a lot of meetings now are scheduled "with a hope and a prayer. The hardest part is not the waiting but going into the meetings and there is nothing happening."
Even if by some stunning turn of events the strike were to be settled by Wednesday, the players would need 24 to 48 hours to regroup, followed by a period of conditioning.
That would effectively wipe out any hopes the owners might have of capitalizing on a strong gate for the holiday weekend starting Friday, one of the most attractive dates on the schedule.
Marvin Miller, executive director of the players association, has said the players will need 2-2 1/2 days of training for every week the strike lasts.
Could the strike last all season? "I have no idea," Moffett said. I hope not."
Moffett, who last week mediated a settlement in the air traffic controllers' dispute, said the baseball strike is more troublesome in some ways.
"With the air traffic controllers they had 98 issues on the table," he said.
"In this, there's only one issue. These people are trying to resolve one issue for over two years."
On Friday, the last time the sides met, that one issue -- or avoidance of that issue -- again produced an infuriating session.
"We're no nearer on settlement," said Steve Rogers of the Montreal Expos, one of the negotiators for the players association. "We discussed things like statistics, but we didn't address the question of who pays for compensation and on what level. They steadfastly held that the team that signs the free agent will be the one that's punished."
In Baltimore, Rich Dauer said, "I'm not surprised that the strike has gone this far. They are pushing us, and I don't want us to come back until we get something out of it. The further it goes, the harder it'll be to settle. It's a no-win situation and I'm getting disgusted. Somebody has to move sooner or later."
The owners want the compensation to come directly from the team that signs a premium free agent. The players say that would restrict the movement and bargaining power of free agents and want the compensation to come from a player pool created by teams that draft negotiating rights to premium players.
Grebey denied the owners have a timetable for the strike, a frequent allegation by the players, and added that determining what constitutes a premium player is an important issue.
"You can't be discouraged when some of the issues once called paramount by the players now are considered insignificant," he said.
Another question that could complicate matters is the question of lost time. Players and owners disagree over whether strike time should count toward major league service. The matter could affect pensions and free agency.
"I talk to them," said Moffett of his efforts to bring the sides together. "When the time comes they'll get together."