In a normal season, baseball would begin its annual three-day vacation for the All-Star Game on Monday. However, this is anything but a normal season and today Bob Boone of the Philadelphia Phillies, the National League representative and a member of the players' bargaining team, said, "I can now visualize it (the strike) going through the entire season.
"I saw yesterday for the first time what these negotiations are about," he added. "What I saw was some people saying, 'We're not really interested in working this out. Here's our terms. We can work it out, if you take it our our terms.'"
Don Fehr, general counsel of the Major League Baseball Players Association, was equally glum about the prospects of resolving the 31-day-old strike. "I am pretty close to being ready to believe that there will be no agreement this season," he said.
Their dejection was not shared by American League President Lee MacPhail. "We will have an agreement sometime, not too far off," MacPhail said. "I can't put a date on it."
Asked if he thought the strike would last another month, MacPhail said, "I do not," and quickly added his assurance that the owners are not operating on a prearranged schedule, as the players have alleged. "If we had a schedule, it would include a settlement tomorrow," he said.
No new negotiations have been scheduled. Federal mediator Kenneth E. Moffett said yesterday he did not anticipate calling any meetings before Monday and it appeared likely there would be no talks until midweek.
The negotiations broke off Saturday after the owners reiterated their rejection of Moffett's proposal, which was accepted by the players. Boone said, "I was kind of optimistic coming into the weekend. When you see it blown out, and no optimism on the horizon . . . "
One source close to management suggested that the owners might have been able to work with Moffett's plan had the players not released it prematurely to some owners and reporters Thursday and to the entire press corps on Friday afternoon.
Asked why the players would have done that, the source said, "Whether they felt they were putting the owners in a difficult position, so they would have to go along with it, I don't know."
Marvin Miller, executive director of the players association, said, "I knew nothing about so-called distribution of the proposal until after they came in and said they would not go along with it. I authorized release after we had already met and had their reaction . . . It is fantastic to say they could spoil it by one or two or three of the principals knowing about it.
"Why didn't he (Ray Grebey, the owners' chief negotiator) distribute it to his own people? Because he wanted to reject it and he was afraid there would be some acceptance of it. So he concocted a story that he was sworn to secrecy about it. He looked in the mirror and said, 'I'm sworn to secrecy.' Ken (Moffett) sure as hell didn't swear him to secrecy.
Neither Grebey nor Moffett could be reached for comment.
When the meetings broke off Saturday, Moffett admitted things were getting nasty. Mark Belanger, the Baltimore Oriole player representative, said dryly, "It's not a bowl of cherries up there."
Fehr said it could get nastier. "We've been in the same pressure cooker for a month and it's building on both sides, inexorably. Tempers are getting short. There's an ongoing confrontation that can't be stopped."
"A lot of it is the nature of the animal," Boone said. "In order to become a major league baseball player, you have to be tremendously competitive. bThese guys may go further for a principle than the average person. It gets tougher for those of us at the top to work out a compromise. More and more (players) are saying, 'I'm not going to take a beating financially, as well as on compensation.' They say, 'We're willing to work something out that's fair but you're not going to steal from us.'"
The owners, of course, see it differently. MacPhail said, "Marvin (Miller) has a feeling that if he's going to go along (with compensation), he has to go along with something that has as little bearing on players as possible, that maintains each player's ability to make a decision for himself. That's all very fine. But when you try to construct such a plan, you end up with no-compensation players. From our point of view, those approaches that end up with a few or hardly any compensation players obviously aren't satisfactory."
So, 392 games, not including the All-Star Game, have been canceled. "I don't know where it ends up," Boone said. "My worry is that they'll kill the game entirely before the players crack.I still have trouble rationalizing that with myself because it's so absurd. All the indications point to it. But I still personally find it hard to deal with."