It is somehow fitting, though sad, that the baseball negotiations blew up on the Fourth of July.
"I'm not surprised it broke down," said federal mediator Kenneth E. Moffett."Why? They're talking apples and oranges. Until they get on the same wavelength we're going to have a strike."
Moffett scheduled no new talks, but said he would keep in touch with both parties.
The news virtually precludes any chance that the All-Star Game can be played July 14 in Cleveland.
The strike, now in its 23rd day, has caused cancellation of 289 games. Representatives of the owners and players were in the meeting about five hours today, but one player said they were "face to face" for only about 30 minutes.
The negotiations broke off after the players rejected a verbal proposal by management. Marvin Miller, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said was "so inadequate" 23 days into a strike "that it is almost impossible to believe."
Ray Grebey, the owners' chief negotiator, said the proposal "went a long way in attempting to limit the concerns" of the players association. In making the proposal, the owners' third since the strike began, Grebey said he felt that the negotiations had become "a one-sided street."
The owners proposed for the first time placing an absolute maximum on the number of free agents that would require compensation in the form of a professional player. They proposed limiting the number each year to 12. However, in describing the proposal, Grebey failed to mention, as the players later explained, that there would be a carry-over stipulation in the proposal. So, if there were only three free agents requiring professional compensation one year, there would be 21 the next.
Previously, the owners had divided ranking free agents -- those who should have necessitated compensation in the form of a professional player -- into type A and type B free agents. Under the new proposal, a type A free agent, one in the top 25 percent of performance statistics, would require the team signing him to give up the 16th man on the roster, as in the last proposal.
But under the proposal made today a team losing a type B free agent, now defined as one in the top 26 to 25 percent of performance statistics, would only receive two amateur draft picks. One pick would come from the team signing the type B free agent and the other from a special round in the draft. sIn the previous proposal, the owners had put a maximum of eight on the number of type B free agents requiring compensation in the form of a professional player. In the old proposal, type B free agents were defined as those between 26 and 40 percent and a team signing a type B free agent would have given up the 21st man on its roster.
Don Fehr, general counsel of the players association, said: "Under no circumstances would they change the protected list from 15. In that case, we'll be here until hell freezes over."
Grebey said: "It is really difficult to believe with the level of income, salaries, pension and the contract we signed last May, that we find ourselves in a continuing strike, when, at the most, what we're talking about is compensation for no more than 12 athletes."
Although the players clearly found the proposal inadequate, Miller left the door open to the possibility that the players could accept a form of direct compensation. "I can conceive of it," he said. "But if you are asking, do I think it is likely, no."
The implication was, that from the players' point of view, the proposal was too little too late; far too much to expect an increasingly militant membership to accept three weeks into a strike. "If they had proposed it in March or April, I would have congratulated them," Miller said. "You have to look at things in context."
The context is that the players have said they not interested in further meetings until the owners come up with something new.
"It's going to get close to the point where the players are not going to accept any additional compensation," Miller said. "The owners are pushing that, not me."
The executive board of the players association, the 26 player representatives, will meet Tuesday night in New York. The meeting, designed as a briefing for the player representatives, clearly will give them the opportunity for a show of strength.
Rusty Staub, the player representative of the New York Mets, left open the possibility that the board might vote to remove the players' proposals from the table or insist on an even more militant stance. "Given that they say that what we've offered is less than what they have, I can't say we won't remove them," Staub said. "Eventually, we may have to go back to "76."
Staub said the tone in the bargaining room was not good, and was reflected in the remarks made afterward, both publicly and privately. Staub said he believed that the strike "would never be solved by Ray Grebey."
One observer said: "An intransigence has developed because of hatred and hostility."
Another source close to the negotiations said: "Some of those pressures better start being brought to bear."
That seems increasingly possible. The optimism that surfaced after Thursday's meetings was based on reports to some owners that the players had agreed to abandon their proposal for pooled compensation. Miller went out of his way today to say that was not the case.
Edward Bennett Williams, owner of the Orioles, said before today's meeting: "We were told that Miller had indicated that he was not absolutely married to the pool, that if certain concessions were made on other things, they might give up the pool. I was not optimistic after yesterday . . . If they are saying they are not abandoning the pool, then they are not making progress."
Jerry Reinsdorf, a coowner of the Chicago White Sox, said: "I was specifically told that they had not agreed to abandon it."
Fred Wilpon, coowner of the New York Mets, said he had not heard anything about players abandoning the pool proposal, either.
Grebey denied that differing reports were made to owners.
A number of sources, within and without management, indicated that impatience in the ownership ranks is growing, that barring some progress, action would have to be taken.
A number of sources said there is a strong probability that the owners will meet to discuss the situation. One club official said he had been asked by American League President Lee MacPhail whether he thought an owners' meeting would be a good idea, and said he didn't think so.
Asked whether he had made such a suggestion, MacPhail said: "I don't know whether I did or not."