As ballparks from Boston to San Diego move into another week of quiet, the only apparent movement in the baseball strike is by the umpires, who are scheduled in court today.
The Major League Umpires Association contends that the owners are not bargaining in good faith because of a $50 million insurance policy that pays them $100,000 for each game not played.
The policy went into effect last Wednesday after 153 games were canceled -- that figure is now 212 -- but Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Stanley Greenberg issued a temporary restraining order that day prohibiting the owners from collecting on the policy.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Donald Van Artsdalen reversed the lower court decision, clearing the way for management's collection of its strike insurance. Richie Phillips, the attorney for the umpires, is asking that Van Artsdalen send the case back to Greenberg on the grounds that it belongs in the state court because there are no federal questions involved. Van Artsdalen will hear that motion today.
No negotiations are scheduled today in the stalemate over the issue of compensation for free agency, making it more unlikely that baseball will return for the July 4 weekend, traditionally one of the biggest gate attractions of the season.
The Los Angeles Herald Examiner reported over the weekend that a promotional booking ageny learned that the season would resume July 7 and the All-Star Game would be pushed back to July 30. The report said that a memo circulating through the agency representing several striking players has advised against committing them to any engagements after July 7.
It would be a massive chore to gather all the players, scattered throughout the country. Establishing a target date would be a logical strategy if both sides sense movement toward reaching an agreement in a matter of time, the newspaper said.
Neither the agency nor the source of the Herald Examiner's information was identified.
Club executives, player representatives and others close to the baseball negotiations could not verify that any timetable for ending the strike existed, the report also said.
Ray Grebey,the chief negotiator for the club owners, discounted talk of a July 7 target date. "It's a complete surprise," Grebey said. "I don't know what the source is, I don't know what it means."
In an unrelated discussion, Grebey said Saturday on a CBS-TV interview that all but two owners were solidly behind him in negotiations. He identified the two as Edward Bennett Williams of the Orioles and Eddie Chiles of the Texas Rangers.
Williams, reached by phone yesterday at Martha's Vineyard, Mass., said he hadn't been aware of Grebey's comments. Williams said he had no comments on the matter.