Secretary of Labor Raymond Donovan will address representatives of the owners and players in New York today as they meet again in an effort to resolve the 34-day-old baseball strike -- a strike that Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn predicted last night was near an end.
"I think we're getting very near a settlement," Kuhn said in an interview on CBS Radio air time that normally would have been occupied with the 52nd All-Star Game.
Donovan was invited by federal mediator Kenneth E. Moffett to attend the resumption of negotiations, which broke off Saturday. Moffett said he had been keeping the secretary informed of the situation.
"I hope we can finish this tomorrow," Moffett said yesterday. "We're using all the pressure we can, anything we can do as far as leverage is concerned to get this thing over with.
"I think it's ready. It's got to be pretty soon. Time is running out."
Moffett said he believed Donovan's attendance at the 2 p.m. meeting would have significant impact on the talks.
A spokesman for Donovan said that if his presence in New York does not result in "a successful resolution, he may ask for the negotiations to continue in Washington."
The announcement came at a time of increased activity by all parties trying to settle the one strike issue, compensation for loss of free-agent athletes. sources said there have been off-the-record meetings and telephone calls between representatives of the owners and the players since Sunday.
Marvin Miller, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, and Ray Grebey, the owners' chief negotiator, declined comment. a
One club official said, "There have been all kinds of thermometer readings, outside of channels," as the sides sounded each other out on what their bottom lines might be. "There's been a lot of input, and some it may be helpful to moving closer . . . Everyone's getting antsy. The sands of time are running out."
A source close to the players association said late yesterday, "There's lots of movement out there. Whether it's going in any particular direction, we don't know. We'll get a read tomorrow afternoon . . . We're hearing that a lot of pressure is building for a settlement on their side. I hope so."
Several sources close to management said they would not be surprised if the owners made a new proposal today. But Minnesota's Clark Griffith, who serves on the board of directors of the Player Relations Committee and was in New York for meetings with the bargaining team, said: "Will we propose something new? Probably not, only because there's only so many ways you can rehash things . . . It depends on other factors. Why put something on the table if it's just going to be shoved aside?"
Others close to the Player Relations Committee indicated that the owners might make a new proposal, if they got signals that the players would be receptive. The owners, a source said, are not interested in having another proposal publicly shot down by the union.
Word circulated that the owners, who have in recent proposals reduced the cap on free agents requiring compensation in the form of a professional player to 30 in a span of three years, and adjusted the level of compensation (from the 16th-ranked player on the signing team's roster at best to the 22nd), were close to their final position. One club official said, "There was an indication that there is at least some room for movement but not room for major movement."