Representatives of the baseball owners and players will negotiate today, for the first time since Friday. But the chances of play resuming in time for the July 4th weekend seem remote, with the chances for the July 14 All-Star Game not much better.
Don Fehr, the general counsel of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said, "The odds are if they have nothing new to offer, it's going to be a very short meeting."
The players missed their first full paycheck yesterday. Dick Moss, a consulting attorney for the players association, said, "I think they (the owners) are waiting to see how they (the players) react to not getting their first full check. I think they still expect them to come crawling back. But they won't."
Lee MacPhail, president of the American League, said, "That's not true. We're not looking for the players to cave in and go calling up (players association executive director) Marvin (Miller) saying, 'I gotta get back to work.' They misread us so badly. We're not counting on that."
The prospects for a short season grow every day. "What happens if the owners don't budge?" Fehr said. "The players will face a choice to accept what they (the owners) want or sit out the season and the next year, too, if we have to. Just because the season might end doesn't mean this thing is settled."
Barring the extreme -- no more baseball -- this year, the question becomes: How long can the strike go on before that "championship season" ceases to be a season? When, if ever, is it too late to resume?
The answer, of course, is a matter of conjecture and opinion. Some, like Moss and Eddie Einhorn, one of the owners of the Chicago White Sox, say it's never too late.
"I would guess if that if we don't have an agreement by 1993, we ought to forget about baseball forever," Moss said.
"So they'll put an asterisk next to the season," said Einhorn.
Others, like Einhorn's partner, Jerry Reinsdorf, suggest a cutoff at 100 games played. Most teams had played between 55 and 60 games before the strike began June 12. In order to get in a 100-game season, play would have to resume around Aug. 20.
"I don't know what the cutoff is," said Reinsdorf, "but once you get below 100 games, it is a flat-out farce. I'd personally be in favor of calling off the season."
Ken Singleton, the Orioles' right fielder, said, "Anything less than 100 games would be a shame. We usually win 100 games."
Cliff Kachline, the historian at the Hall of Fame, believes that an 85-game season is viable. Of course, he is looking at it in an historical perspective. In the 1800s, he says, the regular schedule was about that length. "If it's less than 85 games, it's less than half a season," he said. "That means there's hardly a pennant race."
But, he said, if play resumed by Sept. 1, or with 30 games to go, "the teams bunched closely at the top (of the standings) could still have a respectable race."
The players association has said that it would take 24 to 48 hours for teams to regroup and another two or 2 1/2 days of conditioning for every week the players are on strike.
"If we got into August, I see no baseball," said Rusty Staub, the player representative of the New York Mets and a member of the bargaining committee. "If it got solved by Aug. 1, you'd need three weeks to train."
Even if everyone could agree on what would be a suitable length for an abbreviated season, that would not solve the problem of inequities in the schedule -- who had to play contenders and who didn't.
Although the office of Bowie Kuhn, commissioner of baseball, declined to comment on possible contingency plans, there are several ideas making the rounds. MacPhail said one suggestion is to use a split-season system as in used in the minor leagues, where the first-half winner plays the second half winner to determine the divisional champion.
Another idea is a round-robin playoff between the top teams in each division to decide which would go into the regularly scheduled playoffs.
Hank Peters, the Orioles' general manager, said, "Off the top of my hear, I would think we would need a 100-game schedule plus some elaborate playoff system . . . like they do in the minor leagues where they have several rounds of playoffs. Instead of just an Eastern and Western Division winner, you'd have two or three clubs in each division play each other because it's going to be a very uneven thing.
"I'm not saying it's reasonable or possible," Peters added, "but it's another way to salvage the season, and end up with the best against the best in the playoffs and World Series."
"There are a lot of holes in that," said Mark Belanger, Orioles' player representative, including which players would get paid and which stadiums would be available.
"I think the idea stinks," said Staub. "They're trying to find a way they can make all that money at the end of the season and still break the union."